This auto mechanic earns Rs 50 lakh a year by growing 22 types of mangoes on a single tree.
Kakasaheb Sawant of the Sangli area of Maharashtra has worked as a mechanic in many big automobile companies of Pune for almost ten years. But now, he is not identified as a mechanic but as a successful farmer. He has a nursery, from which his annual income is Rs 50 lakh.
Sawant, 43, says, “10 years ago today when I planted Hapus mango saplings, people used to laugh at me. They used to think that Hapus (Alphonso) could be grown only in Konkan, as the Konkan region is known for its Hapus mangoes.”
Sawant has two brothers, who are primary school teachers. His family owns 20 acres of land in a village in Jat taluka of the Sangli district of Maharashtra. This area is drought-prone.
His village Antaral is 15 km away from Jat town, in which about 280 families live. Naturally fertile black soil is found in this village. This taluka comprises 125 villages and receives an average rainfall of about 570 mm every year. For farming in this area, people have to depend on rain. Which the local people call ‘Hungami Sheti’. Hungami means seasonal, and Sheti means farming.
The farmers here grow grapes or pomegranates and find mango cultivation difficult. The farmers here grow bajra, maize, jowar, wheat, pulses etc.
Sawant did his diploma from Industrial Training Institute (ITI), after which he started working as an automobile mechanic. He says, “Before joining agriculture, I also worked as a faculty in a technical institute in Sangli. But when I was transferred, I decided to return to my village and take up farming.”
He says, “I have no regrets on my decision, as I earn very well today. Also, my taluka is turning green because of the plants in my nursery. Along with many farmers from my nursery, people also take saplings from schools and panchayat offices.”
Sawant set up a mango orchard in 2010, and five years later, he thought of starting a plant nursery business. After that, he started his nursery named ‘Shri Banashankari Ropvatika’ in 2015. He brings water to irrigate plants in his greenhouse through the Mhaisal Irrigation Scheme of the Krishna river, for which he has also installed two pipelines of four km each. Apart from this, he has also built a pond with the subsidy provided by the state agriculture department.
At present, Sawant’s family lives in Banali village, which is five kilometres from Antaral. Sawant says, “These days our house is being built in Antaral village. The house will be ready in a month or two, and then we will shift there with the whole family.”
Sawant’s family has a nursery on 20 acres of land, in which different fruit plants are planted. In 10 acres, only saffron mango variety is planted, while the remaining 10 acres are covered with sapota, pomegranate, cilantro, guava, tamarind etc.
Sawant’s nursery has a shade net covering one acre of land. Small mango plants, i.e. mother plants, are planted in this shed area. From these root plants of saffron variety, cuttings are prepared for rootstocks for the Raiwal mango variety.
Sawant has also taken advantage of subsidies from several government schemes to make his nursery and mango plantation better. Tukaram Kolekar, agriculture officer of Jat taluka, says, “Until Sawant started nursery, mango saplings had to be taken from Kolhapur or Konkan. Apart from this, the cost of planting mango trees in this area was also very high. Most of the plants also died, due to which people did not grow mango plants. At the same time, now saffron mango trees have been planted on more than 50 acres of land in this area.
Sawant sells mango saplings at around Rs 40 to 70 per plant, earning him a profit of around two lakhs annually. Along with this, he sells around one lakh cilantro, berries, figs, sapota, guava, tamarind and lemon plants.
Planting mango by grafting
Sawant has hired some gardeners who had brought him to the National Horticulture Board training at Dapoli, 225 km from Sangli. All these gardeners prepare saplings by grafting small mango plants from June to August. They all live with Sawant’s family. Sawant says, “All my gardeners are very skilled, and I have learned the technique of plant grafting from them. These gardeners prepare around 800 to 1000 saplings every day and charge three rupees for grafting a plant.”
Farmers of Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Buldhana, Kolhapur, Bijapur, Athani, Belgaum, Indy and even parts of the Konkan region buy saplings from their nurseries. “This year, I got an order of four lakh saplings from Buldhana, which came as a surprise to me,” he says.
Sawant has also been honoured with the title of ‘Udyan Pandit’ by the Government of Maharashtra. Talking about some of the plant grafting tips, he explains, “While grafting a plant, keep in mind that the branch you choose for grafting should have a soft green branch. Also, the leaves on it should not be more than four months old. Talking about the temperature, the temperature should be between 25 ℃ to 30 ℃, which happens at the beginning of May.
Many farmers from far and wide also come to see Sawant’s plantations. There is a three-year-old mango tree in his field, on which 22 varieties have been grafted. Presently, 22 types of mangoes have grown in this tree. He has also labelled all the mangoes with their names. The mangoes grown in the tree include Sindhu, Dudhpeda, Croton, Sonpari, Dussehri, Vanraj, Niranjan, Lalbagh, Taiwan, Amrapali, Alphonso, Baramashi and ten other names. Sawant is always on the lookout for new mango varieties. He hopes that 100 varieties will be grown in this mango tree within a year or two with the grafting technique.