Staff Reporter

KANNUR: A potential subsidiary occupation for resource-poor farmers in the region, especially women, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) under the Kerala Agricultural University is all set to promote mussel farming in the district.

The KVK has initiated a frontline demonstration project on green shell mussel (`kallummakai' in local parlance) farming in the district. In the first phase of the project, a farming unit has been set up in the Mahe river estuary at Olavil in Chokli panchayat. A 20-member `KVK Mussel Club' comprising local youth has been formed and trained by the KVK in mussel farming.

The green shell mussel (Perna viridis) is widely found along the coastal areas of the region. Though mussel farming is undertaken in Padanna grama panchayat in Kasaragod and Vallikunnu panchayat in Malappuram district, experiments in the Padanna panchayat a few years ago have turned out to be a big success with several self-help groups (SHGs) of women below poverty line engaging in mussel farming on a commercial scale. The farmers there are following a technique of farming mussels on ropes immersed in waters.

"The mussel farming experience in Padanna shows that this is a lucrative venture that can be replicated in other suitable areas," K. Abdul Kareem, Associate Professor and Head of the KVK here, said. There is immense scope for promoting mussel farming in the district, which is endowed with 11 river estuaries, he said.

The project envisages dissemination of the farming techniques among the resource-poor women as also the unemployed, under-employed and employed youths. Several tonnes of mussel seeds, which will otherwise be lost owing to non-exploitation, can be utilised for farming. If the farming is done on a larger scale, the naturally available seed can be better utilised, Dr. Kareem said adding that the mussel farming is a low cost and less labour-intensive venture, which yields return within a short span of just four to five months.

The total cost of the demonstration project is Rs.18,000. In subsequent years, the cost will involve that of mussels seeds (700 kg) and labour charges totalling around Rs.6,000. The yield is expected to be 5,000 kg mussel though potential yield is 10 times the quantity of seeds depending upon effluents, sudden rain, damage caused by fishermen and exposure to low tide, KVK officials said. The yield will fetch Rs.42,500 at the rate of Rs.8.5 a kg, they added.