Farmers taking to vegetable farming in idle lands of Munnar plantation
The idle land in the tea plantation areas of Munnar is increasingly being used for a productive purpose — a positive change towards achieving self-sufficiency in quality vegetable production.
It not only provides additional income to the plantation workers living in the estate lanes, but also gives safe vegetables to consumers. With permission from the estate management, the workers at Ellapetty, Gundumala and Thenmala started vegetable cultivation in the idle land close to their living quarters.
Mostly they grow cool season vegetables, including carrot, beans, cabbage, potato, and garlic. The climate and soil conditions are congenial for vegetable cultivation and they adopt the vegetables mostly grown at Vattavada, providing them a success in farming.
Lakshmi, a tea plucker at Ellapetty, said she spend the time for farming prior to going to work and after reaching from work place. Sometimes they fetched good price when tourists visiting Mattupetty and Eco Point came to their vegetable farms. They strictly follow organic cultivation methods and the visitors also purchase vegetables from them.
‘‘This is an additional income,’’ she said adding that she could manage to use the money for the education of their two children studying in Tamil Nadu. The estate management allowed the workers to generate additional income through farming.
The view of green vegetable fields spreading in the tea plantation area is also an attraction and tourists turn up to the farm land.
Murugan of Ellapetty said that in almost all estate divisions there were vegetable cultivation. It was started mainly for their own use. But when large areas were brought under vegetable cultivation, it gave them additional income. He said that tourists from Tamil Nadu purchase vegetables, especially carrot from them.
However, marketing is a problem at times as they have to compete with the produce arriving from other areas. If sold in the general market, prices are less and if there was a separate market for their quality produce, they would get a better price, he said.
‘‘We grow vegetables without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides and it is safer than those vegetables available in the market,’’ he said.
For the estate managements that face crisis from reprisals in the international market, diversification of the idle land has helped to support the permanent labour force.