Updated: July 29, 2021 8:34:09 am
Written by Riya Joseph
In Kerala’s northernmost Kasaragod district, a month-long programme is underway to turn wastelands into fields bursting with rice and vegetables.
Launched by the district mission of Kudumbashree, the state’s poverty eradication programme, ‘Mazhappolima’, is touted as a festival celebrating the goodness of the monsoon rains, agriculture and the collective spirit of the people. The campaign promotes the idea of achieving self-sufficiency in the four basic areas of water, food, economic and social security by linking people’s lives to sustainable development.
“For the last three years, we have been mobilising the public, especially women from Kudumbasree, in the fields to cultivate paddy. During the monsoon, we assemble on the farm lands and conduct it as a festival,” said Surendran TT, district mission coordinator of Kudumbashree.
“Although India is essentially an agricultural country, farmers here are facing a lot of problems. They can’t make as much yield as they wish and the cost of cultivation is high. Through this festival, we make sure farmers get support,” Surendran said.
The initial investment for preparing the land comes in the form of thrift loans generated through internal lending among Kudumbashree members. The district mission pitches in through incentives for farmers in the form of monetary remuneration depending on the area of cultivated land. Paddy farmers receive Rs 8,000 for each hectare tilled. Meanwhile, local bodies do their bit by setting up designated areas for Kudumbashree farmers to sell their produce.
This year, 21 hectares of new wasteland in the district has been identified for cultivation. Out of the total 1,705 hectares of fallow land found in the district, 1,556 hectares is now cultivable. Apart from paddy, vegetables such as potatoes and fruits such as bananas are also grown. Under the leadership of Kudumbashree, weekly markets and agricultural marketing centres have begun in all the panchayats.
Last year, the district mission claimed to convert 646 acres of barren land into cultivable land through ‘Mazhappolima.’ A total of 11.8 tonnes of rice was harvested and brought to the local markets under the brand name of ‘Arisree.’ ‘Ari’ is rice in Malayalam.
Surendran said the campaign is designed to motivate women farmers whose source of income gets boosted with additional funds from the Kudumbashree district mission and the local panchayat.
The festival, in its fourth successive year this time, felt the brunt of the restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
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