Panchagavya, an organic manure, helps to achieve good yield

Farmers of Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district have turned away from using chemical fertilizers to get good yield despite acute water shortage, monsoon failure and power cuts prevailing in the State.

Though Tirunelveli is known for its temples and halwa, about 45 km south of this bustling town is a clutch of villages, predominantly agriculture-based depending on monsoon, quietly carrying on farming activities, growing chillies, paddy, small onions and vegetables.

There are no government bus services, schools or health centres in many of these villages. For any medical emergency the villagers need to travel nearly 20 km to the neighbouring Thisayanvilai town.

Until a few years ago, many farmers in this drought-prone region sold off their lands or left them barren. Today, however, many villages here are successfully using their own inputs — Panchagavya, an organic manure — and reaping good yield.

“This year many areas in the State dependant on reservoirs for irrigation could not grow crops due to acute water shortage. Areas irrigated by wells face two problems. Many of these wells depend on rain for re-charging and several of them have dried up due to poor rainfall. Adding to this woe is the power cut. Due to power shortage even if there is water in the wells farmers cannot pump the water out. Despite these problems, our farmers have been able to raise good crops of groundnut, vegetables and paddy,” says J.H.S. Ponnaya, the 80-year-old head of the NGO Sands (Suviseshapuram and Neighbouring Development Organisation) at Suvaseshapuram in Tirunelveli.

“The reason is that all of them are consistently using Panchagavya for their crops. Panchagavya can be easily prepared by the farmer. Cow dung and urine are the main inputs required for this. We have trained hundreds of farmers in this area over the last several years in making it for their own use,” he said.

Mariapitchai, a small farmer in Vijayaachambadu village, says that he has been able to harvest his paddy crop 10-15 days ahead of the usual time of 5 months. The paddy is healthy and there are no symptoms of drying or scotched appearance due to high heat. He harvested nearly 3,000 kg from his 2.5 acres.

Those growing groundnut and vegetables in Kazhuvoor, Eranthai, Vijayanarayanam, Nanguneri, Perunkannankulam and Vadivammanpatti villages also profess their faith in Panchagavya.

They spray Panchagavya once in 15-22 days and also on empty fields to prevent it from cracking or becoming hard.

“Our country’s agriculture is going through a critical phase today owing to monsoon failure in different parts. The government should realise the efficiency of Panchagavya and start encouraging farmers in the State to use it and reap the benefit,” he says.