Madurai

Farming with dignity and a dash of knowledge

P. Ramasamy   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

P. Ramasamy, a Kottampatti farmer, is a person who strives to upscale farming activities around him. He believes that it will be possible to improve the livelihood of farmers by properly educating them about good farming practices and the government schemes available for their benefit. In a conversation with Sanjana Ganesh, Mr. Ramasamy, who is also the chairman of Alagarmalayan Millet and Other Crops Producing Company, explains why he is proud of being member of a family with farmers for four generations.

“I have been working in farms since I was eight. I was asked to herd cattle around the village along with other agricultural labourers. The green fields have been an integral part of my life and it was assumed that I would continue my family’s tradition of farming,” he says.

Kottampatti has a special connection with Vinoba Bhave, he says. Land spanning 133 acres continues to be with the Sarvodaya Trust under Bhoodan Movement, he says. “The leader inculcated in us the need to share best practices in order to prevent famine and increase productivity. We have continued them ever since,” he says. What began as a weekly meeting of farmers soon became a means to spread and share information, he adds.

When U. Sagayam was Madurai Collector in 2011, he made an appeal to all farmers to attend farmers’ grievance meetings at the Collectorate to utilise the forum meant for redressal of their grievances. This inspired Mr. Ramasamy to learn more about the system, the schemes offered to poor farmers and the available skill training facilities for interested agriculturists.

“At the Collectorate, I began to get in touch with farmers from other parts of the district, including Usilampatti and Melur. Officials too got in touch as they provided skill training camps to farmers. A total of 10 representatives from Kottampatti would be present at all these camps. I have led a team to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore to understand varieties of groundnuts that would be more suited to our conditions,” he says.

Ever since, Mr. Ramasamy says, he has taken steps to keep farmers out of debt by seeking loans at low interest rates from banks, instead of moneylenders. He also keeps them informed of the new varieties in the market and strategies to deal with drought.

On the fifth day of every month, Mr. Ramasamy heads the meeting of Alagarmalayan Millet and Other Crops Producing Company, a farmer producer company with 10,000 members. The meeting usually sees 100 representatives who, in turn, address their 100 colleagues in their respective farms. “The meeting is an excellent and democratic space for exchange of ideas, problems and solutions,” he says.

As a frequent guest radio jockey on Kottampatti’s community radio station ‘Vayalaga Vanoli’, he says several people ask him doubts regarding his own successful farming methods during an occasional conversation at a local tea shop. “People recognise my voice and ask me questions,” he says.

He adds that educating oneself and dressing up in a respectable manner is necessary to gain respect as a farmer. “A white shirt and dhoti truly help in bringing us more dignity. This, along with expert knowledge, of course,” he chimes with a laugh.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 9:22:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/farming-with-dignity-and-a-dash-of-knowledge-madurai-meet/article25352935.ece

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