Rajasthan: Beri village situated on the border of Sikar district is renowned for its production of high-quality pomegranates. A farmer from the village, Santosh Devi Khedar cultivates pomegranates on one and a quarter acre of land in the village, earning Rs 25 lakh per year. She has also been honoured with the title of Agricultural Scientist in recognition of her endeavours. 

Who is Santosh Devi Khedar?

Santosh Devi Khedar grew up in the village and pursued her schooling till grade 5. Her father, who was employed as a police officer in Delhi, wanted his daughters to receive higher education in a city. However, Santosh had a passion for farming since childhood and preferred to continue living a quiet village life. At the age of 15, she was married off to Ramkaran from Beri village, while her younger sister married Ramkaran’s younger brother. 

Interests in farming

Santosh Devi Khedar shares that she never had a keen interest in academics. She mastered the farming skills at the young age of 12 while her younger sister excelled in studies and went on to pursue a BEd degree. Her husband Ramkaran was employed as a homeguard with a monthly salary of Rs 3000; however, the income was insufficient to run the household. 

Facing challenges

To make the ends meet, Santosh, along with her husband, began farming practices on 5 acres of land that the family owned. However, the couple faced immense challenges in making it a success. Santosh noticed the excessive usage of chemicals on the land that had degraded the soil quality. Ramkaran’s monthly salary of Rs 3000 made it difficult to sustain their household, and there was a lack of access to a tube well or a well. Amidst these challenges, some family disputes took place, and the property was distributed among brothers. Santosh now faced the incredibly difficult task of revitalizing a barren land. Despite the discouragement from her family members, she embarked on this journey to secure a better future for her children. 

Cultivating pomegranates

Santosh and Ramkaran endured challenges in gathering funds for their farming projects. She made the difficult decision of selling their only buffalo in 2008 to be able to install a tube well on their farm. Electricity issues were overcome by installing a generator. Santosh adopted organic farming practices, and, in the pursuit, she planted 220 pomegranate trees. The positive outcome of their immense hard work began to manifest in 2011, when the trees bore fruits. A profit of Rs 3,00,000 was made in the first year alone. Encouraged by this success, Santosh and Ramkaran expanded the cultivation. Santosh’s efforts were recognized with the felicitation of the Krishi Mantra Award of Rs 1 lakh, and the title of Agricultural Scientist. 

Organic fertilizers

Interestingly, Santosh produces organic fertilizers on her farm, that she prepares from cow dung and urine. Additionally, she also makes insecticides by blending turmeric, cow urine, and other ingredients. Presently, around 15-20 farmers work along with her. She also has her own website where she provides information about her farming practices.