After chia seeds, Barabanki farmer grabs headlines

Lucknow: Harish Chandra, a progressive farmer from Barabanki whose initiative to cultivate chia seeds, considered a superfood globally, was lauded by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Mann Ki Baat programme in February this year, is making headlines once again- this time for growing dragon fruit in Amseruwa village of the district.

In view of his novel initiatives and to motivate farmers, the Uttar Pradesh Government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a grant of Rs 30,000 per acre for all those cultivating dragon fruit. The Yogi Government believes that the farmers of the state can increase their income manifold by cultivating dragon fruit, which costs Rs 350 per kilogram in the market, and the grant announced by the Horticulture Department will encourage a large number farmers in the state to grow the superfood.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier praised Harishchandra’s tireless efforts to grow a foreign crop like chia seeds, which is rich in fibre, minerals and protein, with his own resources, without any government help.

Harishchandra has, no doubt, shown a new path to the farmers of the state to enhance their income by growing dragon fruit. According to agricultural experts, dragon fruit is cultivated in South East Asia, United States of America, the Caribbean and Australia. The Government of Gujarat has named this fruit as ‘Kamalam’ for its medicinal benefits. It is rich in antioxidant, vitamins A and C, fibre, calcium, magnesium and iron and is also fat-free. It strengthens immunity and is also effective in control and prevention of diabetes. Also known as pitaya fruit, it is eaten mostly in Mexico and Central Asia. Its taste is similar to that of watermelon.

The objective behind CM Yogi’s announcement is to benefit farmers and people at the same time by ensuring multiplication of farmers’ income on the one hand and promoting cultivation of crops that have medicinal value on the other.

Harishchandra retired from the army as an artillery colonel in the year 2015. Later, he bought three acres of land in Amseruwa village of Siddaur block of Haidergarh tehsil of Barabanki where he started growing chia seeds, green apple, red apple, plums, dragon fruit, black wheat and many varieties of potatoes.

Harishchandra says that he planted 2000 saplings of dragon fruit on 500 pillars built over one acre of land three years ago at the cost of Rs 5-6 lakh and today he is earning 15 lakh annually. He adds that he will continue to earn this much for the next three decades from the trees that he has planted.

Harishchandra, who has earned a name for his innovative farming, says that the cultivation of dragon fruit will prove to be effective in increasing the income of farmers as it is cost-effective also because of use of cow dung and organic maure instead of chemical fertilisers. The climate of UP is favourable for this plant