1. Success Story

Pearl Farming: This Couple Teaches Farmers How to Easily Grow Pearls in Home-made Ponds

It was their love for pearls and its cultivation that got Ashok Manwani and his wife, Kulanjan Dubey Manwani, together in 2003. The couple met for the first time that year at an event organized to learn about the cultivation of pearls. The rest, as they say, is history for this couple.

Ayushi Raina
Ashok Manwani Teaches Farmers How to Easily Grow Pearls
Ashok Manwani Teaches Farmers How to Easily Grow Pearls

Ashok Manwani and his wife, Kulanjan Dubey Manwani, met in 2003 because of their shared passion for pearls and their cultivation. That year, the couple met for the first time during an event organized to learn about pearl cultivation. For this couple, the rest is, as they say, history. 

Ashok was born into an agricultural family, and his interest in freshwater pearl farming piqued after reading few articles on the subject. He began experimenting with pearl farming as a college student by gathering mussels from the Morna River in the Akola district. This, however, turned out to be a series of failed attempts. 

"It was only in 2000 that I finally got training at the Bhubaneswar pearl culture institute," said. After the course, I felt competent enough to teach this art to others. Meeting Kulanjan in 2003 gave my work a boost, and we began experimenting and trying out new ways together. It was wonderful to finally have a partner in this." 

While the end product of pearl cultivation is a beautiful gem the entire process is one that is very demanding. 

Further, Kuljana added, "In the beginning, explaining to people that were trying to cultivate pearls in itself was a big task.  No one seemed to grasp what we were doing. We've had to live in jungles and cook for ourselves. There have been so many failed experiments and heartaches that the two of us have shared.” 

The couple focused on creating numerous pearl cultivating techniques and instruments. 

They have proved that pearls may be discovered not only in saline water, but also in fresh water sources such as rivers and ponds in towns and cities. "Equipment like the mussel opener and wooden mussel stand to nurture designer pearls, which appear to be quite ubiquitous now, are tools that we created over the years," added Ashok. They say that the novelty of these tools is that they do not result in the death of the oysters. They are extremely delicate equipment and the pricing of the tools is another factor that has led to many people becoming involved in pearl cultivation. 

Other than Maharashtra, the couple has done pearl farming in 12 states over the last two decades. They have conducted programs and awareness campaigns in Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Manipur, Meghalaya and Assam etc. "Whenever possible, we strive to work with State Departments.  "We've noticed that most farmers seek support from their state agriculture departments," said Kuljana. 

The couple established an organization called Indian Pearl Cultivation in 2001 with the sole purpose of training as many people as possible to take up pearl cultivation. "The excitement of seeing that pearl at the end of all the hard labor motivates us," Kuljana explains. We are not in this for the money, but to ensure that India becomes a center for high-quality pearls. It is conceivable for us to hit that target, even if it means it happens after our lifetime.” 

While on an average, one is able to extract only two pearls from one shell, Ashok says that the technique they have developed can lead to cultivating up to six pearls from one shell. 

"This is a technology that is now being disseminated to other farmers by state governments," he noted. He also urges those interested in learning to only go to government-approved centers rather than paying a high fee to learn at private institutions. 

Harvesting Pearls 'Ethically' 

"First and foremost, growers must stop purchasing oysters from other states in order to raise them. The weather and water conditions will be highly different, so choose oysters from your own location," added Ashok. Learn to hunt for it in a water body near you. If you get the oyster from your local location, your chances of it living and performing well will rise. 

A farmer with limited space can get started with pearl farming by cultivating up to 2,000 shells in 1,000 square feet of space. 

"Two shells can be easily put in 1 sq ft. The water should be light green in color and it is advisable to add spirulina to the water, which is considered to be the super food for the animals. The micronutrients in the spirulina are very beneficial for good growth,” says Kuljana. 

The couple also believes that adding organic goods to improve the nutritional content of the water is a great idea. 

The cost varies from state to state, according to Kuljana. "In Maharashtra, each shell would cost you between Rs.30- Rs.40, whereas in Karnataka, it will cost you a minimum of Rs.50 per shell.  The average cost of producing two pearls is Rs.60, and if the quality is high and verified, you can make up to Rs.500 per pearl and sometimes even more. "There were instances where a single pearl has been sold for Rs.12 lakhs," Ashok stated. 

Govt. Providing Subsidy for Pearl Farming 

If someone wants to start pearl farming by creating a pond in their backyard or a space available in their home, the total set-up would cost around Rs.25 lakhs. However, in an effort to boost pearl production, the government is giving farmers with a subsidy of Rs.12.5 lakhs. 

This Couple Received Various National Awards 

The couple has conducted over 400 training sessions and workshops around the country for various state governments and has received multiple awards, including eight national and over 70 other awards. They are also the first beneficiaries of the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture's (CIFA) innovative farmer award. 

"My mission is to see that even the poorest of farmers may gain from pearl farming," says Ashok, who has no interest in running this as a commercial venture. It is an excellent approach to supplement one's income and may be done in addition to one's main source of income." 

Ashok and Kuljana can be reached at +91-9860661174 or via email at indianpearlculture@yahoo.com 

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