“I have been very enthusiastic about farming since my childhood,” begins 47-year-old MK Nishanth from Wayanad in Kerala.
He has been growing more than 170 varieties of plantain from different parts of the country in nearly 2 acres of his land at Mananthavady and Niravilpuzha.
“I used to collect different varieties of different crops from a very young age, but I always had a special interest in plantains. Now it’s been over 15 years since I seriously started collecting and nurturing plantain cultivars and varieties from different parts of the country,” Nishanth tells The Better India.
A government employee, he always tries to find time to look after his crops. “I work as a senior clerk at the employment exchange here and I juggle between office work and farming. I don’t have any helpers at my farmland and I manage everything by myself,” he says.
Nishanth adds, “I have almost 25 cents around my house here in Mananthavady, where I have managed to plant around 60 plantain varieties. The rest have been planted in the 1.5 acres out of the 4 acres of land I own near my ancestral house at Niravilpuzha, which is around 30 km from my home.”
Apart from growing plantain, Nishanth also grows crops like pepper, coffee, areca nut, nutmeg and some more in his remaining land at Niravilpuzha.
He collects plantain varieties and cultivars from different parts of the country. Although most of them are collected from different districts within Kerala, there are several other varieties that he grows, which are exclusively found in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Nishat says, “Many of my friends and relatives send me seeds from different parts of Kerala. I also try to attend agricultural events like seed festivals that happen in different districts of Kerala from where I can source quality seeds.”
Other than sourcing it from friends and relatives, Nishanth makes use of several agricultural groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, as a medium for sourcing seeds as well as for connecting with farmers across the country.
“I source seeds through Facebook or WhatsApp which makes it easy for farmers like us to connect with farmers from across the country. I buy seeds from them, either by paying money or by trading varieties I have that they don’t,” says Nishanth.
Speaking about where he gets these different seeds from, he says, “There is a Facebook group named ‘Vazhagramam’, through which I have sourced several seeds. Recently, I received five varieties of plantains from Visakhapatnam which they sent via India Post,” he adds.
Engambi, Peyan, Buluvazha are some of the varieties he sourced through social media.
Most of the varieties on Nishath’s farm are edible varieties except for one or two that are used for ornamental purposes.
Njalipoovan, Chundillakannan, Kadhali, Chenkadhali, Matti are some of the common varieties that he cultivates.
He also nurtures several rare varieties like Krishnavazha, which are black in colour. The other varieties he grows are the Thousand Fingers, which grow up to 14 feet tall and yield long banana bunches that touch the ground; and the 3.5-ft Thai Musa variety. He also owns a few medicinal varieties like Adukkan, Karinkadhali and Kunnan.
“I am not growing them for commercial purposes,” asserts Nishanth. “All these varieties yield fruits at different times of the year. So, if one or two yields are harvested together and there’s a surplus, only then do I sell them off to the nearby local shops.”
According to Nishanth, it is his passion for farming and love for plantains that made him collect these many varieties and cultivars. He is now planning to cultivate more varieties with medicinal benefits as many farmers have been approaching him for such varieties.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)