Introduction to organic farming in Kerala: The organic farming word is derived from two words. In these “organic” means “to get out of a living thing” and “farming” means “a productive system with a long life”. Organic farming is a method of farming that aims to cultivate the land and grow crops in such a way that the use of organic waste and other biological materials, as well as organic fertilizers, can keep the land alive and in good health. Nutrients can be released to crops. Production in an environmentally friendly environment.
Organic farming is an important sustainable agricultural practice already promoted by developed countries and international organizations. Kerala has great potential in terms of traditional agricultural knowledge, land availability, and rural population. Kerala has also recognized organic certification agencies that cater to the needs of farmers. Women’s self-help groups such as Kudumbasree and Janasree are encouraged to start organic vegetable farming and run successful organic markets. Recognizing the growing demand, private businesses have also stepped into the organic food business. Kerala is moving towards an organic farming state.
A guide to organic farming in Kerala, organic crops grown in Kerala, schemes, and certification of organic farming in Kerala
Information about organic farming in Kerala
Today, organic farming is growing and expanding in Kerala. This is due to the increasing use of natural resources, lower cultivation costs, higher soil fertility, better input utilization efficiency, increased self-reliance, etc. Thus, organic farming has better economic and environmental benefits. Its biggest challenge is its low yield compared to conventional farming. In Kerala, it is important to be aware of the policies and strategies used to promote organic farming practices to realize their full potential. Farmers in Kerala feel that the only way is to return to traditional sustainable farming methods without harming the ecosystem. Thus came a system of “organic farming”, a broad principle of “live and let live” that was recognized nationally and internationally.
The Kerala government has introduced a policy of organic farming. Kerala Agricultural University has published an Adhoc package of exercise recommendations for organic farming. Kasaragod has been declared the first organic farming district in the state. This gives a new impetus to Kerala’s organic farming state.
There are currently several certified organic farmers in the state, mainly targeting the export market. Kerala has also recognized organic certification agencies that cater to the needs of farmers. In Kerala, cultivation of Pokkali and Kaipad, Jeerakasala, and Gandhakasala varieties of paddy in Wayanad and home farming systems throughout the state are the default organic. Located in southwestern India, Kerala is a narrow coastline bordering Kerala to northeastern Tamil Nadu and the Arabian Sea to the west.
The three basic principles of organic farming are;
i) No chemical pesticides,
ii) No chemical fertilizers and
iii) Seeds for conventional/indigenous use as much as possible, form the basis of this analysis.
Benefits of organic farming in Kerala
It is a system that avoids or eliminates the use of artificially mixed fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and animal feed additives. To the extent possible, organic farming Systems rely on aspects of crop rotation, crop residues, animal manure, legumes, green manure, non-farm organic waste, and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and crop yields, to supply and control nutrients, and to control insects, weeds and other pests.
Organic farming in Kerala is mostly in transition, but there is a separate movement in favor of ecological farming among farmers as well as agronomists and scientists. The principles of organic farming include careful maintenance of soil fertility through agriculture, recycling of agricultural waste, avoidance or reduction of external inputs, and use of natural forms of pest management and weed control.
- The benefits of organic farming make agriculture more profitable, sustainable, and respectable.
- Maintains soil fertility by preventing soil loss and mineral emissions.
- Protects and enriches biodiversity – micro-organisms, soil plants, and animals, plants and animals.
- It requires less water and promotes water conservation.
- Improves and maintains the agricultural ecosystem and nature.
- Landscaping for sustainable production.
- Much depends on renewable on-farm resources.
- Renewable energy resources encourage the use of mechanical and other alternative sources of fuel.
- Domestic animals are added as an integral part of the organic system to help maintain soil fertility and increase farmers’ incomes.
- Improves agricultural biodiversity (both varieties and crops).
- Preserves and enhances traditional knowledge in farming, processing, and seed improvement which in turn protects it for future generations.
- Reduces production costs through locally appropriate methods and input.
- Produces adequate amounts of nutritious, healthy, and high-quality food and promotes a healthy food culture.
- They provide a healthy and ethical choice of food.
