KERALA

Spirit of unity keeps them going

Right livelihood:Work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in progress at the District Agricultural Farm at Peringamala. –   | Photo Credit: Photo: S. Mahinsha

Sangeetha Unnithan

Rs.1-crore farm project at Peringamala

PERINGAMALA: “This is ‘naduvan kizhangu'. It is rare and has medicinal values. We find it often when we plough the land here. It is very tasty,” said a beaming Thankabhai, 75, showing off a roasted ready-to-eat tuber.

It is surprises like this and the spirit of working together that keeps this septuagenarian going as she toils on at the District Agriculture Farm at Peringamala along with fellow workers.

There are 1000-odd labourers working on the farm under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) project. The Rs.1-crore project involves preparing around 25 acres of the farm, which is overgrown with shrubs due to years of neglect, for agriculture.

“This portion of the 40-hectare farm had been almost left abandoned as it was impossible to do cultivation here because of frequent attacks by wild boars, elephants and deer that come from the nearby forests. So we took up this project under the MGNREGS to construct trenches, clear the land and once again prepare it for agriculture,” said MGNREGS project director A. Chandrashekharan Nair.

The works on the farm taken up under the project include constructing a 1.5-km elephant trench bordering the land, constructing contour bunds and terraces and digging pits along the terraces for planting saplings.

“We will also be doing road-levelling work. The project is expected to be completed by mid-May so that saplings can be planted before the monsoon,” said MGNREGS accredited engineer Babu Raja Prasad.

The project, which began on December 17, will have 771800 work days.

Women from 13 wards of Peringamala panchayat are involved in the project. This includes around 200 tribal women.

The Peringamala panchayat has arranged two KSRTC services for taking workers to the farm which is six km from the Peringamala junction. The workers are also given 10 per cent of their wages as travel allowance as per the MGNREGS guidelines.

“There are around 20 people coming here for work from our ward, which is the farthest. So we hire a jeep and come here together,” said Prasannakumari, 43, from Thennur ward.

“Initially, work was a bit difficult and laborious. This place looked just like a forest. But now we have all adjusted to it,” she added.

Farm superintendent M. Subrahmaniam said once the MGNREGS work was completed, saplings of pappaya, mango, plantain, coconut, cocum, pepper and vegetables would be planted.

“We have got sanction from the KSEB for electricity connection to the pump house for irrigating this portion of the farm. Pipelines were laid in this block a few years ago along with the rest of the farm where regular cultivation is taking place,” he said.

“Apart from the 11 permanent workers, skilled labourers are being engaged in the farm for doing agriculture works as per the work demand,” Mr. Subrahmaniam added.

“This land originally belonged to the Forest Department. The Agriculture Department took this land for lease in 1964 and its administration was later handed over to the district panchayat. However, this MGNREGS work is being done in concurrence with the Forest Department's guidelines. So even when the workers clear the overgrown vegetation in the 25-acre plot, all big trees will be retained,” he said.