Nedumangad, a village in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, with a population of just about 60,000 people, is famous for its suburban beauty and its 16th-century Koyikkal Palace.
But take a closer look, and you’ll know that the Kerala village home to a group of highly motivated, socially conscious people who’ve carried out major agricultural initiatives in the past few years. The most recent and highly successful one being the conversion of barren plots, measuring 100-acres, into flourishing organic farms!
Yes, you heard that right, a motley crowd comprising of teachers, students, farmers and the businessmen of Nedumangad came together to turn the fate of these pieces of land around.
Under the ‘Jaivagramam’ (organic village) initiative, started in November 2016 as a charitable trust, the village panchayat has tried and succeeded to bring all barren land under organic cultivation to make the village self-sustainable.
The Beginning of A Self-Sustainable Organic Village
Talking to The Better India (TBI), Anthony Rose, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Nedumangad says, “We first cultivated a 3-acre land taken on lease. The panchayat members and the authorities loaned us an amount of Rs. 4.5 lakh to buy the necessary raw material and equipment. In just two months, we expanded our cultivation to different areas and it reached a total of 100 acres in just a year’s time,” explains.
The project saw the participation of 21,000 families of the panchayat and the effort of 97 members selected from the panchayat to cultivate the land. In a span of 4 years, the 100 acres of land began flourishing with tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, green chillies, bitter gourd and plantain.
“When the project started becoming successful, we ventured into integrated farming and started rearing bees, cows, goats and even chickens. The profits from the harvest started pouring in and we were able to repay the loan in no time, in fact by 2018 we had a revenue of around Rs 28 lakh!” says Anthony.
“One of the major visions that we had was to ensure that the people of our village had a better understanding of organic farming, its health benefits and how the vegetables available in the market were filled with harmful chemicals,” says Anthony.
Keeping this vision in mind, panchayat also started training individuals in organic farming practices.
“We divided the interested participants into 380 groups. The only requirement was that each group as a whole had to own atleast 50 cents of land for cultivation. This helped our villagers to a great extent and many of them further ventured out into full-time organic farming. Also, the families are given part of the harvest. So, it’s a win-win situation for all,” he adds.
All the profit that the initiative has made so far has been re-invested for the expansion of their dream of “Organic Village.”
Other than turning barren lands into fertile organic farms, Nedumangad block panchayat has also launched several other agricultural initiatives drawing inspiration from the success of ‘Jaivagramam.’
Other Initiatives in the Kerala Village
In September 2018, the Nedumangad block panchayat also launched the ‘Vallam Nira’ initiative to attain self-sufficiency in terms of vegetable cultivation through organic farming along with floriculture.
This initiative is being implemented in the grama panchayat of Karakulam, Aruvikkara, Vembayam, Panavoor and Anad with the help of the Kudumbasree Mission, and supported by the government’s Haritha Keralam Mission.
“The aim of the initiative is basically to encourage vegetable and flower cultivation in atleast 25,000 households. We have provided them with all the raw materials to start out, so they have can harvest produce for their daily needs and the rest will be collected to be sold at the local markets for a reasonable price. This will provide an additional income as well to all these families,” says Anthony.
The sowing equipment, seeds and manure required for this initiative are being distributed by the Jaiva Krishi Sevana Kendram, a training centre for organic farming, also run by the Nedumangad Block Panchayat.
So far, the centre has distributed vegetables including spinach, curry leaves, tomatoes etc. along with half a litre of organic fertiliser and pesticides to each of these households.
“For the work to be carried out seamlessly we’ve assigned 1,600 coordinators and the activities are being reviewed every month by the block panchayat members and the agricultural officers,” he explains.
“Besides, these initiatives, Nedumangad is also one of the first block panchayats in Kerala to organise a ‘Jaiva Sabha’ in 98 of its wards. This was organised to spread awareness about organic farming and floriculture and also provide tips on growing these plants,” Anthony explains.
“If there’s one thing to learn from Nedumangad, it’s the fact that the power of a community coming together is unbelievable. We never thought that any of these initiatives would see such a great result, but now our panchayat stands as a symbol of unity and moreover as a panchayat that has brought to light the importance of organic farming,” he concludes.
These 100 acres symbolise the unbelievable power of community and the determination of 21,000 families that went beyond the norm to build something spectacular and earn huge profits. Today, Nedumangad has also become an example for panchayats across the country through their self sustaining model.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)