TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND Chinnamanali ryots take up integrated farming to enhance livelihood

“I was frustrated with the poor returns agriculture fetched me over the last 40 years…in fact a question mark loomed over my future as a farmer,” recalled S. Lakshmanan, a sexagenarian farmer in Chinnamanali near Elachipalayam.

It was at this low point that he decided to give integrated farming a try and joined the ‘Chinnamanali Integrated Farmers Club’ (CIFC) a few months ago. And, as it turned out, it was well worth the try as he has been able to turn around agricultural fortunes with the support of fellow members.

In Namakkal, one of the driest districts in Tamil Nadu where ryots are downbeat over the poor yield in their fields due to poor rainfall and other farm related issues, the CIFC formed by a group of 17 farmers, including six women, is making a difference to the lives of despairing farmers.

Farmer-members of this club —the first of its kind in the State to be established with the support of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) —have demonstrated the benefits of working shoulder-to-shoulder and of adopting an integrated approach to agriculture.

“Labour shortage and poor prices for the produce are the other main areas of concern for farmers like me who know no other means of livelihood. I have joined this club as a small integrated farmer and now I am getting good returns with a few milch cows and goats, with technical support from other member farmers. I will soon expand to other livestock,” says another member K. Vijayalakshmi (35).

Her club compatriot P. Alagesan attributed the success of this small group to team spirit. “We don’t face labour shortage as we work in the farms and fields of other members – along with our families. We have restored the tradition of farmers lending a helping hand to each other in difficult times,” he said.

The CIFC members were inspired by the example set by their pro-active president S. Thiyagarajan, a B. Pharm graduate, who turned away from a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry to embrace agriculture in 2007 by setting up a piggery. Also, he has now got a goat shed with about 100 animals, cows and buffalos, carp fish pond, beehives, few rabbits, egg laying and desi chicken.

And, consider the fact that he was able to make a net profit of about Rs.7 lakh a year without big investments. “Starting the club has been mutually beneficial to all farmers. Most of them have a couple of livestock varieties and are expanding on witnessing the successful outcomes in other members’ farms,” said Mr. Thiyagarajan.

There are also members who don’t have livestock but have established feeder chains to provide fodder to the cattle, he said.

The CIFC has also brought in standard operating procedures to farming. “Farmers now have a breakdown of their daily, weekly, monthly and annual expenses and are getting to learn how to meet the expenditure through an integrated approach,” Mr. Alagesan said.

For instance, farmers are mentored to use the income generated from sale of milk for their daily expenses, revenue from chicken for weekly expenses and incomes from other livestock for their other major investments and expenses.

The CIFC has also made marketing more viable as these small farmers are able to pool their yields and undertake bulk orders for goats, pigs and chicken. “We learnt that selling products in the retail yields more returns than selling it to traders, so we have set our eyes on making value-added livestock products and selling them on our own,” he said.

According to B. Mohan, Head and Programme Coordinator of the KVK in Namakkal, the CIFC has been linked up with agriculture and related departments such as agricultural engineering, horticulture and animal husbandry besides primary cooperative and nationalised banks from whom the members get guidance from time to time for betterment.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National