Sugandhadevi, a terrace farmer from Kerala, has been growing paddy on her terrace for the last decade. She was recently awarded the ‘best woman farmer’ title in her panchayat.
Sugandhadevi, a resident of Kollam, Kerala, had always wanted to try her luck in farming. For years, time eluded her, as she spent her days caring for her family. It wasn’t till she reached her 40s that she was able to find some time for herself to learn what she loved the most.
She says it all started when she watched a Facebook video about a woman who practised large scale farming. Inspired, Sugandha approached some officials in her panchayat, who gave her 300 grow bags for Rs 13 each.
Unlike many terrace farmers, who opt for vegetables, Sugandha chose paddy farming. She says this was more challenging, which is exactly why she wanted to take it up. She made small benches from leftover wood in the house, covered them with plastic sheets, and placed the bags full of the soil mixture on them.
Within 120 days, she had her first harvest of 45 kilos of rice.
Ten years on, the 56-year-old is still farming and is very happy with the life she is leading. “My family and I get to eat organic food, which helps us remain healthy even at this age of serious illnesses,” she says, adding that she also cultivates several vegetables like tomato, cabbage, chilli, pea, ladies finger, brinjal, and much more.
Once in a year harvest
“Paddy farming can only be performed during the monsoon season (June-September) because it requires wet weather. Watering is the most vital element of this farming, and should be done 2-3 times per day,” she explains.
She adds that she initially thought of hiring labour, but she couldn’t afford the cost at the time. Her son-in-law helps her procure necessary items like seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides. She takes charge of the rest of the processes.
Sugandha opines that anyone with a decent space on the terrace can try paddy farming. The perfect mixture for cultivation, she explains, includes soil, sand/ wood dust and cow dung in a 1:1:1 ratio. “The mixture should be left for 14 days before adding seeds. Make sure it doesn’t dry up in the meantime. After seven days, mix potassium, urea and cow dung powder in one cup of water and add the mixture on alternate days. The yield will undoubtedly surprise you,” she says.
While she doesn’t go to the market to sell her produce, some people approach her to buy the rice directly. The family sells whatever is remaining after consumption.
Sugandha says that recently, she was also voted the ‘best woman farmer’ of her panchayat.
She now finds herself running out of space to expand her agricultural activities. She also carries out farming in her son-in-law’s house, which is located nearby.
Sugandha shares some tips for small scale paddy cultivation at home:
- Never let the grow bag remain dry. Water frequently.
- If frequent watering is not possible, install a drip or spray irrigation system.
- While adding manure or fertiliser, mix both in water and pour into the grow bag. Don’t add them directly.
- Check for pesticides every day and spray organic items like neem oil every 3-4 days.
- Ask for advice from experienced farmers before starting the process.
- The selection of seeds is a significant step. They can usually be procured from the panchayat for free.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)