Thirty women from Keelamathu have undergone training in vermicomposting and bio-fertiliser production, and are hoping to wean their village away from chemical fertilizers.

A small group of rural women has set out to become agents of change, hoping to wean their village away from chemical fertilizers and back to nature.

With this aim in mind, around 30 women from Keelamathur, a typical rustic setting nestled among paddy fields and banana groves, have undergone training in vermicomposting and bio-fertiliser production.

“The vegetables grown here smelled of pesticide and tasted different,” said Thahira Bhanu P, a member of the women’s self-help group (SHG) from the village.

“We wanted to do something to reintroduce natural fertilizers here and wondered why we should stay at home just because we didn’t have our own fields.”

The Sarojini Naidu Rural Welfare and Educational Trust, Madurai, propagated the idea of a training programme aided by National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD). “Our primary aim is to equip these SHGs with entrepreneurial skills and make them job givers,” said Shankar Narayan, Assistant General Manager, NABARD.

The women underwent a 10-day training programme conducted by K Sivasamy, who has been using and promoting natural fertilizers for the past 15 years, using a low-cost method. “A portion of the field can be set aside and the compost unit can be set up on the ground, thus avoiding concrete pits. This will also improve the quality of the soil,” he points out.

Keelamathur has experienced water scarcity in recent months.

The women are acutely aware of the ill-effects of toxic fertilizers and pesticides. “The more the chemicals in the food we eat, the shorter our life span. But an earthworm can do wonders for the land,” notes Thangapandiammal A, a group member, who is pursuing Zoology at university. The group plans to establish its own vermicomposting unit within a month. “For marketing our product, we propose to start by supplying it to our village, and we hope the message will reach neighbouring villages by word of mouth,” Thahira Bhanu says.

Ajmeer A, a farmer from the village, has offered a portion of his land to the group to set up the compost unit. “The men in the village support the women coming together and working for the benefit of our land,” he points out.