organic farming in Kerala, India

Organic Farming in Kerala

Introduction

Organic farming is something that we have all heard of thousands of times. But what really is it? Does it help the environment? Is it efficient? Can it bring us more yield; if more research were to be done on it. I chose organic farming as a topic for my collaboration because it was something that I am genuinely interested and curious about.

Through this collaboration, I conducted two interviews:
One with the head at agricultural college which gave me a more technical view about farming in general
and the other with a housewife in my locality who grows some crops in her home for their daily use; She gave me a peek into what the community thinks about organic farming and whether their views are positive or negative.

I also conducted an online-survey with participants from India and Switzerland: The survey helped me get a broader view on organic farming, what people around the world think about it and if they support it and their reasons behind them.

Furthermore I visited a cow farm near my house where they use the cow dung to create organic manures which they sell to either farmers or local people who practice in-home farming. This helped me get an idea as to how organic manures are made and how helpful they could be if more research and development were to be done on those.

Organic farming techniques

Organic farming is a topic which we are all familiar of. Before chemical fertilizers were even a thing our ancestors thrived and farmed just like now. And thus following the steps of our ancestors let us also cultivate.

Jawamritha
This is an ancient Indian technique of cultivation, where they mix jaggery, cow dung, cow urine, pulses, flour and some soil. This is not only a organic alternative but also a cheap one as the ingredients are very easy to find.

Bijamritha
When you apply chemicals to the seed all the useful and effective microorganisms are destroyed. Thus treating the seed with organic medicines are much safer. This is created with cow dung ,  cow urine, gram lime and a handful of soil.

Waaphasa
It means the mixture of 50% air & 50% water vapor in the cavities between soil particles. Waaphasa refers to the micro climate in the soil, by which the soil organisms and roots can live freely with the availability of sufficient air and essential moisture in the soil.

These are just a few of the organic farming techniques that were once used in India.

The use of farming techniques such as Agniastra, ‘Brahmastra’ and Neemastra are similar to ‘Jiwamrita’ and ‘Bijamrita’ and based mainly on urine and dung of Indian cow breeds.

Interview with locals of my village

What do local people think about organic farming?

Rough translation of the interview:

1) Through this interview we are trying to find your thoughts on organic farming. What are your first thoughts when you hear the word organic?

Hi, I am a housewife, all of us in my family would like organic products than any other. The word in itself for me would mean without any chemicals. Without any fear we can provide these products to my kids, so that they can be healthy. If we are finding such an organic product then we can not be more happy.

2) Your thoughts on organic fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers – since this is village area, organic fertilizers are available in our area, but in the cities it may be harder to find. We use the waste produced in our house as organic fertilizers and we use it for the little vegetable crops that we grow in out house

3) Considering India, our ancestors were practicing organic farming before the introduction of chemical ones. But since then our farmers started using chemical ones. If we were to research more into organic farming then can we uphold organic farming?

The secret behind the health of our ancestors in itself is them practicing organic farming, and food products that are made without chemicals. The bad health that we are facing today ( eg- obesity maybe ) were not there in the olden times. If our future generation can research more into this and follow these methods then it will lead to great victory for India.

4) You find products in the market that are labelled organic but they still contain some amount of organic fertilizers or insecticides in them. Your thoughts?

We try to minimize the things that we buy from market, if we have to buy then we check its contents. We clean thoroughly the products that we buy in their own way. For example if it is a vegetable then we dip it in soap solution for 10 minutes we clean it and then we wash it again 2 or 3 times in running water.

5) Your thoughts on in home farming?

We practice that in my house, we use the food and other waste that we produce and use it as fertilizer.

Visit at a nearby Cow Farm

Interview with the head of the agricultural college

Interview with Dr Anil Kumar A, head at the agricultural college in Trivandrum, Kerala, India

We conducted an interview with the head at the agricultural college near to us (Trivandrum, Kerala) [date? photo?] and these are his thoughts on organic farming, chemical fertilizers and farming practices.

1) Is there any quantitative checking done by the government on the fertilizers given to the farmer?

2) Will it be beneficial if we were to check the levels of fertilizers used by the farmer?

3) There are products in the market place that are termed ‘organic’ but still contain some amount of fertilizers in them. What are your thoughts regarding that?

4) Do farmers promote organic farming?

5) What is your opinion on organic farming?

6) Is organic farming adopted in Kerala?

7) Organic and synthetic fertilizers, does it affect the duration of harvesting?

Survey across cultures

We also conducted a survey regarding organic farming (kobotoolbox.org). The main goal of the survey was to find out people’s opinion on organic farming, synthetic fertilizers, their effects on the environment and about the farming methods practiced in there country.

Click the link below if you are interested in finding out more about their individual answers relating to organic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, farming methods used in their respective countries etc.

