: Of the 11,000 hectares of agricultural land in Puducherry, around 22 hectares of certified organic farms might appear to be small in comparison. However, not only is the area under organic farming slowly growing, it also appears to be finding a new-found enthusiasm in the farmers’ community which has begun to appreciate its advantages over conventional farming.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in association with the Indian Bank Self Employment Training Institute (INDSETI) and NGO Ekoventure have been holding training programmes in organic farming since a few years in Puducherry villages. Since 2014, Ekoventure has helped facilitate organic certification under the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
Among those who have taken to organic farming is V. Subramanian, a staff member of the milk society in Sillukaripalayam village in Mannadipet commune. He had given up farming owing to mounting losses. His interaction with Ekoventure led him to take back his leased land and try organic farming with black gram two years ago. Now, in his two acre field, he grows traditional varieties of paddy like Seeraga Samba and Mappillai Samba, besides also trying out lady’s finger and groundnut. “People were surprised to see me take up farming again. With each harvest, I have improved,” says Mr. Subramanian. He promotes organic farming among others in his village, and his children have also taken to his interest, he says.
Organic and traditional varieties
In the village of Koonichempattu in Puducherry, two groups consisting of 12 farmers are practising organic farming in around three acres. One of the groups is now qualified to get their PGS certification. Traditional paddy varieties like Seeraga Samba, Mappillai Samba, Mysore Mallige and Kitchidi Samba, banana, black gram (Vamban 4 variety), foxtail millet and spinach are being grown here. S. Veerappan, who heads one of the farmer groups says, “We find that organic traditional paddy varieties are less vulnerable to attack by pests. The yield is also higher, bringing down our overall costs.” Under organic farming, one acre yields around 2 tonnes of rice, say the farmers. Thyagarajan, another farmer of the group adds, “For every usage of fertiliser worth Rs.3,300 in conventional farming, only Rs.1,500 is needed now. While one bag of urea is Rs.300, 5 kilograms of biofertiliser asos is only Rs.136.”
Horticulturist Sivalingam from Manalipet experimented with a small patch in his one acre of jasmine. “I am seeing good results. Earlier, I used to spend Rs. 1,500 a month on spraying pesticide, while now I require only Rs.400 for organic pesticide. The flowers weigh more, stay fresher longer and smell more fragrant, says Mr. Sivalingam.
Replacing chemical fertilisers and pesticides are Effective Microorganisms, Cow Pat Pit compost, organic manure Amirtha karaisal, biopesticide Panchagavya, use of oil cake and molasses as fertiliser, and use of pepper and ginger-garlic extract as pesticide. Paddy farmers are also implementing the organic low-water methodology of System of Rice Intensification. In Puducherry, sugarcane, ragi, guava, maize, green gram are also being grown in organic farms. “Our success lies in farmers getting inspired and spreading the word, as well as sustaining the initiative themselves,” says R. Chandirapoorani, facilitator with Ekoventure, adding there has been a growing interest in the last five years.
Ensuring all processes are kept strictly organic is not without its challenges of course, but the farmers seemed determined to carry on. Mr. Subramanian reveals his other reason for working in the field.
“I have diabetes. The farming gives me adequate exercise to keep fit,” he says.