- Organic farming yields more nutritional value than traditionally grown crops.
- Organic farming practices protect the common habitat of soil plants and animals.
- Organic farming techniques create a healthy soil system. You are saving the environment for the next generation by encouraging organic farming.
- Organically grown food tastes better compared to other foods and has higher levels of antioxidants. It is also good for the human immune system and reduces the risk of cancer due to chemicals in conventional farming products.
- Organic farming discourages erosion and encourages topsoil. Organic farming reduces carbon dioxide in the environment by storing it in the soil, thus helping to reduce global warming.
- Organic farming practices also help keep rivers clean as there is no emission of potentially toxic chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and inorganic fertilizers.
Suggestions for promoting organic farming in Kerala
Kerala is moving towards an organic farming state. But it is difficult to maintain Kerala as a fully organic state, because organic farming faced many immediate problems, such as a sharp decline in production, the high cost of certification, and so on.
The Kerala Panchayat Department has issued guidelines for organic farming and pesticide-free vegetable production for local bodies under its annual plan. In Kerala, the demand for organic products is increasing and many companies, including agricultural startups with their products to meet the demand. From vegetables to coconut oil, products are being marketed under organic labels. The competition has become so fierce that the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) is also entering the Kerala market with a wide range of organic products. Some suggestions for promoting organic farming can be given below;
- Distribute quality seeds to farmers from Krishi Bhavan.
- Green manure seeds, bio-fertilizers, and bio-pesticides should be made available to farmers at affordable prices.
- The government should reduce the excessive cost of the certification process.
- Appropriate research should be done to improve the production of organic farming.
- Establish a separate market for organic farm products.
- Consumers should be made aware of the benefits of organic farm products.
- A strong organizational support structure is needed to increase the area under organic farming and encourage farmers.
- The government needs to help raise awareness about organic farming through seminars, workshops, etc. and help develop appropriate skills in organic farming.
- Government policies and regulations should support organic farmers so that they can overcome the constraints to change in organic farming.
The state of Kerala is divided into five agro-climatic zones based on its physiography, climate, soil characteristics, seawater intrusion, land use patterns, vegetation, etc. Zones are (I) Southern (ii) Central (iii) Northern iv) High altitude and (v) Special zones for problem areas.
Status of organic farming in Kerala
The concept of organic farming is gaining momentum in Kerala. Over the last 12-15 years, many farmers in Kerala have abandoned the traditional methods that have been converted to organic farming. Those who switched from intensive agriculture to organic farming faced immediate problems such as a steep fall in production. The spread of modern agriculture in most arable areas also makes it difficult to maintain organic cleanliness in the soil and atmosphere.
Kerala’s wide variety of crops, especially spices, plantation crops, medicinal plants, etc., is an ideal destination for the promotion of organic farming due to the changing preferences towards organic and eco-friendly products around the world. Many initiatives are currently underway in Kerala, one of which is to make Kerala fully organic, with the formulation of a draft policy in 2003. There are now several certified organic farmers in the state, who cultivate cash crops. Spices, tea, and coffee mainly target the export market.
Many steps are being taken by the government and various organizations to promote organic farming in Kerala. The government launched a state-wide action program on ” Jaiva Keralam”. In addition, the government itself came up with a new policy on organic farming in 2007, formulated by the State Biodiversity Board. The policy documents titled Kerala State Organic Farming Policy, Strategy, and Action plan state the vision of making organic farming sustainable and environmentally friendly.
District-wise distribution of organic farmers in Kerala
Kannur, Alappuzha, and Trichur districts have the highest number of organic farmers in Kerala. Because this is the operation extended by 3 major groups of organic farmers in these districts. They are Grama in Kannur, Mediamate/Jeevarekha in Alappuzha, and the Vandana Organic Farmers’ Society in Thrissur district. The remoteness of the Idukki and Wayanad districts may be due to the poor representation of these districts. A major regional newspaper with a large readership in the southern districts did not make the announcement. This may be due to under-representation from Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.
