From 2-Acre Barren Land To Farm With More Than 700 Trees & Plants, Meet The One-Man Army From Mangaluru
What happens when you give a poor farmer with absolutely no resources a barren piece of land? You get a sprawling organic farm with hordes of trees and even an indigenously built micro-irrigation system. At least that’s what Akai Mahalinga Naik from Adyanadka, a town situated 50 km from Mangaluru, Karnataka did.
Hard work of over four decades
Naik, a 73-year-old man who was deprived of formal education, was working as a labourer, whose job was to pluck areca nuts and coconuts in landlord Mahalinga Bhat’s land almost 40 years ago. Impressed by Naik’s sincerity and work, Bhat then gifted him a two-acre piece of land. However, the land was barren, but for Naik, this was no less than a blessing. For somebody so poor that he did not even own a house, the first thing Naik did was to build a hut for himself and his family. What followed was hard work of about four decades to convert this barren land into a full-fledged farm.
However, the journey to achieve the same was not an easy one. For starters, Naik was a poor man and the land was atop a hill with no source of water for irrigation, what so ever. “My dream to raise an areca nut farm atop rocky hills with poor vegetation was initially mocked by all,” Naik told The New Indian Express.
For the source of water, Naik realised that digging up a well would cost much, instead, he chose to resort to an ancient way of water harvesting, that is by building Surangas (tunnels). He started building the tunnel, all by himself, while also working in Bhat’s land. This meant that apart from toiling hard on Bhat’s land, he would return home only to put in six more hours of work to build a tunnel. “The tunnel being narrow, I had to crawl on all fours and crouch in order to hold the metal basket between my legs for collecting excavated soil. Toiling for as many as six hours a day under the flickering light of a coconut oil lamp (as it gave out less soot), I sometimes needed to be told to stop work by my wife who would come searching for me after 9 pm,” says Naik.
The first few attempts were not successful. In fact, the attempt to build a ‘suranga’ failed the first four times.
Fellow villagers thought that he was a fool to put in such efforts to achieve something which they thought was impossible. But nothing dampened Naik’s spirit. Naik struck the proverbial gold in his fifth attempt, “I began digging the fifth ‘suranga’ located at an elevated place. And finally, at 50 feet, I discovered moisture on the ceiling.”
Naik did not rest after this, rather he envisioned another brilliant idea. He eliminated the need for a pump set by digging another tunnel, he said, “I thought of digging another tunnel further uphill, as gravitational force would run the sprinkler jets eliminating any need of irrigation pump sets.”
He then went ahead and dug the seventh ‘suranga’ to supply water for domestic purposes. Naik has further improvised the traditional ‘surangas’ by raising a small reservoir.
Awards, accolades from all quarters
Naik’s farm now boasts of about 300 areca nut trees, 75 coconut trees, 150 cashew trees, 200 banana saplings, pepper vines and a wide variety of vegetables which include sweet potato, ladies finger, spinach, brinjal, etc.
As reported by Deccan Herald, the Varanashi Agricultural Foundation (VAF) of Adyanadka awarded him with the “Varanashi Farmer of the Year Award” in 2003. And in 2009, the Karnataka state government presented him with “Krishi Pandit” award.
The Logical Indian appreciates Naik’s grit, determination and hard work to achieve the impossible.