Thari farmers reap June rain bounties

September 23, 2020

HYDERABAD: Desert farmers of the Parkar in Tharparkar district are being called lucky for receiving heavy rainfall during the first monsoon spell in June, as it allowed them to cultivate traditional...

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HYDERABAD: Desert farmers of the Parkar in Tharparkar district are being called lucky for receiving heavy rainfall during the first monsoon spell in June, as it allowed them to cultivate traditional crops like pearl millet, guar, melon, watermelon, apple gourd (tinda), and sesame.

The small melon varieties in hues of yellows and greens attract many customers because of their colours and pleasant smell. Short duration crops like melons, watermelons and apple gourd help farmers earn some extra in their local markets.

Guloo Kolhi, a farmer of Village Weehal, practices multiple cropping. He has cultivated melon, watermelon, and apple gourd on 12 acres of his family land. He collects eight to 10 maunds of melons from his fields every day and sells the product on the roadside.

Currently, melons are prices anywhere between Rs300 and Rs400 per maund on the fields, which, according to Guloo was a good enough amount for farmers.

He considers the monsoon rains this year a blessing, as it enabled farmers in the desert to cultivate multiple crops. “We can continue harvesting these crops for the next two months, depending on the weather,” he added.

These traditional crops in the Thar desert do not need chemical input, because the land is naturally fertile, Guloo said. “People realise the value and prefer buying these organic products for their consumption.”

Village Weehal, situated on Mithi-Nagar Parkar road has become a major market of melons (small and large sized). Farmers from the area sell their produce to picnickers who throng the region after rains.

Kirshan Kolhi, another farmer selling melons said he had cultivated melons on 30 acres of land. “Both melon and watermelons are sold for Rs300-Rs400/maund,” he said. However, the price of apple gourd is up to Rs800-Rs1,000/ maund.

The rates of these products at vendors and retailers may be double, he added.

Rains turn the desert into a green oasis. Farmers consider rain in the desert beneficial, as it also contributes to tourism.

While travelling from Mithi to Nagar Parkar, one finds children, selling different products, including melon and mushrooms to tourists. These children belong to farmer families, who encourage selling the produce to earn some extra income to ease their families woes.

Natho Kolhi said pearl millet and guar were major crops in the area, which were cultivated on time following the first spell of rain. He has cultivated pearl millet, guar, and melons on five acres. “Guar and pearl millet will take some time,” he said, adding that meanwhile he was harvesting melons every day for earning some amount for survival.

“In the evening, five vehicles come to village Weehal and buy 25-30 maunds each from only this spot in the market. Otherwise, there may be more than 20 vehicles buying the product from different locations daily for the market,” Natho shared while explaining the local market dynamics and his daily sales.

Desert farmers sow multiple crops of different durations on the same piece of land. Melon and watermelon are short duration crops and ripen in time to sell to picnickers on the roadsides following rains. Growers wait for vehicles in the evening to take the remaining produce, which is then sold in various towns like Mithi, Umerkot, Kunri and Nau Kot.

Many of these crops and mushrooms also grow naturally in courtyards of houses and open fields. It was observed that many farmers from different villages of Parkar bring fresh produce in the morning to sell on different roads leading to Mithi and Nagar Parkar.

Tharparkar district has reportedly received 400-450 millimetre rain in different areas in several spells, but farmers in many areas believe that it is too late to cultivate traditional crops guar and pearl millet. Majority of farmers in Mithi and other areas could not sow pearl millet, as they did not receive timely rains in June and July. Farmers in the area said that yield was low if pearl millet was cultivated in August or September.

Therefore, only Nagar Parkar farmers cultivated traditional food crops on their family land to stock enough for consumption.

Sootahri Wandhyon is another hub of the seasonal food crops on the same road, where farmers bring melon, tinda and watermelons for the market. Local people preserve these raw products, especially tiny tinda. It is dried for future consumption.

Ratno Kolhi had cultivated 12 acres of land with these traditional crops. Talking about yield, he said since farmers cultivate four-five crops on the same land, they cannot measure per acre product of each crop. But they were looking forward to bumper crops of pearl millet and guar this year.

He expects that the farmers in Parkar might have crop residue and a variety of grasses for the whole year to feed their animals. Besides this, he said increased availability of fodder in the entire natural grazing fields of Thar could change the migration pattern of herders, who used to go from desert villages to canal areas. The herders seem happy while grazing their animals around their villages.

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