Transforming 120 acres of barren land into a self-sufficient organic farm: The story of Rajesh Naik
A visit to Oddoor farms near Mangalore, Karnataka, provides an inspiring example of the efforts made by Rajesh Naik to transform 120 acres of barren land into a lush green farm through his persistent efforts of creating a 2 acre wide and 50 feet deep lake, which has not only transformed the surrounding area, but has also helped in improving the water table in the surrounding village, besides helping in the development of a self sufficient organic farm and a dairy.
Oddoor farms, around 25 kilometres away from Mangalore city is a great example of a very successful effort made by Rajesh Naik who has transformed 120 acres of barren land into a self sufficient organic farm by developing a 50 feet lake on two acres of land. The journey has been a long one and not without its share of challenges, but persistence and constant optimism and hard work to overcome challenges has reaped results in the last twenty years, informs Rajesh.
A view of the two acre lake at Oddoor farms, Mangalore
He further adds, “I come from a family of agriculturalists and this land is my ancestral land, which was written off as barren and of no use because of lack of water and the hard laterite rock structures making it very difficult for holding water and for the vegetation to grow. People thought I was taking a great risk when I shared my plan of developing this land and thought that it was impossible and that I was throwing away my career. However, I was determined to do something about it and that is how I gradually came upon the idea of first working on developing the water resources in the area”.
Rajesh Naik near the lake he has developed at the Oddoor farms near Mangalore
It took a lot of financial resources and time to create a lake that gradually started filling up with water and now it generates around 40,000 litres of water that is used for irrigating the whole farm. This has not only helped in creating and developing greenery in the area, but has also helped in increasing the water table in the surrounding areas of the farm. There is plenty of water in the two wells in the surrounding areas in the farm. Rajesh plans to and has already started working on creating another lake adjacent to the area of this lake. The earlier lake has now established itself, springs have already started appearing in the area.
It is very difficult to believe that this was a land that was once uncultivable, when one sees the two acre lake filled with water and the lush green vegetation surrounding the lake. Oddoor farms is one of the largest organic farms in the area with areca nut plantations spread across ten acres of land besides growing coconut, mangoes, haldi, pepper, bananas, cashew nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Calves in the cattleshed from the Oddoor dairy near Mangalore
Besides growing fruits and vegetables, Rajesh has also started a diary farm that has around 200 cows that supply approximately 800 to 1000 litres of milk that is regularly taken up by the Karnataka Milk Federation. We look around at the cattle shed that houses the cows and separate ones for the calves. There is a big grass cutting machine in one of the sheds that provides the ample supply of green grass to the cattle. “We grow the grass on our own farm”, informs Rajesh, “and there is plenty of space here for the cattle to move around”.
Methane gas generated from the biogas plant at Oddoor farms near Mangalore
The peculiarity of the farm is its self sufficiency in every aspect including manure production as well as electricity generated for the farm. The farm uses manure generated from cowdung and cow urine is used with other local herbal products to generate organic pesticides to take care of the pests on the farm. The cowdung and urine along with the wash water are collected in a tank, which after fermentation generates large amounts of methane, which is used to run a 60KV generator that produces its own electricity to run the whole farm. The biogas is also used for cooking. The slurry generated is used in the fields and is rich in minerals and calcium.
A 60 KV generator used to convert methane gas to generate electricity at the Oddoor farms, Mangalore
“If this model can be replicated in every part of the country, the whole country will be able to take care of its water problems and will have agriculture totally based on organic farming. If I could do this on this piece of land, it can be replicated anywhere, what is important is the will of the people and the support from the government to do so”, signs off Rajesh.