Jayappa and Shardamma, a husband-wife farmer duo from a non-descript village in Tamil Nadu, have earned a name for themselves in the field of organic farming.
Today, they have a lush green farm with 150 mango, 5 tamarind, 60 jackfruit, 15 amla and 5 lemon trees besides several other crops, all cultivated through organic farming techniques. Believing in organic farming, they haven’t only increased the productivity of their farm but are helping their peers with the art.
Jayappa and Shardamma, like most of the farmers, were practicing chemical farming in Thally village in Krishnagiri district for last several decades until one day when Krishna Prasad, an organic farming practitioner and director, and Sahaja Samruddha, an organic farmers’ collective visited their farm. “He saw a pumpkin in my house locally known as Mantu Kaddu. His experienced eyes identified that it was different from the usual breed,” informed Jayappa who told Prasad that he had grown it with organic manure. After returning to Bengaluru, Prasad wrote an article on the pumpkin and provided contact details of Jayappa.
A few days later, Jayappa started receiving letters requesting him to send seeds of the pumpkin against the extra postage stamps that were attached with the mail. Jayappa who extracted 780 seeds from just one pumpkin, sent two-three seeds to each person and returned postage stamps to Prasad who utilized them for official work.
“Krishna Prasad helped us realize the benefits of organic farming. It not only requires lesser investment than chemical farming but is sold at higher prices in market, is good for human health and environment,” said Jayappa. With a firm belief in organic farming and Prasad’s work, Jayappa along with Shardamma, joined in Prasad’s mission of making farmers aware of benefits of organic farming.
They started visiting farmers in different villages and discussed with them the benefits of organic farming. Today, farmers from far-flung villages visit the couple to learn the techniques and procedure of organic farming.
By practicing organic farming in their three acre land, they have successfully nurtured mango, tamarind, jackfruit, amla, berries, sapota, guava and lemon trees along with few varieties of cereals and pulses. Backyard of their house is blessed with banana, ramphal, coconut, peppermint, strawberry, sweet neem, chilli, papaya, cardamom, pepper, green vegetables like spinach, red lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, beans and pumpkin. The fruits and vegetables are sold to Sahaja Organics, a Bengaluru-based company at prices higher than normal market rates.
Over the years, Jayappa has studied trees religiously. From qualities to the taste of its fruit and the recipes of using it, Jayappa knows everything about his trees. While pointing towards a tree, he explains how the birds that take shelter on it are helpful in protecting the crops from insects.
The couple believes that the crisis that has spread in the agriculture sector has pushed the use of organic farming in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Like them, many farmers have switched to organic farming in recent years.
The fertility of soil lost due to excessive use of chemicals can be restored only by applying organic methods like rotational farming, use of green and organic manure. For the soil to be fertile, it is important to ensure balance of all the nutrients in it. The active presence of earthworms, friendly insects and bacteria in soil increases its water holding capacity. Compost and natural manure produced from cow-dung and rotten leaves is also quite useful.
To protect crops from harmful insects, instead of pesticides, organic farming promotes use of natural blends of neem, cow-urine and ash. It is important to make organic farming a low cost affair so that the high investments in farming that has become a reason for increase in farmer suicides can be tackled.
Water conservation also plays an important role in making organic farming sustainable as only this will make rearing of livestock possible which in turn will produce organic manure.
Jayappa’s life has changed now. He has a pukka house and earns enough for a modest life. His two sons working in Bengaluru are now thinking of joining their parents in the effort. “They are not happy staying away from us,” says Jayappa with glitter in his eyes.
Contrary to the trend where farmers are giving up their traditional profession and are opting for new sources of livelihood, organicefforts are helping farmers like Jayappa and Shardamma to continue with their faith in soil. The Charkha Development Communication Network compliments them for having become self-dependent while taking care of their environment. That’s the magic of organic!
The views expressed in the article are those of the author, Baba Mayaram.