T.T. Thomas, the creator of 'Pepper Thekken' wants the variety to benefit other farmers
In March 2013, T.T. Thomas received the President's award for the best innovative farmer at a ceremony in New Delhi. However, in this little-known village, he is just an ordinary farmer.
Mr. Thomas developed ‘Pepper Thekken’, a high yielding variety — the result of nearly 25 years of work after discovering a forest variety of pepper from the Anjuruly area. ‘Pepper Thekken’, unlike the ordinary one, gives a yield of more than a 1000 pepper balls in a single bunch. The specialty of this variety is that there are a number of branches in a single spike where as the other varieties are spiked without branches.
In a single spike there is usually only 60 to 80 pepper in the ordinary pepper and this innovative farmer developed the new variety after grafting the forest pepper wine with piper colibrium, a marshy weed plant. The Indian Institute of Spice Research, Kozhikode, had recognised this variety as a unique high yielding one with branches in the spike, a rare feature in black pepper.
The innovation of this Standard VIII dropout was acknowledged in the research circle as highly productive, resistant to disease and a natural variety.
Mr. Thomas claims that 90 per cent of the pepper in the area is affected with quick-wilt disease where as this variety is not affected as it is grafted in piper colubrinum.
He said that though he was recognised for this finding by the Union Government, he has not been given support for developing the disease resistant variety in a large scale to benefit pepper farmers. He said that there is official apathy and the move to import foreign varieties of wines to improve pepper production will have only negative impact.
According to him, there should be a change in the mindset for recognising farmers, a reason many leave the sector. “We recognise a farmer as the best one when he produces a large shaped yam or tapioca. It is possible if it is applied with high fertilisers”, he said. However, a farmer who develops an indigenous variety highly endemic to the climatic or topographical condition is not recognised. It is not the mere shape and quantity of the produce that a farmer should be recognised for, he said. Though many keen farmers from outside the state and abroad enquire about ‘Pepper Thekkan’, even an agriculture officer from the official side from his village had never visited his sample farm, he said.
If the government supports him, he is ready to develop the large quantity of pepper plant for rejuvenating pepper cultivation in the district, he said.
It was after four years of research by agriculture scientists on the pepper variety that he was selected as the best innovative farmer, the award given by the National Innovation Foundation - India, under the Department of Science and Technology. However, for him it took many years and experiments to develop the new variety, that benefit has not yet reached the ordinary pepper farmers.
“Yesterday, an officer from the agriculture department rang me up to participate in the three-day state farm exhibition at Kottayam on farmer's day. When asked for the simple accommodation and expenses to travel, he said they do not have the funds”, he said.