Successful organic farmer depressed over lack of govt support
By Reema Narendran – THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
01st January 2013 11:20 AM
If there was one farmer in the city suburbs who was vociferous against organic farming, it was Bhaskaran of Thennoorkonam near Vizhinjam. He very strongly believed that farming sans pesticides was impossible, organic farming was nonviable and that it meant obvious doom for any farmer who attempted it.
It took hours of discussions by S Usha, executive director of Thanal, and Seena A S, a campaigner at Zero Waste Centre at Kovalam, to convince Bhaskaran to try out organic farming of vegetables for just one season. He did, and found it was not as bad as he thought it would be.
Yes, there were pest attacks without the pesticides. And the attack was more virulent on his farm as all the other neighbouring plots used pesticides. ‘’Since they used chemicals, the pests would all gather up in my field, that had none,’’ recalled Bhaskaran. This obviously meant he had to spend more time in his farm, tending to each and every plant, often handpicking the little bugs and beetles.
His days started earlier. His food timings became erratic. He was at his farm till very late in the evening. ‘’But in the end it made me happy. I felt content that I could give pesticide-free vegetables to my customers. It was a great feeling,’’ said Bhaskaran, who learnt to use oil seed cakes mixed in cow’s urine, ash and cow-dung for manure instead of chemical fertilizers.
This organic farmer grows ‘cheera’, snake gourd, pepper, beans, string beans, cucumber, several tubers like yam and tapioca and a number of banana varieties on the land that he has leased at the rate of Rs 6,000 for 14 cents. Bhaskaran has leased a total of almost one-and-a-half acres and one crop failure would mean absolute disaster.
Agricultural Officer at Vizhinjam Priya P V said that currently there is no funding to support organic farmers. A fact that continuously depresses Bhaskaran. ‘’No one acknowledges the hard work we do, nor does the government support organic farmers in any manner,’’ he said.
The only support that Bhaskaran gets is from the city-based Green organisation Thanal, at whose Organic Bazaar the farmer sells his organic vegetables. ‘’They come with a vehicle, take the vegetables at their cost and pays me a handsome sum as well. I don’t have to pay money to middlemen either. They have been supporting me for almost nine years now,’’ he said.
Problems begin when Bhaskaran’s produce exceeds the needs of the Organic Bazaar. ‘’Then I have to sell it at a much lower rate in the markets, which ends up in a loss. But certain customers at Chalai Market who have tasted my vegetables know they are organic and prefer to buy vegetables from me,’’ said Bhaskaran.
Even while he has found joy in giving chemical-free vegetables to his customers, what pains Bhaskaran is the indifference shown by his villagers. ‘’They know I cultivate organic vegetables here. But none of them are willing to part with an extra Rs 5 or Rs 10 for the safe food I give them. They seem to have a blind eye to all my efforts,’’ he said.
Even if just the Vizhinjam panchayat would decide to buy their vegetables from this organic farmer, it would be a major help to the cause of organic farming and healthy living.