The Land of Flowers?

Hoovina Hadagalli

Jasmine Farmers in Hoovina Hadagalli, face issues when it comes to the sale of their produce due to various factors.

By Hansy Sanctis

Hoovina Hadagalli, Karnataka

On an everyday basis, one could see Kamala working in her fields, patiently picking flower buds which her son will sell in the evenings in the local market of the village of Hoovina Hadagalli. Her old feet are stained with the red soil she treads on, dry and cut by the sharp stones as she walks barefoot to pluck the fresh buds. Her dry, warped smile while reminiscing about her past leaves her son teary-eyed. Kamala’s husband died a year ago, leaving behind their cultivated land and a huge debt behind, which awaits to be cleared by his family, consisting of herself and their 18-year-old son, Dinesh.

Hoovina/Huvina Hadagalli is a part of the Bellary District. Popular for the flowers it grows, there are other kinds of crops, which are grown in the area, like sunflowers, corn, pomegranate, bananas and so on. The Taluk is divided into 23 wards in which local elections are held every five years. As per the Population Census of India (2011), the literacy rate among the villagers is more than half of the population, on an average basis. The male literacy rate is on a higher scale than the female literacy rate in comparison. Overall, the literacy rate of the taluk is greater than that of Karnataka’s, when compared. There are three Gram Panchayats in total. There is one town Panchayat in the vicinity of the taluk itself.

Kamala resides in the village of Hire Hadagalli, located within Hoovina Hadagalli, about 144km from the district of Bellary in Karnataka. The name of the taluk, Hoovina Hadagalli, literally translates into the meaning – The land of flowers. The villagers living in this taluk are mainly into agriculture as an occupation for their income and living. Farming and its related processes are how many of them earn incomes for their families who are residing there as well. A large section of these farmers are mostly in the production of jasmine as the soil in their fields is most suitable for it.

Jasmine could be grown on a variety of soils but red loamy soils or sandy loam soils with a soil pH range between 6.5 and 7.5 is ideal for good production. Another common element when it comes to the cultivation of Jasmine is that it requires a lot of water for growth and proper harvest. From February end to September end is the blooming season for jasmine and January to December is the flexible season for pruning the blooming plants.

The use of Jasmine mainly comes in the form of scented oils with respect to exports. Jasmine scented oils are exported from India to countries like England, the United States of America, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Norway, and the European Union. The positive factor when it comes to the cultivation of this particular flower is that it is a perennial crop which goes up to 15 years of blooming if pruned and maintained properly. But there are many drawbacks when it comes to this kind of farming, like high transportation costs and the initial preparation and sowing of the flower seed.

The source of water for the cultivation for Jasmine mostly comes from two water sources – Tungabhadra dam and Alipore dam. Both the dams have water which is primarily available for commercial purposes first and then the remaining water goes for drinking water and agricultural purposes. The amount of water being provided is not enough despite sufficient rainfall that the dams had received for the past two years.

The private companies provide drinking water and irrigation water to 332 villages in and around the taluk. Whilst the government sector of the dam is supposed to be providing the equal capacity of hydroelectricity and drinking water, according to the taluk officials, it doesn’t. Even though the taluk itself is majorly known for farming of different crops, industrialization has been reaping the benefits of the water bodies in recent years.

Mr. Durga Prasad is the executive officer of the horticultural department in the taluk of Hoovina Hadagalli for the past year. He believes –“It’s true that the production of Jasmine has not been up to the mark for the past few years. I have been the executive officer for the past three years and my sole aim has been to get the best products when it comes to all kinds of crops that fall in my sector. While progress has been made in getting Jasmine back on track, lack of laborers and also the amount of water doesn’t help as well.”

The impact of this water arrangement is that because of the lack of water, people have to vacate their villages and migrate to places where there would have to begin from scratch. Despite having sufficient rainfall, the dam is not being able to provide enough water, due to lack of facilities that the government was supposed to provide and also because the partial privatization of the dam has led to a chunk of water being used for industrial purposes and secondarily for agricultural use.

