Refilling Rice Bowl

Kerala State Government and Agriculture department are treading on a path of good governance and are achieving laudable targets. Our Government has decided to implement pro-people programmes with dedication, commitment and transparency.

We are glad that it is being done with people’s participation and efficiency. Extensive programmes are being formulated and implemented to give new direction to the State Agriculture department and to give it a new lease of life. As part of it, government has already declared 2016-17 as State paddy year.

Like many other States, the staple food of Kerala is also rice. However, the reality is that we are not cultivating even one tenth of paddy that we are consuming in the State. In order to change this dismal scenario increasing our paddy production has become inevitable. State Government is giving top priority for paddy cultivation. Soon after taking over Government has came out with announcements regarding intervention in the sector. It was decided to start cultivation in 2546 hectares of land as part of the first phase.

However, at present paddy cultivation has started in 2590 hectares. Those who are ready for paddy cultivation on their land are being given financial assistance of Rs 10,000 and seeds are supplied free of cost. Farmers are looking forward to this programme with great hope.

The mega projects which was launched on 1st November, on Kerala Piravi Day, seeks to realise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi that the real development should begin from villages. The Mission’s aim is to implement development programmes by coordinating the activities of State and District administration and strengthening local self governments. Among the four programmes, one of the important one is Haritha Keralam. It focuses to protect and convert the natural resources for our coming generations, implement total waste management and to produce vegetables which are pesticide free and thus protect the environment. Ayalkootam meetings will be convened at the ward level to discuss the real issues of the farmers and to seek solution at the local level itself.

One of the major tasks of the mission is to draw ward level plans regarding the general basic infrastructure facilities required in the Panchayats. The plans being formulated at the local level will be included in the district level plans entailing all the suggestions and recommendations coming from local level. These plans will be implemented at the micro level.

The mission also seeks to ensure that those carrying out farming activities in land under their ownership would be given maximum benefits. The Government has envisaged a comprehensive farm culture which links agriculture with animal husbandry, poultry farming, fisheries activities and bee farming. One of the core projects of Haritha Kerala Mission is the “Sujalam –Subhalam” progamme.

The highlights of this programme is now produce more, earn more, achieve maximum production by finding plants which are suitable to the specific area concerned and implement farming activities with peoples’ participation and in a scientific manner, reform the market system to ensure that farmers get good prices for their produce, encourage toxic free safe food products, protect the land and environment by reducing the use of pesticides and insecticides, create more employment opportunities by implementing profitable value added ventures in the agriculture sector and create more job opportunities , increase the contribution of agriculture towards the economy of the State, ensure better irrigation facilities for farming activities , reduce the cost of production by introducing mechanised farming in areas where it has not reached, ensure protection for traditional seeds and availability of quality seeds, practice eco friendly farming activities , ensure good procurement programmes and fair price for the produce, create a portal to link producers with market and convert the domestic waste for creating manure. These are some of the major goals set under Sujalam Suphalam progamme.

As part of the Haritha Kerala Mission, value added products and processed agri products is getting a new life. There is huge possibility for value added ventures and for varieties in the State’s agriculture sector. At present 90 per cent of what is being produced in the agriculture and allied sector is used for direct consumption.

Moreover it is important to preserve these products besides giving emphasis on diversification. However this process has not gained much acceptance in our State yet. We need to attract more youth to agriculture by providing respectful employment, good income and find a solution to a large extent to problems like unemployment and poverty. Long term and comprehensive programmes have been envisaged by Agriculture Development Corporation, considering the wider possibilities in value added agri product.

Since the staple food of majority of Malayalis is rice, the main focus of Sujalam Suphalam progamme is expansion of paddy cultivation.

The main objective is to increase paddy cultivation of land from 2 lakh hectares to 3 lakh hectares and expand paddy cultivation in fallow land and barren land. Encourage use of traditional paddy and variety of paddy plants, create special farming zones in Kuttanad, Thrissur , Palakkad and Wayand for paddy cultivation and ensure maximum production and better marketing facilities. One of the major objectives of the department is to create a culture about agriculture and farming among children by introducing them to paddy cultivation.

Encouraging vegetable cultivation is another important focus area of the programme. The objective is to attain self sufficiency in vegetable cultivation by encouraging vegetable farming in homes, schools and other establishments, kitchen gardens, terrace farming and also farming in barren land with people’s participation. Steps are being initiated to locate areas which are ideal for vegetable farming and create special farming zones, arrange loan facilities, high quality seeds, other farming equipment, mechanisation and produce safe and pesticide free vegetables and fruits in large quantities, ensure procurement, marketing and ensure that the produce reaches directly from farm to market and thus farmers get good profit for their produce.

Another important intervention will be in establishing agro parks and agro business companies. Small and medium agro parks will be established utilising district agricultural farms to ensure production for value added products and their marketing. Agro parks will be established in various districts during the current financial year, Coconut agro parks in Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, and Thiruvananthapuram., paddy agro parks in Alappuzha, Palakkad and Ernakulam, honey agro park in Thrissur, spice parks in Idukki and Wayanad, Rubber parks in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, jack fruit park in Thrissur, and Mala. Vegetable value added products park at Kanthalloor and Vattavada panchayats in Idukki district. Apart from these agro parks, a permanent system called agri bazar will be put in place to provide value added products, farming equipment, machines, sales and purchase bring all these activities under one umbrella.

Agri bazars will be set up in Thrissur, Thiruvnanthapuram and Kozhikode during the current financial year. Coconut farming, vegetable cultivation, mechanisation, agriculture expansion activities in tribal hamlets and protection of produce and thus market intervention will get top priority in the programme.

There is no doubt that those who want to start ventures for agriculture production and value added products this is a golden opportunity. The government aims to provide service support and encouragement to retain them in his sector. This is one of the major objectives of the Haritha Keralam Project.

The government has set aside Rs 500 Cr through Kifbi’s special investment fund for starting small and medium parks in various districts of the state. The government wants to turn Kerala into a total organic farming state. We expect to achieve this target through Haritha Keralam. We have unflinching support of the people from various walks of society. We ensure that we will be able to regain our farming culture with the help and cooperation of each and everyone. Considering our past experience, this is very much within our reach.