Satish Kumar is a farmer from a small village in southern India. Like any other farmer, he had modest means to get his sons educated in the best school, in the hope of a better future. Like every parent, he dreamt big for his sons.

Three years ago, Kumar was suggested that he should try a new, proven method of cultivation of mangoes. After sowing a crop of mangoes with the ultra-high density plantation (UHDP) technique, his fortunes have changed. Thanks to a bumper crop, he has sent his son to a very good, and expensive, private school, which was just a dream earlier.

While Kumar was still nursing his dreams, Jain Irrigation, one of the largest manufacturers of irrigation systems, and Coca-Cola had joined hands to launch Project Unnati to help mango farmers. They had a dream too –to change the fortunes of India’s farmers with innovative ideas. With many farmers already having experienced the benefits of UHDP farming for mangoes, the dream of the two companies is also turning into a reality.

With the benefits to the farmers now clearly visible, UHDP could well be the choice among farmers in the coming years. Project Unnati changes the way farmers approach the plantation of mango trees in their land. With a tenfold increase in the number of trees for every acre of plantation, the produce from each acre goes up dramatically. The trees are also very low in height compared to the traditional mango tree.

Advantage farmers

The benefits under UHDP were not difficult to see. While farmers had their initial hesitation, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Five clear benefits of the new technique has made it a favourite among the farmers.

UHDP technique helps farmers reap their harvest in three to four years against the traditional technology which takes seven to nine years. Against 60 mango trees per acre under the traditional farming methods, UHDP technique allows the farmer to plant up to 674 trees in the same area.

The drip irrigation technique works very well for farmers because the use of water is significantly reduced while the yield per hectare multiplies. Over the next 10 years, Coca-Cola and Jain Irrigation hope to take the benefit to another 25,000 farmers. Many more families like Kumar’s could reap the benefit of the innovative farming technique.

Little wonder, India is the highest mango producing country in the world, according to the National Horticulture Board, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the world production. Nearly 1500 varieties of mangoes are grown in India, of which about 1000 are of huge commercial importance.

But the worry is that the production per acre is among the lowest in the world, leaving a huge scope for improvement. UHDP addresses that issue well and leaves the farmer feeling like a king with a healthy income.

If popular legend is to be believed, mango is considered the king among all fruits in India. With UHDP, thousands of farmers are feeling like a king too! The UHDP benefits have accrued to farmers at a time when farmers across different states are seeing agricultural distress because of a variety of reasons.