Fertilizer management for organic farming in Kerala
Fertilizer management is an important aspect of modern farming to organic farming. Types vary according to the different forms and crops to which they are applied. Details are noted in individual cases. Below is a general list of fertilizer management methods adopted by them;
1. Organic manure – cow dung, wood ash, bone meal, and poultry waste.
2. Green manure
3. N-fixing crop cultivation
4. Recycling of organic matter
5. Animal excreta
7. Protecting the land from erosion and runoff
8. Farmyard manure.
10. Maintenance for tree crops with green manure
11. External inputs: semi-cake, castor oil cake,
12. Bio-fertilizer: Bacteria kit (pH bacteria, N-bacteria)
Crops suitable for organic farming in Kerala
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The question of crops grown by organic farmers mentions a wide variety of crops. Some farmers listed vegetables as just one entry, while others provided a detailed list of species. The farmers also listed the tubers, fruit trees, and other species of trees alone and separately. Crop preference was analyzed using a simple scoring and ranking method. Coconut claims the highest priorities – 112 (74%), Banana / Plantain – 82 (54%), vegetables – 64 (42%), Arecanut – 58 (38%), Tubers – 51 (34%), Pepper – 46 (30%), Rubber – 43 (28%), and Paddy – 27 (18%), etc.
Crops are well distributed in food crops and cash crops whereas large crops are generally cash crops. Medium and small crops are for both consumption and the market. In Kerala, typical of domestic farms, farmers grow many fruit trees – the most common being Mangoes and Jackfruit. And tubers like Elephant foot Yam, Diascoria, and Colocasia are traditional items in Malayalee’s diet but are rapidly disappearing in the ‘globalization’ of vegetables. Vegetables like Cabbage, Carrots, Beets, Beans, and Cauliflower, etc., have deviated from the traditional varieties.
Overall, Kerala is promoting the revolution of organic farming revolution. Kerala is looking for a wide variety of agricultural and horticultural crops, especially spices, plant crops, and medicinal plants, etc., with potential international markets is an ideal destination for the promotion of organic farming due to the changing preferences worldwide towards organic and eco-friendly products.
Pest management for organic farming in Kerala
Some farmers do not use any pesticides. They believe in nature taking care of pests or diseases. Only in the case of some widespread, infectious diseases that have affected crops such as Coconut, Areca, and Pepper, etc., across the state, they have resorted to some bio-pesticides or bio-treatments. Although they claim that the proximity of other farms undergoing chemical treatment does not affect organic farms, this should be confirmed by a detailed analysis of their production, soil, water, and other natural resources. As in previous examples, pest/disease control varies from farmer to farmer and from crop to crop. The general nature is as follows;
1. De-weeding is done manually and the weeds are used as mulching or fodder for cattle.
2. Pest attacks and diseases are few. Manual removal, bio-control such as resting places for predatory birds, allowing social spiders to weave webs, insect repellent crops, use of neem, garlic, tobacco, cow dung, fungus infections for Trichoderma, etc. Bordeaux mixture is a chemical treatment that some people use for the Mahali disease of Areca palms.
3. The proximity of modern farms does not generally affect organic farms.
4. Plastic is rarely used and is recycled and disposed of carefully.
Policy recommendations for organic farming in Kerala
In the present international scenario in which organic farming has emerged as a major developing region, not only in terms of tremendous export potential but also in response to environmental pollution, it is time that the concerned authorities in Kerala Note the following;
1. Strategies for developing knowledge in organic farming – for farmers/producers, consumers, and relevant government departments, agricultural research institutes, and such regulatory bodies.
2. The constitution of a high-level institution that can formulate policies and plans for the expansion of organic farming in the state.
