Some 30 km from the state capital of Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, is the village where Ram Saran Verma lives. Three generations of the Verma family toiled in their 1.6-hectare field to live a simple and frugal life. But Ram had different dreams. He wanted to pursue higher studies.
At first, the financial situation at home pushed him to trade his education for a plough and take up agriculture. Now, a little over 50, he has been dubbed UP’s “hi-tech farmer”, who works on farms spread across 60 hectares and also earns Rs 300,000-400,000 a month.
When Ram was young, he observed how his father, a traditional farmer, grew staples like wheat and rice, alongside sugarcane and mustard. While the cost of production was high, the labour required was intensive. And there were hardly any profits.
He decided to break away from traditional farming and use innovative techniques to increase the yield. After travelling for nearly two years, he returned. When he spoke to his father about setting up a banana plantation, the older farmer did not approve.
Nevertheless, Ram went ahead and decided to plant bananas on 0.4 hectares of land. In the first year itself, he started earning profits. What set him apart after 1988 was the distinction of being one of the first farmers in the state to introduce tissue culture for banana farming.
Tissue culture is a lab process where tissues of the selected crop are used for cloning. It can be used for the mass production of quality crops which ensures a higher yield in a short period. Tissue culture ensures that bananas are identical in quality, look and size. And while they have a high demand in the domestic market, farmers can earn additional profits by exporting them too.
According to thebetterindia.com¸ Ram also started growing red bananas which are known to be rich in protein, fibre and low on sugar. While the variety is popular in the southern states, Verma attempted to grow them in UP.
Reddish-maroon in colour, the fruit has a tangy taste and is slightly smaller, compared to the traditional yellow bananas. He planted 1,000 saplings of the same variety in his farm way back in 2012.
In 1990, he planted 8,000 tomato saplings on a 0.4-hectare plot. The plant grew 1.8 m high due to the use of staking. It is the method of providing support to the vine, keeping the fruit off the ground, which improved yield by 30 per cent.
Ram’s success attracted the attention of farmers within his village and across 50 districts of the state. So he decided to share his knowledge and techniques with all those who asked for help, as he aims to change the way the world looks as farmers, he says, and how it perceives farming as a profession.