Covid-19: Homestead farmers in Kerala are looking at self-sufficiency post-pandemic

For the final 5 years 65-year-old Shanthakumari KC, a retired well being inspector from Cherai, and her 5 neighbours have been rising cheera (amaranth) on 30 cents of unused land in their neighbourhood. The harvest was adequate not just for their properties, but in addition offered sufficient surplus to promote to their neighbours. The lockdown to deal with COVID19 modified all that.

In the primary few weeks of India’s lockdown, which started on March 24, a wave of panic shopping for and collapse of logistics resulted in empty grocery store cabinets for a few days. As a consequence, kitchen gardens and concrete farmers started to achieve prominence as individuals started to consider meals safety. Following the lockdown the cheera farmers diversified, including chilli, okra, brinjal, bottle gourd, string beans, plantains and even, corn to the listing.

While amaranth might be harvested in two weeks, the opposite vegetation take greater than a month, “We wanted to be prepared in case there was a shortage of food. It worked out well, the lockdown is more or less lifted, today not only do we have enough produce for our consumption we can sell surplus too. The vegetables are safe, pesticide free: an added advantage. It doesn’t cost a lot and the return on investment beats everything else,” Shanthakumari says. The surplus advantages neighbours as nicely.

Food self sufficiency

In order to be ready in the face of uncertainties such because the lockdown, Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, made a name for ‘food self sufficiency’ through agriculture. Director of Agriculture (Kerala State) Ok. Vasuki additionally pushed for a motion the place meals is grown at dwelling, encouraging native farms and younger farmers. Homestead farming has been inspired over the previous three months, with fallow land being introduced underneath cultivation. Homestead farming primarily means farming/rising greens or livestock for particular person consumption/use.

Snake gourd and bitter gourd cultivated by Jose Jacob  
| Photo Credit:
Special Arragement

While first-timers took to kitchen gardening with gusto through the lockdown, previous timers added selection to their gardens together with extra greens superb for Kerala’s local weather and evolving into homestead farmers. Not a lot pure farming, these vegetation are tended to with a lot care – the fertilisers (dried dung manure) and pesticides (a concoction of tobacco leaves and cleaning soap) are largely. The produce was shared with neighbours through the lockdown, and continues to be in style at the same time as lockdown eases.

Jeeji Lalan, from North Paravur, planted additional – Chinese potato (koorka), yam and its different species lesser yam, and colocasia – in order that she might share it to those that won’t have entry to greens. Her homestead farm on six cents of land now boasts produce corresponding to bitter and snake gourds, okra, chilli and ash gourd. “During the lockdown I just felt I had to cultivate these tubers also – in case hard times followed,” Jeeji says.

Government help

Government organisations corresponding to Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) and HortiCrop had been at the forefront of selling city and homestead farming, even earlier than the lockdown. It was a time to push forward feels Dr. AK Sherif, VFPCK CEO; he refers to it as a ‘psychological approach’. Producing one’s personal meals has its benefits, he says, “There is self sufficiency, and the more important, nutritional aspect. Each person should consume around 280-300 gm of greens daily, when these are grown at home access is not a problem. Additionally the use of bio-manure and bio-pesticides make food safer, since no chemicals are used. People were home-bound and it was a good time to get people into farming. This way the next generation is also conditioned when they see food being grown. I am hopeful that people will continue to do so even after things return to normal.”

The okra in Jose Jacob’s garden

Advertising and public relations skilled Jose Jacob of Thevara used the time so as to add extra greens to his kitchen backyard on the 17 cents of land round his home. The gardening, farming and pisciculture fanatic, purchased develop baggage from Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) in Kakkanad and planted okra, ivy gourd (kovakka), and snake gourd, in addition to the chilli, amaranth and string beans he already had.

He has fruit bushes corresponding to rambutan, mulberry and guava in his compound; final 12 months he harvested near 40 kilos of rambutan. “I had time on my hands and it was a great experience spending time in the garden,” he says, “Neither was I expecting a shortage, nor did I expect the lockdown to extend for as long as it did.” Jose intends to proceed, albeit on a smaller scale – the monsoon being an element and paucity of time as soon as issues return to regular.

Veggies for Onam

  • In late April, Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) launched the ‘vegetable challenge’ to encourage rising greens at dwelling. As a part of it VFPCK has launched the sale of ‘vegetable challenge kits’ comprising bio-manure, natural pesticides, grow-bags and seeds. The seeds and saplings are not priced very excessive – for instance 10gm okra and brinjal seeds price Rs. 15, bitter gourd Rs. 25, cowpea Rs. 10 whereas saplings prices Rs. 2.50 apiece. On alongside is the sale of ‘Onam kits’, so that individuals can harvest greens by late August for Onam. VFPCK even has WhatsApp teams that preserve in contact with these rising greens.

“I am glad I started doing this, there is the satisfaction of cultivating your own produce and the bonus of being able to eat tasty vegetables. Now that I have started I will not stop,” says Jose. He additionally shares the produce with neighbours, “in exchange for some mangoes and jackfruit,” he jokes.

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