PM Illias from the Pulickal Panchayat in Malappuram, Kerala has been innately connected to nature since his childhood. Wanting to carve out a piece of heaven for himself, he began cultivating a forest of his own almost 15 years back. And now the 10 acre land around his home is a flourishing farm, home to almost 50 varieties of fruits, vegetables and teeming with livestock! But what the environmentalist never imagined was the recognition he would receive for this project, especially the Kerala State Award for the best farmer.
Today 48-year-old Illias’ farm is one of the most popular ones in Kerala not just for its variety of fruits and vegetables but its effective waste management system that’s helping an entire society! With the manure from the cows and goats and the plant waste from the farm and his neighbours, Illias has created a perfectly organic ecosystem in his farm.
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10 Acres Of Greenery
With varieties of Litchi, Sappotta, Mangosteen, Papaya, Jackfruit, Noni, Guava and many others, Illias has dedicated 4 acres of his 10-acre land exclusively for the cultivation of fruits. Of the remaining 6 acres, 2 acres is for everyday vegetables like bitter gourd, tomatoes and ladies finger and the rest is somewhat of a tree museum with varieties like Teak, Cedar, White Cedar and Hopea.
“In the span of 15 years, I’ve collected many varieties of saplings, all of them from the Teak Museum in Nilambur, Malappuram. These saplings have grown into tall, majestic trees and stand as a reminder of the hard work and time that has gone into the cultivation of this farm,” says Illias. Besides the farm, Illias has also invested time in poultry and dairy farming with cows, goats, ducks and chicken.
Moreover, the water required to maintain the farm is also managed within its boundaries through rainwater harvesting. Illias has set up five ponds in the empty spaces of the 10-acre land to collect water. The dedicated farmer has also ensured to collect biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste from around the neighbourhood so that the waste in their area is managed effectively.
“The summers can be a tricky season, especially when you have to maintain such a vast area. That’s when I started rainwater harvesting. Ever since then neither the farm nor the people in our locality have had to face any kind of water scarcity. I’ve also kept aside one of the ponds for children to learn swimming in the summers. That’s just something that brings me joy,” Illias explains.
As for fertilisers, Illias makes it the farm itself with a biogas plant and a vermicomposting system.
“Illias’ farm has become a boon for the entire society. Every day he collects the waste from the entire locality and if it’s biowaste, he uses it in the plant or adds it to his vermicompost and as for the plastic waste, he repurposes them or sends them to the recycling centres nearby,” says Sanjeev SJ, an officer from the Krishi Bhavan in the panchayat.
Apart from looking after the farm, Illias is also keen on teaching students about farming and its values. In fact, after completing their training from Illias, the students of the AWMH College, Cheruvannoor have started their own farm and use the harvest to prepare food in their college hostel.
To spread the message of eco-consciousness, Illias has also opened up his farm for field trips and encourages students from schools to come and experience the fun of farming and his recyling activies.
“I’ve given about 2-3 years of training in the past to selected college students and to my surprise they gained interest and now have their own farms. Many experts from the Kisan Krishi Bhavan have also visited my farm and given me guidance on how to expand the farm furthermore,” Illias recalls.
Naturally, Illias has received a lot of recognition for his efforts toward the environment and his society. Apart from the State Award for the Best Farmer, Illias has also been bestowed with the Sarojini Damodhar Foundation Akshayasri Award.
The happy farmer says this success wouldn’t have been possible without his wife Memoona, “It is a combined effort. My wife helps me take care of this farm and my children Aisha Manna, Masna and Abdul Rahman contribute to maintaining it too. A single person cannot develop and sustain all this, “ Illias says.
Though he was born into an agricultural family, the state agricultural department’s classes and other financial aid helped a lot, Illias informs. “Above all though, it was hard work through hardships that bore fruit,” he smiles.
Illias’ farm is a stellar example of people coming together and joining hands to save resources and effectively manage waste, a model that we too could implement.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)