Backyard vegetables for Onam feast

By TheHindu on 30 May 2017 | read

The Onam feast in homes in Pathanamthitta district will be tastier this time. The vegetables for the dishes have been grown locally expressly for the festival.

The sweat and toil of 5,594 women farmers has helped produce this abundance for the harvest festival. They belong to the Kudumbasree Mission, which, along with the district panchayat and the Agriculture Department, is rekindling a farm culture in Pathanamthitta through this vibrant vegetable revolution. The women farmers have been deployed through 969 joint liability groups in the limits of 54 grama panchayats.

“Our mission is to ensure safe and healthy food for all and self-reliance in vegetable production and to make people aware of the need to bring an end to overdependence on the neighbouring States for vegetables and foodgrains,” Saji Chacko, district panchayat president, says.

S. Sabir Hussein, district coordinator of the Kudumbasree Mission, is confident of achieving the goal in a time-bound manner.

The heavy monsoon delayed the project in certain places such as Upper Kuttanad because of waterlogging, Mr. Hussein says.

Prof. Chacko says the project, “Onathinu Swanthom Pachakkari Padhathi” (Own vegetables for Onam), was launched on May 30. The project was to start cultivation on 811 acres of land (one acre each in all the 811 panchayat wards in the district). The project coordinators have identified more than 1,000 acres in 54 panchayats in the district for vegetable cultivation, he says.

Mr. Hussein says cultivation was launched on 386 acres three months ago, braving adverse weather. The district panchayat supplied seeds and fertilizers to the Kudumbasree farming groups to set vegetable gardens in their panchayat wards. Cultivation of bitter gourd, snake gourd, green chilli, red amaranthus and long beans has been taken up as part of the project. At present, the area of cultivation has been extended to 600 acres.

Chenneerkara, Pandalam-Thekkekkara, Ranni, Puramattom, Naranganam, Omalloor, Perinad, Seethathode, Vechoochira, Kallooppara, Pramadom, Malayalappuzha, Kaviyur, Kalanjoor, Kadambanad, Pallickal and Thumpamon panchayats have launched the project in a major way.

Ambily, Mariyamma Thomas, Mini Benny, Lucy, and Bindu Saji, members of a Kudumbasree farming group in Pandalam-Thekkekkara panchayat, says they received good support from the panchayat authorities, the Kudumbasree Mission and the Agriculture Department. They have launched cultivation of snake gourd, bitter gourd and long beans on sprawling farmlands taken on a yearly lease at Rs. 3,000 an acre in the Pongalady ward of the panchayat. Harvesting of snake gourd farm and beans will begin this week, they say.

Handsome incentives

Mr. Hussein says the Kudumbasree Mission will provide a land area incentive of Rs. 3,200 an acre and a production incentive of Rs. 2,300 an acre to the joint liability groups. A mechanism has been set up to monitor the project. The district panchayat president is the chairman of the district-level monitoring committee.

Prof. Chacko says a block-level coordinator, with an honorarium of Rs. 7,500 a month, has been appointed in all the eight blocks in the district to ensure the smooth and foolproof implementation of the project. As many as 465 master farmers were selected and given special training by the Kudumbasree Mission as part of the grassroots-level monitoring system. The master farmers will be given an honorarium of Rs. 2,500 a farming season.

He says the block-level coordinators will give technical support to the farmers with the help of agriculture officers and master farmers in the field. The farmer facilitation centres in the 25 panchayats also help the farmers in the field.

However, there were certain allegations of corruption over the purchase of seeds as well as the quality of organic fertilizers supplied.

Prof. Chacko says the panchayat is firm in its stand against corruption, and supply of quality seeds and fertilizers to the farmers would be given top priority. The vegetable revolution will be a continuing process and appropriate efforts will be made to improve its execution mechanism in the successive years. “The project is also aimed at promoting organic farming, women empowerment, replenishment of groundwater and revival of an agrarian culture,” Prof. Chacko says.

The project is also aimed at promoting organic farming, women's empowerment, replenishment of groundwater and revival of an agrarian culture.