Vegetable cluster development makes a farmer out of a landless labourer


By Sangita Patra

20 August 2020

Balia Pradhan, who once struggled to be gainfully employed due to his walking disability, learns about vegetable cluster development through a Gram Vikas training and becomes a successful farmer.

Balia Pradhan working in his field.

Photograph by Prashant Kumar Naik.

A resident of Bhatasahi village in the Nayagarh district of Odisha, Balia Pradhan was struck with Polio in childhood. The disability and reliance on crutches made it difficult for him to pursue any sustainable livelihood options. However, the Vegetable Cluster Development (VCD) initiative of Gram Vikas under the Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP) turned him into a successful vegetable farmer.

With support from HDFC Parivartan (HDFC bank’s CSR arm), in October 2017, Gram Vikas started HRDP in four villages of Nayagarh district in Odisha. The HRDP is geared toward providing livelihood options for rural youth by using affordable technology solutions, wherever possible. VCD is one of the initiatives, under HRDP, to strengthen the holistic agronomic practices for sustainable vegetable production.

Balia was quick to realise the potential of the VCD initiative and enrolled himself to learn the innovative farming techniques taught in the programme. His spirit to learn was not dampened by the fact that he did not own any land. As luck would have it, Balia met Satyanarayan Bhatta during one of the VCD meetings. They decided to collaborate for shared farming and started cultivating pulses (mostly black and green gram), paddy and vegetables (brinjal, lady’s finger, cowpea, cucumber, radish, tomatoes, etc.).

Balia found the demo sessions offered by Gram Vikas informative, and fruit nets and nylon wire provided for vining crops and plastic mulching to be of value. He also learnt to use the I am Kisan app and update himself with the latest weather information, plant protection measures, nearby market prices and other advisories on farming techniques. The VCD demo meetings encouraged Balia to take up vegetable cultivation at a large-scale and support it with appropriate farming techniques.

Balia also cleans, packages and sells vegetables in the market. Seeing the transformation, Balia’s family joined him to work on the farm. Earning ₹1,500 per day from November 2019 to January 2020 from the sale of vegetables motivated them.

Balia and Satyanarayan started their venture with an investment of ₹35,000. Today, they have earned up to ₹1,20,000, a five-fold return over their investment. The newfound farming pattern has helped Balia take the reign of life in his hand, support the family and end the cycle of unemployment.

Balia Pradhan in his farm land with Radish plants.

Photograph by Prashant Kumar Naik.


Prashant Naik and Ramesh Naik collected field data for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.


Sangita Patra is a Thematic Manager with Gram Vikas.


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