Sita Devi, an innovative farmer from Tehri, Uttarakhand become ‘Kiwi Queen’ by eluding all odds. Kiwi is an exotic and highly nutritious fruit in traditional crops and is commercially grown on sturdy support structures.
She lives in Duvakoti village of Narendranagar block with her husband and two sons Rajendra Singh, Vikas and Rahul, respectively. When Sita Devi started cultivating Kiwi, she became the subject of amusement in the eyes of the villagers.
Earlier she used to farm, but wild animals damaged the crops most of the time. She was disheartened and thought that farming was of no use to her, but the financial condition of her house was not good, so she couldn’t stop farming. In 2018, she got information regarding the Horticulture Department’s plan to encourage growing kiwi through a conversation among local SHG(Self-Help Group)members. Sita Devi then cultivated kiwi and was sent to Himachal for training on behalf of the department. The villagers mocked her decision to grow kiwi, but that made Sita Devi more courageous and she started the cultivation of kiwi. The training taught her sowing, watering, harvesting and monetising the kiwi crop. She said, “Each plant has to be planted two to four meters apart, as the trees grow enormously.” Regular but measured irrigation is integral in harvesting a good yield, but beyond that, there is no need for extra fertilisers or equipment.”
Despite all the taunts by the villagers with no support, she looked after the kiwi plants like her own children and her effortless perseverance made her prepare for the kiwi garden in a year. Sita Devi is the first Kiwi farmer in the entire district, said Dr DK Tiwari (District Horticulture Officer Tehri). He also mentioned that “She worked hard with departmental support and her garden in Duvakoti has been completed. We have set the target to produce one quintal of kiwi from her orchard in March this year.”
In 2018, they distributed kiwi saplings amongst 45 cultivators for planting gardens in the district. Sita Devi gave the best results out of these 45 people and her plants survived. The vision of Sita Devi was so clear that she got support from the National Rural Livelihood Project. They helped her by constructing 15 thousand litres of water storage capacity tanks for irrigation. They also later installed a drip irrigation system on her land by the horticulture department, which completes the watering of the plants within two hours.
Sita Devi is now known as ‘Kiwi Queen’ by the villagers, which is justified. Her constant efforts paid off as today she has 33 kiwi trees spread across 0.98 acres of land. “The plant yields high benefits but requires systematic cutting of the stems. Most people enjoy reaping the returns but are not consistent enough in putting the efforts required to tend to fruits,” she says.