The knowledge development strategy in OA can be summarized as follows
The major hurdles to knowledge development are;
1. Reluctance of farmers to convert to OA
2. Lack of cooperation from external agencies
3. Small lands
4. Agro-climatic variables restrict uniform methods.
5. Lack of effective network of organic farmers
6. Loss of conventional knowledge
To overcome these barriers, farmers must be taught the right lessons and the right environment must be provided for the successful implementation of OA. The curriculum elements should be;
1. Organic enrichment of the land
2. Crop combination for a specific area
3. Biological pest control and manure
4. Self-sufficiency in organic inputs
5. Resource conservation techniques
6. Storage and marketing Facilities
In Kerala or any other third-world country, where agriculture has been a way of life for hundreds of years, the focus should be primarily on the conservation of indigenous species, restoration of environmental health, and documentation of traditional agricultural practices. Organic farming in Kerala is facing severe challenges from many quarters. As a culture of the past, it is rapidly disappearing. As a system that depends on natural resources, its survival is in the hands of those who manage the resources. Climate change has changed the micro-climate of most study areas. Humidity has dropped and rainfall has become unpredictable. The soil is becoming more and more barren. For a society that is unwilling to reconsider its past and take corrective action, organic farming is the reverse. Pragmatism is as strong as economic ambitions. Still, changes are taking place. Organic farming is growing and then spreading all over the world.
Kudumbashree Mission Agriculture
Kudumbashree Mission Agriculture seeks some policy intervention through an additional incentive package for Kudumbashree Mission Agriculture i.e., Agriculture technology fund, Value addition unit fund, and organic farming additional incentive package.
To promote organic farming, it has ventured into the realm of organic cultivation and agricultural commodities with organic certification. It has ventured into the realm of organic farming with the mission of bringing 10,000 hectares of land under organic farming in 201 clusters in all the districts.
Participatory Guarantee System Certification will be required for organic farming. The Regional Council (RC), approved by the National Center for Organic Farming (NCOF), will provide the necessary support, guidance, and training for the smooth running of the program and will also facilitate the certification process. With pre-established Bio pharmacies, one (152 in total) from each block will be strengthened to support the input required for organic farming activities.
Schemes for organic farming in Kerala
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Major agencies involved in the promotion of organic farming in Kerala belong to the categories of (a) government agencies (b) NGOs and (c) farmers’ groups. In addition, many isolated/independent farmers were not affiliated with any formal group, program, or agency. For promoting organic farming, major government agencies involved included the Department of Agriculture, the Panchayath Raj Institute, the Agricultural University of Kerala, the State Horticulture Mission, the Commodity Board (Spices Board, Tea Board, Coffee Board), and the state-level offices of NABARD.
Special mention needs to be made of the involvement of local self-government bodies (panchayats and urban bodies) in promoting organic farming over the past 15 years. Almost all panchayaths in Kerala have started non-toxic agriculture as part of their programs, focusing on vegetables and fruits, especially bananas.
Kerala’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have long been active in promoting non-toxic agriculture. However, they used different concepts, followed different methods and techniques. Concepts used by NGOs include sustainable agriculture, organic farming, non-toxic farming, low external input farming, biodiversity, and safe food, etc. Most approaches focus on mobilizing farmers and experimenting with them, with or without the help of other agencies.
Wayanad Social Service Society (WSSS), Manathavady – a voluntary organization that assists approximately 10,000 farmers in various stages of the organic certification process, procurement, processing, packaging, branding, and marketing of organic products; about 90% of the products, mostly spices, were exported. The WSSS organic farming system is now considered to be the largest in Kerala and has therefore been taken up for this study.
The Peermade Development Society (PDS), Peermade – It is focused on spices and plant crops and this is a voluntary organization that helps about 5,000 farmers in Idukki District. Certified and branded products are marketed and exported through local stores. Farmers are assisted by technical, material, and administrative inputs.
Kerala Agricultural Development Society – KDS (Thodupuzha) – Supports individual and group certification (through INDOCERT) to more than 1000 farmers in the Idukki district. The main products are spices, vegetables, fruits, and honey. Assist farmers by providing technical guidance, administrative and material information at various stages.
Thanal (Trivandrum) – It mainly provides technical guidance to producers, purchasers, and marketers for local organic products.
Wayanad Organic Farming Consortium (Sultan Bathery, Wayanad) – Focuses on cooperation and collaboration to promote organic farming in local food crops, vegetables, and fruits.
