Long before urban hipsters, a panchayat in Kerala had discovered the benefits of organic vegetables

The year was 1994, and organic farming hadn’t caught up in India. But one panchayat in Kerala went ahead and advocated the practice to its villagers, in the hope of making them self-reliant. Now it is 2018, and Kanjikuzhi, located on the shore of the Arabian Sea, is the only vegetable-sufficient panchayat in the state, and a prize-winning template for regions around the country.

“Every household in Kanjikuzhi grows its own vegetables,” said panchayat president MG Raju. “We don’t need to buy vegetables from the market at all. People here use what they need and sell the surplus, so pensioners, homemakers, everyone has some income”.

The panchayat grows 19 types of vegetables, including beans, lady’s finger, cabbage, green chilli, bitter gourd, snake gourd, cucumber, cauliflower, brinjal and cheera, a variety of spinach with beetroot-red leaves. “Last year, we grew 40,000 tonnes of vegetables,” said Raju.