The most beautiful state in southern India is undoubtedly Kerala. The name Kerala means “the land of coconut. ‘Kera’ in Malayalam means coconut and Kerala abounded by coconut trees. The abundance of coconut trees everywhere enhances its natural beauty even more. Besides, Kerala has long beaches, misty mountains, elegant rivers and charming inland water bodies. Above all, it has the soothing greenery all around.
The phrase God’s country is used by countries like New Zealand, Australia, US and Yorkshire to describe their homeland, especially New Zealand. The department of Kerala state government in the recent years have adopted the phrase as people started to explore more places outside the traditional tourist spots. Regarding the origin of Kerala, there are many myths. And one such myth is that Kerala was retrieved from the sea by Parasurama, a warrior sage, the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, threw his axe from Kanyakumari to northward across the ocean. As a consequence of this throwing of the axe across the sea, the water receded as far as it reached and the land of Kerala arose. Whether Mr Walter Mendez, the man behind adding this beautiful tagline to Kerala: “God’s country”, was inspired by this myth in naming it or not is yet unknown.
Another feature that this state is great for is organic agriculture. Organic farming also known as Eco-farming is a way of farming that preserves the ecosystem. It does not involve the utilization of harmful synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. Instead, of chemical fertilizers, bio-fertilizers are used. The common life forms maintain the fertility of the soil and also control weed and pests. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team describes organic farming as a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection. Organic agriculture promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.
At present, organic farming is done on 2,600 hectares in the three districts of Wayanad, Idukki and Kasaragod districts. Further, The State Horticulture Mission (SHM) has invited expression of interest from various organizations in the organic farming sector to carry out cultivation on 2,000 hectares in these three districts.
Kerala is going back to her traditional Organic Farming after hundreds of farmers had faced the bitter consequences of “Chemical Farming” and mono-cropping practiced as “Scientific Agricultures”. The Department of Agriculture is now promoting the production of Organic Food by launching “Java Kerala” (The Organic Sustainability OF Kerala).
In Marappanmoola village in Pulpally panchayat of Wayanad district, 454 small and medium farmers in the village owning on an average less than two hectares of land have organized themselves and they now cultivate a mixed variety of crops including pepper, coffee, cardamom, coconut, areca nut, tubers, vegetable, cashew nut, nutmeg, rice, etc. From the poultry and piggery units, they now collect the wastes and turn them into biogas for the kitchen and manure from the field. The sap of chrysanthemum and marigold is used in place of chemical insecticides. A Cooperative Society, Highland Farmers’ Cooperative Society, has been formed (Hicks) to take on the challenges from chemical to organic farming by the farmers of Marappanmoola. 500 hectares have been declared to be ‘Organic Farming Zone’. This Organic Farm Movement is market driven, and the premium price obtainable in the External markets in the future is a primary source of inspiration. A50 grams pack of organic white pepper fetches $4 in the US Market as against $1.5 in the domestic market.
The State Agriculture Department has now conducted 300 training programs to setup Collection Centres for Organic Produce. A Research station at Alabama in Connanore, three zonal sub-centers and regional labs with facilities for soil and produce residue analysis has been planned by the Government under the ‘Jaivakerlam Programme’.
Development of the domestic market for Organic Foods through a chain of supermarkets and a gradual withdrawing of State support on chemical inputs etc. has been planned. The Government’s role is that of the facilitator, forming farmers’ producing companies to manage the affairs by themselves. Three Districts, Wynad, Idukki and Palghat, will be declared as Organic Farming Zones.
Some organic farms in Kerala
Aaranyam Organic Farm is an endeavour of one particular family to revive traditional multi-crop farming and to promote organically integrated farming techniques as well as bring back the youth to agriculture. The name Aaranyam translates to ‘forest’. It is located on a seven-acre plot of land, in proximity with the backwaters. It is started by two zesty agriculturalists, Mr. Subramanian and his wife, Shay. Within a span of seven years, they have transformed a fallow land into one having the widest varieties of trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, with over 150 species of plants co-existing side by side. Add to this birds, bees, cows, buffaloes, ducks and fishes, Aaranyam is a living example of a farm in harmony with nature.
Emu Farm in Kerala is another farm practicing organic farming. This farm consists mostly of poultry birds, a category of domesticated birds kept for their eggs, meat and feathers. They have a range of birds from the larger emu to the smaller guinea fowl. The birds are reared in their open natural habitat. This farm produces consists of eggs, emu, turkey, duck, chicken and guinea fowl.
Natural Shakti, near Kumily, in Kerala, consists of two farms: 1) Poomalai Parambil (mountain of flowers) and 2) Yanai Kadu (elephant land). Both farms are managed under natural farming practices. The land was purchased after the previous owner removed the primeval forest from this area. Thousands of trees were planted, and part of the land was turned into a natural coffee farm. Half of it has been left to recover on its own and provides an environment for wildlife. The main products of this farm include coffee (coffee Arabica and Coffee canephora (robusta), cardamom, pepper, vanilla and stevia (an alternative to sugar and aspartame).