Gopalganj district, located in the north-west corner of Bihar is one of the most important agricultural clusters of the state. Gopalganj, also known as Gannachal is blessed with the waters of the Gandak River and its tributaries, fertile alluvial soil and hot and dry climatic conditions that are ideal for the cultivation of sugarcane, wheat, rice, pulses, mango, papaya, bottle gourd, beans, brinjal, chilli, cucumber, tomato, banana, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, beet, pumpkin as well as spices like turmeric and ginger.
Small and marginal farmers of Gopalganj use the traditional method of cultivating vegetables on floating beds. This practice has been implemented for centuries as a sizeable farming area is located in low-lying wetlands in Gopalganj district and remains under water during the monsoon season.
The farmers have adopted the unique system of floating vegetable farming that is cost-effective, high-yielding and requires less or zero fertilizer. The reason is that water hyacinth that is found in abundance across the district has made these water bodies nutrient-rich and therefore, the quality of the produce grown in these seedbeds is excellent.
It is estimated that there are over 20,000 floating beds across the wetlands in this district with over 2,000 plants grown in each floating bed. The advantage of these floating beds is that they can be reused many times in the year.
Papaya is a favoured cash crop of the farmers in this district with Red Lady (Taiwanese papaya), Madhu Bindu, Pusa Delicious, Pusa Dwarf, Co-1 and hybrid varieties grown across the district. Around 250 tonnes of papaya is produced every year with farmers earning over 2 lakh rupees per hectare.
This increase in income has resulted in many farmers shifting from wheat and rice cultivation to mixed farming with papaya. Gopalganj papaya is sold in the markets of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Mumbai and nearby Odisha.
The papaya produced in this district tastes like honey and is sinfully sweet and melts in your mouth. As this papaya is grown with minimal use of fertilizer and pesticide, it is packed with nutrients, Vitamins and antioxidants.
Farmers have been benefitting from the innovative schemes and subsidies provided by the government. One hopes that they will get the opportunity to export their high-quality papayas soon.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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