Chittoor: Project Unnati, a sustainable agriculture initiative by Coca-Cola and Jain Irrigation, accomplished its first milestone today with the announcement of a specialized farmer training program and the establishment of 100 demo farms in the pilot phase to train over 50,000 farmers over five years. The program will use specialized buses with in-built classrooms to provide on-the-go training in Ultra High Density Plantation (UHDP) techniques in mango farming which can help farmers double their mango yields and thus significantly improve their livelihood. The first phase of the project has an investment outlay of more than USD 2 million, shared equally between Coca-Cola and Jain Irrigation.
The farmer training bus, aptly called the Unnati Mobile Classroom, was flagged off today by Gen Ved Malik (retd), former - Chief of India Army, Mr. T Krishnakumar, CEO, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, District Collector of Chittoor Shri S. Soloman Arokiaraj and Mr. Anil Jain, Managing Director, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. The Unnati Mobile Classroom, which is a classroom has been designed by Coca- Cola University(that also successfully runs the retailer training program called Parivartan) in collaboration with Jain Irrigation., using their joint expertise to develop special training modules to impart skills and techniques of UHDP to mango farmers under the project.
According to T Krishnakumar, CEO, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, “Project Unnati builds on continuous efforts for sustainable agriculture. With the UHDP technology for mango plantation showcased in over 100 acres in the first phase. We are also excited about the launch of the Unnati Mobile Classroom and believe that this will open doors of opportunity for 50,000 farmers. Given the growing demand for mango worldwide and the packaged juice segment being a high growth category, Project Unnati not only makes good social sense but also makes great business sense for us. We are delighted to partner with Jain Irrigation who is our largest mango pulp supplier to lend their expertise towards the success of this project.”
In the pilot phase of Project Unnati, 62 farmers, whose farms aggregating 100 acres, have planted mango saplings using the Ultra High Density Plantation (UHDP) technique for mango cultivation while also utilizing the benefits of drip irrigation to minimize quantity of water used per kilo of mango produce.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Anil Jain, Managing Director, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. said, “Despite India contributing to 55 per cent of the world’s mango production, the productivity at our farms is one of the lowest in the world. Our vision is to take this leadership to the next level with the help of specialized skill training to our mango farmers to increase per acre yield of mangoes on a sustainable basis and bring prosperity to the small and marginal farmers. We are certain the Unnati Mobile Classroom, launched in partnership with the Coca-Cola, will add a new dimension to our partnership with farmers on sustainable and enhanced agricultural practices.”
UHDP is an ingenious farming practice that can help mango orchards attain their full potential in 3-4 years by facilitating cultivation of nearly 600 trees in an acre instead of the conventional method of planting 40 trees in an acre. This technique will double mango yields and increase incomes by improving yield/acre and simultaneously decreasing the quantity of water used in the process.
Launching the Unnati Mobile Classroom, General Ved Malik, former Chief of Indian Army and Chairman, Advisory Council on Environment and Sustainability (ACES), Coca-Cola India, said, “I am pleased that Coca-Cola and Jain Irrigation have come together to bring new technique to the mango farmers directly. This initiative is especially important as the corporate sector is working with farmers directly and both stand to benefit from this collaboration. I hope that the farmers will readily adopt this scientifically better technique and raise their productivity, which will not only help them increase their income but also help deliver more mangoes and mango juice drinks for the consumers”.
The pilot phase of Project Unnati saw 100 acre farms established with UHDP in Chittoor. The program is now looking to extend farmers in the Cudappa district of Andhra Pradesh. This area is renowned for its production of the Totapuri Mango - a key ingredient in India’s largest selling mango drink – Maaza. The Unnati mobile classroom will reach out to 50,000 mango farmers in this region and help them understand methodology and benefits of UHDP farming.
More about Ultra High Density Plantation (UHDP):
In traditional mango cultivation, trees are allowed to grow as high as possible; they are pruned minimally or not at all. In UHDP, canopy is maintained in such a way to attain maximum light interception and canopy volume per unit area in early years of plantation. This leads in the orchard to attain full potential in 3-4 years. The UHDP would allow 600 trees to be planted in an acre instead of just the conventional 40 trees to an acre.
The gestation period in UHDP is less and the farmer starts earning money in the early years as UHDP orchards start commercial bearing from the 3rd year onwards against the 7 to 9 years required in traditional planting.
The UHDP technique was evolved and perfected by Jain Irrigation at its Research and Development farm at Udmalpet, TN. Jain's have successfully harvested fruits for past five consecutive years at its research farm before offering this technology to the farmers. This pioneering research will change the mango cultivation in India.
It is estimated that the demand for packaged mango-based beverages is set to increase consistently over the coming years. However, the area under mango cultivation is not growing at the same rate. Ultra High Density mango Plantation is a viable solution that can be undertaken in all regions where mangoes are grown traditionally. This process requires mango grafts of commercial varieties to be planted in proximity to each other. It encourages use of such techniques as pruning, fertigation, irrigation and growth promotion which facilitate well-rounded growth of mango orchards with sufficient number of branches and shoots. Special care for nutrition management and pest control are also undertaken. Together, these modern techniques are expected to enhance mango produce by as high as 200%, as compared to traditional plantation methods.