Organic-farming-Survey-Jan-Feb20_KoboToolbox (PDF)

My Experience

When Mary Teacher had first informed us about this collaboration project, I had been extremely excited because I have always been curious about the cultures and experiences of people from other countries. I had immediately given my name to participate. After that we met up with Elaine Ma’am through Skype and she had been the one to motivate us further and help us, especially me through the project. This collaborative project has really opened my eyes and has broadened my perspective on farming and fertilizers. I chose organic farming because it was something that I am curious about and I wanted to improve my knowledge on it. And this project has really helped me with it, especially the interviews. Both the interviews have really given me an in-person view on organic farming and what the professor as well as the local people think about organic farming. The main thing I learned through this was that both of them had a very positive reaction towards agriculture, especially to the idea of doing more research on organic farming.

Sivani L R

General knowledge about Agriculture

Definition: the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

Agriculture is the backbone of our society without it we would have probably still be in the dark ages. Look around you, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, books , pencils , medication , soap , shoes and many more. If this doesn’t prove to you the vitality of agriculture then I don’t know what will. Thus, the development of our society is done hand-to-hand with development in the agricultural field.

The History of Agriculture

Agriculture has always been a turning point in our life. Historic records tell us that agriculture could have been started around 20,000 BC. It was hypothesized that before agriculture that humans were hunter-gatherers.  The history of agriculture records farming of both plants and animals (dairy farming, sheep farming, poultry farming, etc).

For the modern world a major change in agriculture came with the industrial revolution during which the production of various agricultural produce went up drastically. Machines and other provisions were introduced to improve the efficiency of various agricultural operations.

John Bennet Lawes began the scientific investigation of fertilization. He studied the impact of organic and inorganic fertilizers on crop yield and found one of the first artificial fertilizer manufacturing factory in 1842.

Then the green revolution in the late 1970s came which further accelerated research, development and technological transfer initiatives. While agriculture yield increased at first it then leveled off.

NEGATIVES

Thus, we see that with the development of the human race agriculture has developed with us. But our current agricultural trends are not only affecting the human health but also the health of our planet- mother Earth. These include:

  • Degradation of land- Deficiency of soil nutrients due to intensive cultivation, decline in the organic matter in the soil, soil erosion due to excessive irrigation etc.
  • Deforestation- Acres of land is cleared very as a substitute for agricultural land.
  • Pest Problem- With the shift in crop pattern, increase in area under irrigation and higher cropping intensity, the pest problem has become very severe. The seriousness of pests has further increased by way of indiscriminate and increased use of pesticides. The direct effect of high use of dangerous pesticides is on human and animal health. A large variety of cases of residual effect of pesticides and intake by human and animals have created health hazards.
  • Disposal of agricultural waste- The by-products of agriculture for which no use have been found are usually burned and this creates increase in carbon dioxide and carbon-monoxide in the atmosphere resulting in respiratory problems for animals and human beings.

Fertilizers

A fertilizer is any material of natural or synthetic origin that is used to supply plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants.

The basic idea of a fertilizer is to increase yield. While it has a large number of positives its negatives can’t be ignored.

  • The large growing consumption of fertilizers can affect soil, surface water, and groundwater due to the dispersion of mineral use.
  • When these fertilizers are commonly used it reduces the natural fertility of our soil and these may also get washed away and pollute our waterways, which is major contributor to eutrophication of fresh water bodies. It also gravely affects the ocean fauna.
  • Nitrate pollution causes increased surface run-off and groundwater pollution and soil acidification.
  • The greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are produced during the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Chemical Burn, over-application of chemical fertilizer to plants may cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown, damaging the plant and reducing crop yield. This condition is known as chemical leaf scorch. Leaf scorch can cause the leaves of the plant to wither and may cause the plant to die.
  • Mineral Depletion, there are also concerns that increasing use of fertilizers depletes the soil of essential nutrients. Thus, the food produced in these soil have less vitamin and mineral content.

Sources
Explained: The idea of zero-budget farming and why scientists are sceptical (agropages.com)
History of agriculture (wikipedia.org)

Sivani L R

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2 thoughts on “Organic Farming in Kerala

  1. You have done a wonderful job on “organic farming”, Sivani. You have done an extensive research on the topic, gathering information and knowledge from the research head of the Agricultural College, Mr Anil Kumar as well as few people from your neighborhood.

    It’s gratifying to know that this experience has been an enriching one for you. Carry on the good work.

  2. Organic Farming – an apt topic when one thinks about food and climate. The project looked into the historical, cultural and regional aspect of cultivation methods used. The interview with the technical person from the Agricultural University and the common house wife gave a cross sectional idea about the technology and layman’s point of view. It also shows how knowledgeable and the scientific temper of the house wives in India.
    I have seen questions given for the Organic farming – Survey helped by the KoBoToolbox and the graph created from it. It was well made and it brought out a comparative knowledge on organic farming around the world. ‘My experience’ by Sivani shows it was a true learning experience

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