Kamala’s son, Dinesh is pursuing his graduation and is in his second year, now. His studies get hampered as his mother is the only one handling the fields apart from him and he needs to miss his classes on many days so that the flowers get pruned on time, the buds get sold every other evening in the market and their day to day expenses are met with the least amount of struggle. He wishes for his fields to yield him decent produce so that he doesn’t have to migrate and work in the city for additional income.

Kamala mentions on how she has to struggle for work and also for benefits that she doesn’t get because of the crops that are being grown and also the lack of water doesn’t help especially because Jasmine is a water-based crop. Over the past three years, the taluk’s horticulture reports show that there has been an increase in the production of jasmine but the farmers say otherwise, citing on how they face losses due to lack of enough water, lack of proper fertilization due to the pesticides and fertilizers being too expensive for them.

The NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005) scheme was basically used for farmers and labourers all over but the same didn’t apply for the farmers who were cultivating jasmine. There are no particulars subsidies on the cultivation of jasmine but only a 50 percent off on fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides. The discount on the chemicals goes up to Rs. 7,500. The scheme was introduced to minimize unemployment at the ground level but this scheme has not been beneficial towards the jasmine farmers in Karntaka.

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Shiva Prakash is one such Jasmine farmer who was benefitting from the produce of Jasmine but according to him, the profits started decreasing from the last 5 years. “I have been growing Jasmine from the past 12 years and my father grew it before that for his entire life. Our family generates income from this form of agriculture and this was our sole source of income. A few years ago, it was a struggle for me to feed my family (his family consists of 7 members) but it wasn’t that difficult for everyone to sleep on a full stomach. We would be able to sustain ourselves and as farmers, we would have struggles but it wasn’t anything that needed to be worried about on a large level. But now, the kind of produce is not the same. The water, the soil doesn’t help in producing the best of the quality and hence, that doesn’t get us the entire profit, despite putting our best efforts.”

Hoovina Hadagalli has a special kind of the jasmine flower species growing and this kind has been geo-tagged and also recognized by the Horticulture Department of India. Geo-tagging is a term, more specifically known as Geographical Indication and it stands for the place being identified more efficiently by its products or by things that can be majorly found there.

The kind of jasmine grown in this particular taluk is called Hadagali Jasmine and the production of this kind of flower has been varying over the years. From 2016 to 2019 (start), the production has been on a slow, ascending scale and the taluk reports do show a positive side on the whole but on the ground level basis, farmers don’t seem to agree with the reports, not even in the slightest. The problems faced by the Horticulture Department are that the rate of cultivation is decreasing every year due to the shortage of labour.

The department believes that the growth of cultivation could be seen also because the number of registered lands has been increasing over the past few years. Hence, even if the rate is shown on an increasing scale, it is because the total number of fields in the sector has been increased due to proper registration.

Jasmine is an extremely delicate flower which needs to be handpicked very carefully and laborers need to be more careful than usual while plucking them during the blooming season. The impending work becomes too taxing for the laborers who get a meagre fee in comparison to their efforts. Other than Jasmine, there has been the cultivation of all season fruits like Pomegranate, Papaya, and Banana.

In Hoovina Hadagalli, there are 200/300 hectares of Pomegranate being cultivated, 100 hectares of Papaya and 250 hectares of Banana being grown as well. These crops are grown under better circumstances as the farmers fall under the NREGA scheme and they can avail the profit of the scheme as well as the subsidized fertilizers. At present, on comparing the effort needed between these crops and Jasmine as a crop, it would definitely show on which crop is more profitable and economic.

Shiva Prakash, Kamala, Dinesh are few of the people who could represent the situation of jasmine farming in the taluk of Hoovina Hadagalli. Their torn eyes and tired faces have several stories to mention how difficult it is to hone the reigns as a successful farmer when it comes to this kind of cultivation. The positivity is that they farm on an extremely passionate ethic as they find their calling in it but this calling does hold expensive blowbacks as well as risks of a lower profit.

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