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Assam Farmer's Integrated Farming Earns Him Coveted Padma Shri Honor!

Sarbeswar Basumatary uses unique intercropping methods along with the integration of fisheries, piggery, and sericulture on a small land, leading him towards a good income year-round.

Shreetu Singh
Sarbeswar Basumatary, Assam Farmer's Integrated Farming Earns Him Coveted Padma Shri Honor!
Sarbeswar Basumatary, Assam Farmer's Integrated Farming Earns Him Coveted Padma Shri Honor!

Sarbeswar Basumatary is a 62-year-old farmer hailing from Panbari village in the Chirang district of Assam. He has a land holding of 9 acres with 15-16 acres on lease on which he does integrated farming, incorporating fisheries, piggery, sericulture, and horticulture. By his unique technique of growing areca nuts along with oranges as well as bananas and intercropping with ginger and khesari with papaya and lemon planted along the boundaries, he manages to make maximum profit throughout the year. These innovative practices got Sarbeswar several honors including the prestigious Padma Shri by President Droupadi Murmu recently.  

Initial Steps into Farming

Growing up in a small village with limited resources, Sarbeswar’s educational journey ended after the 5th grade. At the age of 13, he began his agricultural journey as a plowman, which laid the foundation for his future in farming.

Later, Sarbeswar ventured into cultivating land in Chiponsila and expanded his efforts to Bhutiapara. Soon, he managed to purchase his own land, marking a significant milestone in his journey. At that time, his focus was on growing vegetable crops. However, faced with financial losses due to fluctuating market conditions and an off-season income crisis, Sarbeswar realized the need for a more sustainable approach.

Shift to Integrated Farming

Determined to overcome the above challenges, Sarbeswar shifted his focus to integrated farming. He adopted intercropping as a strategy to ensure a stable income throughout the year. He used areca nut, a tall plant with orange and banana which are somewhere shade tolerant to get maximum profit from a small land holding. He also used papaya and lemon as boundary crops to combat soil erosion and protect the other intercropping techniques used by him ginger and khesari. Besides, he also incorporated fisheries, piggery, and sericulture to get extra benefits in the off-season. Sarbeswar says, "If we go for monocropping, it will help get income in all the seasons."

His approach is simple. It is rooted in the belief that a farmer should not be limited to one crop. Furthermore, he believes that a farmer must not be restricted to working only two hours a day but engage in as many crops and allied sectors as possible.

Training and Expansion 

Sarbeswar's dedication to his craft led him to seek training and knowledge. He traveled extensively to receive training in fish farming and horticulture from prestigious institutions like Kalyani University in Kolkata. Moreover, his visits to Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal provided him with a newer perspective on advanced farming practices and significantly enhanced his farming techniques. He also got the opportunity to showcase leadership in the Panbari Banana Growers’ Society which led to the successful cultivation of bananas, oranges, and pineapples, boosting the local economy.

Awards and Recognitions

Over the years, he received numerous accolades that highlighted his contributions to agriculture. In 2015, he was honored with the Award of Excellence in Sericulture by the Central Silk Board. This recognition was a showcase to his successful implementation of sericulture, which had become an integral part of his integrated farming system.

In 2022-23, he was awarded the prestigious Assam Gaurav Award. Additionally, various institutions and government bodies bestowed upon him awards recognizing his exemplary contributions to the agricultural sector.

Sarbeswar Basumatary showing his farm to visiting guests
Sarbeswar Basumatary showing his farm to visiting guests

Community Leadership and Advisory Roles

Beyond his farming endeavors, Sarbeswar has played an active role in supporting and advising his community. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Fishery Department of Chirang District, providing valuable insights and guidance. His involvement extends to being a member of both the Krishi Vigyan Kendra and the Sericulture Board of Chirang District, where he shares his knowledge and experience with fellow farmers. 

He also conducts meetings with farmers in his field giving insights about suitable cropping patterns and government schemes. Sarbeswar says, “Many farmers have started with integrated farming. It's my dream to help the farming community get maximum profit out of the farming techniques.”

Honored with the Padma Shri

On April 22, 2024, Sarbeswar was honored with the Padma Shri. This prestigious award recognized his outstanding contributions to agriculture and his commitment to improving the livelihoods of farmers in his region. Sarbeswar says, “I am very happy to get such a national recognition. Hard work and innovative thinking always pay off. I urge my farmer friends to never lose hope and give their hundred percent to the crop. Be creative and adopt innovative yet sustainable practices.” 

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