Students of Arul Anandar College in Karumathur have a chance to harvest agri ideas

The farmers of Chellampatti panchayat union are a well-informed lot, who constantly update themselves on modern farming techniques.

Around 500 farmers of Vaigai Farmers Association (VFA) work in collaboration with Rural Development Science (RDS) Department of Arul Anandar College in Karumathur to learn modern techniques from the college and to teach traditional farming techniques to the students.

The RDS Department of the college, functioning since 1973, has been actively involved in establishing a link between the students and the villagers. The department was upgraded as a research centre in 2001.

“As part of their curriculum, we have students coming and staying in our houses for three to four days and sharing our work in agricultural fields. The students consistently involve themselves in activities such as conducting tuitions for our children, organising awareness camps and technical sessions,” says T.P. Kaniraja, a farmer in Kannanur.

According to M. John Joseph, head of the RDS Department, the students are being taught to sustain the rural knowledge, but at the same time lend a helping hand to farmers in using innovative, profit-yielding technologies.

“We have a centre for policy research, wherein we have documented all records pertaining to Chellampatti panchayat union. We have adopted 16 villages from the panchayat union and are providing periodic training to farmers in animal husbandry, seed production and vocational training for women,” Mr.Joseph explains.

This centre has a kiosk on various crops, government schemes, crop diseases and their management. In a bid to sustain rural knowledge, the students and faculty of the RDS Department have documented hundreds of Tamil proverbs that are in use among the villagers.

M.P. Vellai Mayathevar, an 86-year-old farmer from Kinnimangalam, has contributed mainly to the research. The college has released a 60-page book containing the proverbs documented with explanations.

Knowledge sharing is mutual and the college has learnt farming techniques from farmers as well. The students learnt about plastic mulch farming from agriculturalists in Kannanur and have practised the technique in rose cultivation.

Xavier Vedam, Principal of the college, says social education has been integrated into all subjects. “Irrespective of the course, all second year students have to undergo 90 hours of field work at the villages. They also indulge in activities creating awareness of women and youth empowerment, health and sanitation among the villagers,” he says.

In the past seven years, more than 600 women from the 16 villages surrounding the college have undergone training in farming, tailoring and several vocational courses, he adds.

“Women from various villages in Chellampatti panchayat union benefitted from the masal training course organised by the college. The college has a veterinary clinic with two veterinarians, whom the villages approach anytime. The veterinary camps conducted by the college in the villages are very useful,” says V. R Muthupeyandi, a farmer from Pullaneri village.

The college’s involvement and assistance of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) have been beneficial to the farmers in securing bank loans, says Mr.Kaniraja. The college establishes linkage between farmers and banks and in the past two years around 15 farmers have obtained loans for backyard poultry.

Twenty five farmers have started seed manufacturing ventures after undergoing training at the college.

More In: Madurai