How agriculture-oriented collectives in Thiruvananthapuram are reaping success

There are over 2,1700 registered Krishikkoottams or farming collectives in the district, with over 200 of them focussing on the manufacture of value-added products

Updated - August 18, 2023 11:47 am IST

Published - August 16, 2023 11:15 am IST

Farmers from Kalliyoor with their harvested produce

Farmers from Kalliyoor with their harvested produce | Photo Credit: Arun Mohan

Vilappil Madhuram, launched in July, consists of savouries, pickles, tapioca, jackfruit and banana chips and chammanthippodi, all made by residents of Vilappil panchayat, a suburb of Thiruvananthapuram. The products will be available for sale at the Onam market of the panchayat on August 17, the first day of the Malayalam month of Chingam, also observed as Farmers’ Day in Kerala.

The products have been made by five members (Anju Ramesh, Abhirami KM, Manjuleka U, Lakshmi L and Anitha L), all of them homemakers, of Samrudhi Krishikkoottam, one among 2,175 Krishikkoottams registered in Thiruvananthapuram district. Krishikkoottam (farming collective), a state-wide initiative of the Kerala Government’s Department of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, is an extension of the Department’s ‘Njangalum Krishiyelekku’ (We, towards agriculture) campaign to promote farming in households.

Farming community
Krishikkoottam brings together people who have an interest in agriculture or farming-related activities. A collective should have at least five or six members. While Krishikkoottams can be formed by members of a family, most of these collectives are run by homemakers.
Of the 24,000-plus Krishikkoottams registered in Kerala, Malappuram has the maximum number of collectives (over 4,000), followed by Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Thrissur districts.

“The Krishikkoottams fall into three categories — production of agricultural produce; manufacture of value-added products from agricultural produce; and farming-related services,” explains S Anilkumar, Principal Agricultural Officer, Thiruvananthapuram.

On May 16, 1,200 Krishikkoottams were launched at a state-level inauguration. By July, the number of registered Krishikkoottams crossed 24,000. “In Thiruvananthapuram, 1,869 groups are into production, 207 of them manufacture value-added products and 99 do agri-related services,” says R Krishnakumari, Deputy Director of Agriculture (National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas).

Kalliyoor model

One of the success stories is from Kalliyoor, the hub of vegetable and plantain cultivation in Thiruvananthapuram. There are 212 Krishikkoottams spread across 21 wards in this panchayat. Besides an eco shop that sells all the harvested produce, Kalliyoor Krishi Bhavan launched brand Kalliyoor Greens to market the farm produce and value-added products. Orders can be placed via an app, Ecat, and home delivery is available within a 20-kilometre radius of Kalliyoor, three days a week.

Cut vegetables of the brand Kalliyoor Greens

Cut vegetables of the brand Kalliyoor Greens | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Nearly six months of planning have gone into the launch of this brand. Farmers are not used to this concept and it took time for to us build this team,” says Swapna C, agricultural officer, Kalliyoor Krishi Bhavan.

Kalliyoor Greens includes vegetables and fruits, fish and meat, dairy products, desserts, sweets and savouries, curry powders, cut vegetables, honey, pickles etc. “Cut vegetables is much in demand. It is managed by Raag Krishikkoottam. We had to employ more hands in addition to the Krishikkoottam members to finish the orders on time. We have our hands full with Onam around. We are planning to sell family kits with cut vegetables,” she adds. Handmade products crafted from water hyacinth, made by two Krishikkoottams, and rice varieties such as Vellayani and Nenmeni Chittunda Kettinatti rice are marketed under the brand.

Grated banana blossom getting ready to be packed at Kalliyoor Krishi Bhavan 

Grated banana blossom getting ready to be packed at Kalliyoor Krishi Bhavan  | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

According to Ajith G, secretary of the eco shop, the Kalliyoor model can be emulated across the State. “ This will ensure steady income for farmers, minimal wastage of produce and supply of fresh products for customers,” he says.

Standout products

Several Krishikkoottams have launched distinctive range of value-added products. An example is The Leaves, one of the 92 Krishikkoottams under Kudappanakkunnu Krishi Bhavan, which sells drumstick-based products. Sindhu R, who heads the collective, says: “I am a fashion designer and have been running a boutique for 25 years. I, often, faced a shortage of tailors and that affected the business. So I wanted to do an alternative business if I had to close down my boutique. I kept looking for something unique and that’s when I zeroed in on drumstick because not many people are into it,” says Sindhu.

Sindhu R runs The Leaves that sells wide range of products made from drumstick

Sindhu R runs The Leaves that sells wide range of products made from drumstick | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In addition to ready-to-cook drumstick leaves and dried leaves and its powder, she sells drumstick capsules, puttupodi, chutney powder and soup powder. “A fast-moving product has been drumstick laddoo. We also have a nutrimix and protein ‘bomb’,” she says adding that the leaves are sourced from in and around the district. Wild turmeric powder, dried hibiscus and shanghupushpam (butterfly pea) are also sold by her.

Bindu LN sells millets and health mix

Bindu LN sells millets and health mix | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Millets have been the calling card for Bindu LN of Dhanalakshmy Krishikkoottam under Kallikkadu Krishi Bhavan in Kattakada block. “I used to do door-to-door sales of clothes before I started selling homemade pickles. 2023 being the International Year of Millets, I found that there is a market for millets. Now I source millet varieties from Thirunelveli and sell them in government offices and at fairs. Next in line is a new range of pickles made of bitter gourd, banana stem and banana flower,” says Bindu, who sells over 10 types of raw millets and a health mix with cereals and grains.

Mathew TV and Minimol Mathew who run Nahomi Organic Mushroom Farm at Vithura in Thiruvananthapuram

Mathew TV and Minimol Mathew who run Nahomi Organic Mushroom Farm at Vithura in Thiruvananthapuram | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Mushroom is the star of Nahomi Krishikkoottam from Vithura, run by couple Mathew TV and Minimol Mathew. Over 30 value-added products from mushroom are marketed by them. “I belong to Idukki and have been a mushroom farmer for 15 years now. We set up our venture in Vithura five years ago and got registered as a Krishikkoottam some time ago. We have mushroom powder, health mix, hair oil, cake, chutney powder, soap and face powder among the products. We have been getting the support of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Mitraniketan and Agri-incubation centre, Vellayani,” says Mathew.

The advantage of getting registered as a Krishikkoottam is that the products can be sold via exhibitions and fairs organised by the Department, says Vidya Sajikumar, who heads Balaramapuram-based Kiyara Krishikkoottam. Her brand, Kiyara Organics, sells herbal hair oil, skin care products, soaps and cleaning solutions.

Vidya Sajikumar who runs Kiyara Organics

Vidya Sajikumar who runs Kiyara Organics | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“Kiyara was launched last year and I have been doing online business. Once we got registered as a Krishikkoottam we could find more customers,” says Vidya.

Jayadas CV, agricultural officer of Vilappil Krishi Bhavan, says: “One Krishikkoottam is planning to start millet cultivation. Manufacture of value-added products from virgin coconut oil and tuber crops are in the pipeline.”

Anilkumar adds that the Government plans to support the Krishikkoottams with venture capital and training to improve production and quality. “There is also a proposal to start cultivation on unused land with the support of stakeholders,” he adds.

Meanwhile, seven Krishikkoottams in the district will showcase their products at the Farmers’ Day celebrations on Kanakakunnu premises on August 17.

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