Unless you haven’t had basic environmental education, you’d know that Organic Farming is a farming technique that excludes the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and uses ‘organic’ or natural ones derived from plants and animals.
The Importance of Self Sustenance:
For the past decade, the state of Kerala has been reliant on its neighbor Tamil Nadu for the consistent import of fruit and vegetables, just like it has depended predominantly on Andhra Pradesh for the inflow of rice. But to provide for this high demand, imports from Tamil Nadu have been treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizer. Even the growing cancer rates of Kerala could be related with this increased chemical content.
This is why the growth of organic farming is so important in the state. Apart from providing a stance towards self-sufficiency, it has to tackle the health issue as well. Thus the State of Kerala unveiled a policy in 2010 that set the goal of converting the entire agricultural product to organic within 10 years. Though it was unveiled by an opposition ruling party at the time, the policy is still backed by current State Government.
More farmers are accepting traditional ways of organic fertilizer use and minimized used of synthetic pesticides. Moreover, individual households have begun to grow vegetables in their own backyards and rooftops. The agriculture Minister also stated that Kerala now meets over 70% of its demand for vegetables.
Supporting the movement
There are multiple organizations backing up this need for sustainable farming and organic Kerala, and various celebrities such as poet Sugathakumari and various actors & directors.
In fact, the comeback film of popular actress Manju Warrier titled ‘How Old Are You’ brought to light the significance of organic practices and the growing of fruits and vegetables in individual households.
Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK)
FTAK is a collective of around 5000 farmers of hill districts practicing organic farming. Cash crops like spices and nuts are largely exported, and provide vegetable and food crops to the local markets. It was formed in 2005 by Kerala’s oldest organic store- Elements in Kozhikode.
Kudumbashree is an organization which works for the empowerment of women launched in 1998. It ensures that the women should no longer remain as passive recipients of public assistance, but active leaders in women-involved development initiatives. Kudumbashree is also a torchbearer when it comes to carrying forth the message of sustainable farming practices. The organization has put 3 lakh women into farming and devoted nearly 9000 hectares of farming land it has undertaken for the growth of organic vegetables.
So then, are there any challenges?
Yields are found to be lower in traditional organic cultivation as compared to its counterpart. Evasion from the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides limit leave the crops more susceptible to pest attack and may lead to probable wilting of crops.
Feeding the people, when taken into account as the major priority, it is apparent that organic farming practices may not be able to meet the demand for the particular food crop.
Also, India has a very small percentage of arable land (less than 3%), and thus crops fail to thrive in less fertile soil, which could be made have a better yield had synthetic fertilizer been used.