Agriculturist Gopalakrishnan promotes healthy eco system by motivating children to cultivate green leafy vegetables

What would you do if dandruff bothers you? Either you apply a hair conditioner or seek medical advice. But A. Muthumari of Chathirapatti uses the leaves of ‘Poduthalai' herb to get rid of the trouble permanently. In fact, most of the people in rural areas turn to nature for any health problem.

“Not many in the cities bother,” says E. Gopalakrishnan, an agriculturist. “Even if the people are told, they refuse to accept the benefits of medicinal herbs or organic farming and brush it aside as not worthy. The common knowledge of rural populace is found lacking among the urbanites,” he rues.

“Poduthalai does not stop with dandruff eradication. This medicinal herb is also used to cure piles and diarrhoea. It is grown in paddy fields and does not require any big investment. Natural resources are abundant in countryside” he says.

City-bred people find it difficult to understand nature bit go for the nutritionists' recommendations to eat leafy vegetables and greens. Since he failed to enthuse urban adults, Gopalakrishnan now takes the message to the children as he believes motivating the kids will bring about the desired result.

Bridging the gap

Also, in an effort to educate the city-bred children on urban farming and bridge the widening gap between the urban and rural children and create a better networking, he has formed the ‘Sevai Children Trust'. “The trust gives need based training to the children and promote gardening activities in small scale,” says Gopalakrishnan.

An ‘agripreneur' (an entrepreneur involved in agriculture business and agriculture extension services) himself, he emphasises the need to go for traditional agricultural practices. “We are trying to initiate an understanding of farming,” he says. “A child raised in a city has no other go but to live in the concrete jungle. He never gets an opportunity to know the benefits of green environment. Through our trust we try to enlighten the kids on growing the “c4” plants (that absorbs more of carbon dioxide and carbon mono oxide),” he adds.

The trust creates awareness among the children in Government and Corporation schools in Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai, Virudhunagar and Theni. He does not scare them with complicated vegetation techniques but explains the advantages of growing their own greens and leafy vegetables through some simple practices.“People are often confused when it comes to gardening,” he says. “Most of them think that sprawling space is a must to start gardening. But, you only need the mindset to begin. I tell my wards to grow plants in a plastic bag filled with street sand and vegetable wastes from the kitchen. A little water and plenty of sunlight can do wonders,” he adds.

Through his networking of rural and urban children he also facilitates sharing of information. He encourages the children by giving the seeds free of cost and never fails to follow up what the children have done. “We collect children's name and parents' mobile numbers and follow up what they have done. We have also formed children groups to spread the awareness in their locality,” he says.

He does not advocate tuberous vegetables but encourages the children to eat bottle gourd, bitter gourd and greens. “These vegetables facilitate fast removal of metabolic wastes from the body,” he says. “In all my programs I motivate children to cultivate green leafy vegetables in their homes by converting daily household wastes into manure. The children get enthused to see the seeds sprouting. Also by this action, children will come to know more plant species, their uses, ecological benefits, carbon reduction and value of organic farming,” he adds.

New campaign

To mark the World Environment Day (June 5), he has launched a new campaign to create awareness on plant biodiversity among the children of Corporation, Government and Matriculation Schools. He has also developed a curriculum on this topic.

“We have already approached the schools and they have responded positively. Only through such attempts we can spread the green cover and I can now envisage a healthy future generation,” Gopalakrishnan says.

Medicinal herbs

Chakravarthy Keerai (Chenopodium Album) - its mucous helps in curing all kinds of stomach ulcers.

Ceylon Pasalai (Basella Alba) - rich source of soluble fibre

Siru Keerai: (Amaranthus Polygonoides) – rich in iron content

Red Amaranthus: (Amaranthus Tricolor) - Anti oxidant activity is enhanced, decreases body weight.

Thoothuvalai (Solanum Trilobatum) - cures tuberculosis, cough, asthma, anti inflammatory and anti-microbial.

Vellai Karisalai: (Eclipta Alba) - Promotes hair growth and rejuvenates hair, teeth, bones, memory, sight and hearing, promotes deep sleep, cures kidney and liver disorders.

Nattu Ponnanganni (Alternanthera Sessilis) – Removes blood clots, cures gastro intestinal disorders, high blood pressure and cures chronic liver ailments.

Arai Keerai (Amaranthus Dubius) – Improves RBC count, 30 per cent higher digestible protein than other plant sources.