From one farmer’s soil to another: how Lochan’s journey in Odisha can inspire us all


By Chandrika Patnaik and Pravat Ranjan Jena

22 November 2023

In Odisha's Balangir district, farmers are embracing pointed gourd cultivation to overcome challenges like water scarcity and pest infestations. Lochan Behera, a local farmer, reaped significant benefits from this shift, witnessing improved yields and financial gains. Gram Vikas, through its exposure visits, is guiding these farmers, showcasing sustainable practices and the potential of pointed gourd farming.

Farmers from fifteen Farmer Producer Groups visit Ganjam district on an exposure visit.

Photograph by Mitrabhanu Bishi

Farmers in Balangir, Odisha, have historically depended on paddy cultivation, working hard on small patches of land, averaging between 0.5 to 5 acres, to feed their families. In these regions, conventional methods rule, and the entire household’s livelihood is pegged on the success of their crops. But as times change, the importance of evolving agricultural practices cannot be understated.

Lochan Behera, a 47-year old marginal farmer from Chindaguda village in the Bongomunda block, epitomises the farmers of this region. With a 4-acre land, he cultivates paddy, cotton, and cinnamon. Due to low annual precipitation and limited irrigation solutions, farmers like him have encountered water scarcity, leading to reduced crop yield, lower produce quality, and increased vulnerability to pests and diseases.

In response to farmers’ needs, Gram Vikas worked closely with 632 farmers, establishing 55 Farmer Producer Groups (FPGs) across 20 villages in the district’s Bongomunda, Loisingha, Balangir, and Deogaon blocks. This initiative is part of the Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP) supported by HDFC Bank Parivartan, ongoing since January 2022.

Gram Vikas organised an exposure visit for 25 farmers from 15 Farmer Producer Groups (FPGs) from six villages in the Bongomunda, Loisingha and Balangir blocks to Ganjam district. 

Supported by the Odisha Lift Irrigation Corporation, Lochan invested in a deep borewell for his land. This allowed him to grow tomatoes, leafy greens, and other seasonal crops. But challenges like low yields, unpredictable rains, and pests made it hard to meet his family’s financial needs. Seeing an opportunity with Gram Vikas’ introduction of pointed gourd cultivation to Farmer Producer Groups in Bongomunda, Lochan was quick to sign up for a learning visit to Balisahi village in Ganjam.

The trip reshaped his perspective. He recalled, “The structured farming, modern techniques, and evident prosperity in Balisahi were inspiring. Their pointed gourd fields, thriving with minimal water and advanced farming practices, painted a picture of what’s possible”.

Inspired by his visit, Lochan began cultivating pointed gourd on 0.30 acres, venturing into this crop for the first time. He recalled the trip to Balisahi as an eye-opener, observing, “The farmers in Balisahi and its neighboring village, Dalaka, are experts in cultivating pointed gourd. They have adopted modern farming techniques, reducing farming costs and dependence on rain for cultivation. Their fields are well-organised, and the plants appear healthy. The farming community in these villages enjoys prosperity, evident from their well-constructed houses and widespread ownership of bikes. I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw”.

Upon their return from the visit, the Gram Vikas team once again provided the farmers with a detailed explanation of the farming methods. The farmers used insect traps/pheromone traps to safeguard their crops against insect infestations. They received a demonstration on preparing a fish tonic, which enhances the strength of flower buds and prevents them from falling off prematurely after flowering.

In February 2023, Lochan sowed pointed gourd roots, strictly following guidance on spacing, trellising, mulching and organic fertilisation. By June, merely three months later, he reaped a harvest of 6-7 quintals, earning him between ₹30,000 to ₹35,000. With a sense of accomplishment, Lochan highlighted the significant financial boost and security he attained through pointed gourd cultivation. 

Pointed gourd typically propagates through vine cuttings and root suckers. Once planted, it thrives for three years, commencing its harvest approximately three months after planting the roots. The plant continues to flower and harvests for up to eight months. After this initial eight-month harvest, a farmer need not plough the field again or purchase new seeds. The plant resumes flowering after a four-month gap. 

Farmers irrigate the plants once a week, and by implementing mulching across the entire field, moisture is conserved for the plants while effectively deterring weeds and pests. With its extended harvest period, and market prices ranging from ₹40 to ₹150 throughout the year, depending on the season, farmers can earn a substantial income beginning as early as the first three months.

Inspired by his early achievements, Lochan aims to dedicate a whole acre to pointed gourd farming in the upcoming months, hoping for an even greater financial boost. He shares, “I reflect on my past farming practices, primarily cultivating cotton and cinnamon on my land. I used to spend significant sums on hiring labour for ploughing after each vegetable season, typically every four to five months. I also noticed that when I took up cultivating a new vegetable, it demanded more frequent watering, leading to increased water consumption. Additionally, controlling pests, weeds, and fungal infections required the consistent use of fertilisers”.

Lochan emphasises that mulching has had a favourable impact on his farming, stating, “Mulching has significantly reduced the necessity to hire labour for weed control or the frequent application of fertilisers on my field. This practice has resulted in maintaining the plants’ vitality and overall health. The cultivation of pointed gourd has boosted my savings. I am optimistic about the potential for increased earnings.”

Lochan Behera cultivates pointed gourd after exposure trip to Ganjam district.

Photograph by Krishna Chandra Dixit


Pravat Ranjan Jena helped in data collection of the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.


Pravat Ranjan Jena is a Thematic Coordinator, with the Planning Monitoring Documentation and Communication division. Chandrika Patnaik leads content production within the Communication team in Gram Vikas.


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