Educated youth from Jharkhand's coal town return to farming, provide jobs to migrants

Educated youth from Jharkhand's coal town return to farming, provide jobs to migrants

Educated youth from Jharkhand's coal town return to farming, provide jobs to migrants

These young men have discovered that farming, done right with the aid of science and technology, can fetch more money and provide better life satisfaction than their old corporate jobs.  

Dhanbad: A group of educated youth from Dhanbad have left their jobs in multi-national companies to take up farming. They are cultivating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers under the banner of RPA Farming, a self-employment venture that they have set up. The group, incubated by the newly established Atal Community Innovation Centre in the Indian Institute of Technology at the Indian School of Mines (IIT–ISM), is aiming to foray into new areas of food processing with technical support from the institution.

RPA Farming was established three years ago by Ravi Nishad, a resident of Bhuli in Dhanbad who holds a degree in BSc IT, and Ranjeet Kumar, a former sales representative in the telecom industry. Currently, the group has several members, including Budhan Ram, a mining engineer from Barwadda, Sudhir Hembrom, a computer engineer from Sondaha and Amit Kumar Mishra, an agronomist. They are cultivating crops on 150 acres of land taken on lease.

“My mother Parvati Devi, who was born and brought up in Jharia, died of lung infection caused by pollution five years ago. This loss prompted me to quit my job and lead the change. Farming on large patches of land has several advantages for the residents in the area; besides providing livelihood opportunities to farmers and bringing down food prices, it helps the environment by reducing air pollution,” Nishad said.

“At present, our project is underway at several locations, including Sondaha in Baghmara block, Matari and Shakti Chowk in Katras, Birajpur and Srirampur in Govindpur, Maharajganj in Tundi, as well as at Bhuli and Dhangi in Dhanbad block. Besides marigold and papaya, which are our major produces, we are also growing a large number of seasonal vegetables and fruits such as cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, pointed gourd, bottle gourd and green chilli,” said Ranjit Kumar.

“More than 60 people are working with us. Besides learning innovative agriculture techniques, they earn Rs 5,000 per month,” he said, adding that he was motivated to join the group after he saw Nishad, along with some other youth, working in the field.

Hembrom (33) is the site in-charge in Sondaha where primarily papaya and marigold are being cultivated on 10 acres of land. “I worked for Reliance Industries at Hazira in Gujarat for a few years. I joined RPA Farming around two years ago and have realised the basic difference between a regular job and owning a venture. While on the job, I could barely save any money, but now, even though I work less compared to the corporate job, I am not only earning more but also providing a source of livelihood to eight persons in my locality,” he said, adding that traders are making a beeline for their farms to buy their produce.

Members of RPA Farming and their employees carry out papaya cultivation at one of the sites (Picture credit - RPA Farming)

Ram (32) said, “After completing my diploma in 2014, I worked as a computer teacher for some time at Nari Shakti Samiti, a social initiative by Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) officers’ wives. I also worked in a private company in Kolkata for six months before returning to Dhanbad around two years ago and joining RPA Farming. I have now realised that farming is a better choice than a regular job; besides providing a better livelihood, it also offers me the freedom and time for personal work.” He added that besides working on the project sites, members of RPA Farming also grow crops on their own land.

Hari Prasad Kevat, a resident of Dhangi Basti in Dhanbad block, said “I was working at a Godrej factory in Goa when COVID-19 started spreading and the whole country was locked down. I had to return home. After joining RPA Farming, I do not feel the need to stay away from my family to earn money. Working on my own field using the innovative farming techniques that I have learnt while working with the group helps me make enough money to take care of my family.”

Papaya and marigold are the main crops cultivated under RPA Farming. They harvest around 75 tonnes of papaya from around 3,000 trees on their project sites. Marigold cultivation provides livelihood to around 30 women who sell the flowers at local markets.

“We are also experimenting with the cultivation of a variety of fruits, including apple, grape and litchi,” said Nishad, adding that they were seeking technological support from the Atal Community Innovation Centre for extraction of chemicals such as phytophenols from marigold, which can fetch higher prices in comparison to the flowers.

Amit Shukla, the chief executive officer of the Atal Community Innovation Centre, hailed the youths’ efforts and said, “We are planning to support the group’s initiatives by teaching them how to extract various products from marigold and providing new mulching equipment to prevent the growth of weeds.”

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