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Enhancing the farming experience

Akila Kannadasan
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Pasumai Farmers' Club has made all the difference to the people of Perumpathy

T. Thiruvankatam, president of Pasumai Farmers' Club, showing an Azolla production pit at Perumpathy, near Pollachi. — Photo: Akila Kannadasan
T. Thiruvankatam, president of Pasumai Farmers' Club, showing an Azolla production pit at Perumpathy, near Pollachi. — Photo: Akila Kannadasan

That evening, as I mixed rice and sambar, I stopped to think of the journey the rice grains had made to reach my plate. The thought that a doting farmer pampered each grain from the moment the seeds touched the soil, made the meal special. A day in Perumpathy could have any city-dweller thinking along these lines.

The village, about 20 km from Pollachi, is made up of 250 families whose primary occupation is agriculture. Hundreds of coconut trees tower around the village. There are banana groves, maize fields and vegetable patches in between. Teak and mango trees abound. Everything is green as far as the eye can see, all thanks to a team of dedicated farmers.

In 2008, about 25 farmers in Perumpathy came together to form the Pasumai Farmers' Club under the Farmers' Club Programme of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Led by T. Thiruvankatam, the president, the club sought to take farming to a new level. Says Thiruvankatam, “A lot of farmers are just happy with making enough to feed their families. But we thought, why not make farming profitable? With hard work, the right technique and funds, we can improve our lives a great deal.”

The club holds meetings and group discussions where farmers share their experiences. “We've realised the importance of functioning as a team,” says Thiruvankatam. The club was the ticket for farmers from the village to visit bigger cities and interact with farmers from other states.

The Pasumai team recently visited the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation in Anand. The experience, says Thiruvankatam, was invaluable. “We got tips on cattle maintenance, the kinds of fodder available, the nutrition requirements of milch cows, etc. The visit changed the way we went about dairy farming. Back home, we implemented all what we learnt and found a significant increase in our milk production.”

Pasumai ensures that its members are up-to-date with everything new in the industry. The latest schemes introduced by the government, agricultural expos and workshops, fairs on latest farming implements…they do not miss out on anything. Recently, the club formed the Pasumai honeybee and coconut growers' associations with support from NABARD, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative Limited and the Agricultural Technology Management Agency Scheme.

For farmers such as the soft-spoken Ponnu Rangam, the club makes a visit to the bank less daunting. “Since we mostly go as a group, we don't hesitate to approach bank officers for loans,” says Ponnu Rangam.

“I've implemented new farming methods in my fields,” he adds. “This has led to a reduction in the amount of fertilizers used.” Farmer T. Govindharaj says that he now uses more of organic manure than chemicals. “I've learned practices such as drip irrigation for coconut trees and have implemented them successfully,” he says.

According to Inigo Arul Selvan, the District Development Manager of NABARD, Pasumai won the State-level Farmers' Club Award for 2009-2010. “They stood first among 4,600 clubs in Tamil Nadu,” he says. A.K. Vishwanathan, Agricultural Officer of Pollachi-North block, attributes the award to Pasumai's unity and positive attitude. “The farmers are always open to suggestions. They actively participated in training programmes in horticulture, animal husbandry and Azolla (alternate cow feed) manufacture,” he says.

Sixty-seven-year-old Sivan Malai Saami, a farmer from neighbouring Arthanaripalayam, says that the club has been an inspiration for the farmers' club in his village. “We farmers are difficult people,” he smiles.

“It is not easy to gather us and conduct meetings, let alone get us to work together. But Thiruvankatam is doing that.”

Sivan Malai Saami is a hi-tech farmer. He browses the internet with as much ease as he waters his fields. “Farmers have to be up-to-date,” he says. “I keep a constant eye on the media. I regularly read newspapers and watch TV shows on agriculture and keep fellow farmers informed as well.” In the past, farmers rarely got the opportunity to meet and discuss trends, he says. “It was during functions such as marriages that we sat aside for a while to catch up on things. But farmers' clubs have changed that. We learn technology from professors at the Agricultural University. We try new things. Farmers, who rode mopeds are now able to drive Marutis.”

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