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Going organic made him ‘cool'

Staff Reporter

— Photo: K. Gopinathan

Unconventional:Organic farmer Eshwarappa Siddappa Banakar, with his millet cap, was a crowd-puller at the millet mela that began in Bangalore on Saturday.

Bangalore: Eshwarappa Siddappa Banakar, a millet farmer from Hireyadachi in Hirekerur taluk of Haveri district, wore a headdress that made heads turn at the ‘Siridhaanya Mela'. His cap was made with different types of millet, his favourite food crop.

The two-day millet mela, organised at Gandhi Bhavan, was inaugurated by farmers themselves on Saturday.

Mr. Banakar, who is into organic farming, claimed to have cultivated around 30 varieties of jowar, 28 of ragi, 10 of navane, two to three of huruli, five of sajje, and around 37 varieties of brinjals, besides several medicinal plants.

“I was a regular farmer who was always worried about irrigation, pumping in fertilizers and growing hybrid crops. But, all this changed after I got in touch with Sahaja Samrudha, an organisation working to promote organic farming,” he said.

Not just farming

He makes and sells shampoos, soaps and toothpowder made from natural products. “These products have a huge market,” he claimed.

Stressing the need to preserve millet varieties, Mr. Banakar said, “Millet was our traditional food crop, long before rice and wheat became popular.” He said he had developed a seed bank and was working towards preserving the traditional crops. He also claimed to have brought together around 60 farmers and was persuading them to cultivate millet.

This crop, he said, does not require much water; neither does it have to be pumped with fertilizers. “Millet varieties are hardy and their unique quality is that they die if fertilized. They grow well even in drought-prone areas,” he explained.

The farmer lamented that with the decreasing cultivation of small-grained millet, the population of small birds had also come down drastically. Millet cultivation, he claimed, was more environment-friendly compared to that of paddy and wheat.

He may have studied only till class 7, but Mr. Banakar believes that switching to organic farming has indeed made him “cool”.

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