Over the years farmers in the Western Ghat region of Idukki are mainly growing cash crops like pepper, cardamom, coffee, tea etc. So, the people are depending upon the neighbouring state (Tamilnadu) for cereals, pulses and vegetables which are costly and grown by using chemical pesticides and manures. Since last three years VOSARD has been making an attempt to motivate the farmers to produce their traditional food crops consisting of vegetables, tapioca, yam, papaya, banana etc along with the main cash crops. This way the farmers can produce food materials in addition to cash crops. We hope to achieve food security and nutritional security of the people by directing more and more farmers into mixed farming. Mixed farming method will be a solution for the small farmers to overcome low productivity and low agriculture income.
Since 2010 onwards VOSARD has taken special initiatives to promote food security among rural population by directing the farmers to cultivate vegetables, cereals, tubers, fruit bearing trees, etc along with cash crops. VOSARD ensures that the natural resource conservation technologies like watershed management, soil conservation, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, etc., are well within the cognitive and physical reach of the small farmers and rural households. To make the initiative effective and sustainable; the farmers were organized in to SHGs, Clusters and federations. In the beginning 825 small and marginal farmers from Vandanmedu Panchayat were organized into 50 farmers groups. Then the groups have been federated into four cluster level associations and a federation. The farmers’ federation – ‘V-Farm’ – is a registered body to supervise and monitor the functions of farmer’s SHGs and Clusters functioning in Vandanmedu Panchayat. Though the project was successfully completed by the end of 2013; the project activities viz. dairy farming, goat rearing, organic farming, cultivation of vegetables & other food crops, construction of rainwater harvesting units, biogas plants, etc are still continuing by utilizing the community revolving fund created from the project. The major achievement of the programme is that now the farmers are cultivating food crops viz. vegetables, tubers, paddy, plantain, etc along with the main crops – cardamom, pepper and coffee. Earlier they used to buy vegetables from the market that were produced by applying dangerous chemical pesticides and manures.
Soil and Water Conservation Measures
Another aim of VOSARD is to improve the rural people’s quality of life through sustainable management of the natural resources and addressing the negative effects of environmental degradation. A major component is enabling them to conserve soil & water and facilitating them to mobilize local resources. Measures to protect agricultural soil from erosion increase its productivity so that farmland is not lost anymore and the farmers can supply their families. This is necessary due to the steep hills of the Idukki District.
Success Story:Organic Methods for More Profit
“I am Biju, a small farmer residing in the Vandanmedu Panchayat. I used to culticate vegetables, tubers, banana and so on in leased land. Since the beginning I used to apply a lot of chemical manures and pesticides in the farm for pest control and increasing production. Three years back, the project staff of VOSARD directed me to attend awareness programs and trainings in organic farming. During the exposure visits to model farms I could learn innovative biological methods for pest control and methods in organic farming. VOSARD also supported me for a dairy unit and the construction of a biogas plant. Now I cultivate vegetables and other food crops organically. After adopting new methods, the production increased and I could also reduce my expences. Being produced organically, the product has good demand in the local market. I have learned and experienced the preparation and application of bio-manures and pesticides and motivate others to do so as well.”