It is proposed to assist in organic farming and help in the certification of scheme components, empowerment of GAP clusters, promotional support for GAP clusters, green manure, model units for preparation of organic fertilizer and safe to eat includes food production including Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). Certification through FPOs such as VFPCK (Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam), Krishibhavans, and other stakeholders. 10% of the beneficiaries of this project will be women. Organic farming activities for vegetables will be part of the Vegetable Mission 2020-2021. For organic farming of fruits and vegetables and certification, out of this Rs. 10.00 lakh has been allocated in Idukki and Wayanad districts.
Organic cultivation of fruits and vegetables will be promoted through VFPCK (Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam) and Karshi Bhavans. Assistance from the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme will also be used to develop and finance organic farming clusters.
Organic farming will also be supported under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme Advanced Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). An amount of Rs. 150.00 lakh has been provided for Katnad Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) project and zero budget promotion of natural agriculture. Only GAP components with certification will be supported by the Special Project and other components will be supported by SAZ (Special Agriculture Zone) components as required. The provision made under this scheme will also be used for the promotion of zero-budget natural farming which emphasizes the popularization of traditional varieties and the production of safe food after eco-friendly farming methods.
Organic certification agencies in Kerala
The state has several certified organic farmers who grow rice, vegetables, and fruits. Some of them are under PGS Certification (Participatory Guarantee System under PGS Council of India – a council formed by a group of organic promotion organizations in Kerala. Two major certification bodies are operating in Kerala;
INDOCERT (Indian Organic Certification Agency) – INDOCERT (Indian Organic Certification Agency) is an independent, nationally recognized organization through APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products) whose primary purpose is for organic production methods.
INDOCERT provides certification of organic crop production by the following standards;
- National Standards for Organic Production (NPOP), Government of India
- European Union Regulations for Organic Production Laws
Lacon Quality Certification (India) Pvt. Ltd. offers a wide range of certification services for the fields of agriculture. There is certification of processing and handling of agricultural produce; the export and import of such products has been incorporated as a private limited company in the State of Kerala under the Companies Act, 1956 under the relevant national laws and the Certification for International Featured Standards (IFS) LACON Quality Certification (India) Limited.
Problems and challenges of organic farming in Kerala
Despite the benefits of organic farming, farmers face many obstacles in its expansion. The following are the major barriers to the adoption and promotion of organic farming in Kerala.
- Most people earn only a little from organic production because they use only a small amount of land for their production.
- Changing climatic conditions, a global problem facing all farmers was also happening.
- Organic farming is due to wrong development strategies, deforestation, and waste of natural resources.
- There is no proper government intervention in policy-making for small and backward organic farmers.
- The cost of labor and other costs in organic farming are very high, especially for small and marginal farmers.
- Seed costs and fertilizer costs are very high. Free seeds and subsidized fertilizers are an incentive for organic farmers.
- Organic inputs such as vermicompost, cow dung, and other fertilizers are very expensive, making them unaffordable for small crops.
The simple certification process for organic farmers in Kerala
Develop a simple certification process for all organic farmers in the state;
- Encourage the implementation of an internal control system for the organic farmer group through a specific scheme.
- Encourage participatory guarantee system of certification to supply small and backward farmers in the local market.
- NGOs approved by the PGS Council of India will be empowered to assist in the implementation and monitoring of the PGS system in the State.
- The state will develop an organic Kerala certification and logo and ” Jaiva Keralam” will be developed as a brand. Since each country follows different rules, the purpose of exports can go for third-party certification.
- Adjust local standards for quality testing and verification.
- Ensure that every organic farmer who has been doing organic farming for three years is given a certificate free of cost.
- Incorporate organic animal husbandry into the certification system and provide financial incentives to promote organic farming action.
- Provide interest-free loans to organic farmers, especially small and backward farmers. Credit linked to banks will be subsidized by the Central / State Governments.
- Set the production incentive system to support.
- Develop a revolving fund system.
- Provide support during the conversion period; Two years for annual crops and three years for perennials.
- Introduce state-led insurance scheme for small and backward organic farmers.
- Introduce pensions for organic farmers.
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