“Annam na nindyath; Annam bahukurveeth”, extols the Taitthiriya Upanishad (111/9), meaning, “Do not neglect Food; produce abundant Food”.
“Everything else can wait, but not Agriculture'” proclaimed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru soon after he took over as free India’s first Prime Minister. Since then, our country has made spectacular progress in the Agriculture scenario by achieving self-sufficiency in food-grain production. After laying the Foundation Stone for the “Navasakti” Project Building at Thazhava Village on 15th March, 2007, Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, FRS, Chairman, National Commission for Farmers and presently Hon’ble Member of Rajya Sabha, reminded us that the 11 th Five Year Plan document has highlighted the need for bridging the knowledge gap in sustainable farming. There is enough technical “know how” available to make farming a sustainable enterprise, he said, but the transfer of “do how” information is highly inadequate. It is in this context, that the Non-Governmental Organizations like ‘Navasakti’ assume relevance, for filling this knowledge gap, he added.
The ‘Navasakti Trust’ has been established at Vengattampalli of Thazhava Village in Kollam District, as a non-profit, non-political NGO for Community Development
Chief Objectives of Navasakti
1.Dissemination of latest scientific knowledge that will enable local farmers to tackle field problems, through the medium of dialogues, seminars,field demonstrations, training programmes, and through the Village Knowledge Centre to be set up at the Project site at Vengattampalli in Thazhava Village, and by developing a network of local farmers.
2.To provide opportunities for hands-on training of farming women, men and the youth, for capacity-building, based on the principles of ‘learning by doing’.
3.To promote and encourage micro-enterprises in the area of biological software for sustainable agriculture, through the progressive adoption of organic farming methodology and biological control of diseases and pests.
4.To harness Science and Technology for the economic well-being, nutrition, livelihood, and health securities of farming families, through efficient recycling and utilization of organic wastes, ensuring a clean environment, by transferring appropriate and proven technologies.
5.The Trustees would also enlist interested farmer participants for developing sustainable farming practices through a participatory approach.
The ‘Navasakti’ emblem signifies an open-ended growth to be achieved in both vertical and horizontal directions, as depicted by the three inter-twining arcs, through the interplay of diverse factors symbolic of the seven colours in the arcs.
Areas of Operation :
Collection, Cataloguing and Conservation of Native Plant Genetic Resources: This would form an important activity of ‘Navasakti’. Gene Banks will be established representing native genetic variability in crops like Pandanus or screwpine (Thazha’ in Malayalam, the signature crop of Thazhava, known for its soft mat-weaving cottage industry), Tuber-crops as the main carbohydrate source, Sesame (made famous by the Onattukara brand of high quality til), Betelvine, Banana, Mango, Medicinal herbs and trees, Ornamentals like Orchids, Lotuses and Water-Lilies, local vegetables, Cycads and Palms including elite, disease-free coconut Dwarfs, Tails and hybrids. Farmers will be trained in the identification of the variability, their systematic collection, cataloguing, conservation and utilization and in the preparation of a Biodiversity Register.
Coconut Management: Coconut being the major plantation and oilseed crop of this area, with its multifarious uses, our first and foremost task will be to demonstrate to the farmers the effective management of the endemic root-wilt disease (Kattuveezhcha). Sustained researches carried out by CPCRI scientists during the last several decades, have shown the efficacy of basin management schedules for the amelioration of the symptoms, resulting in yield improvement. These include, the use of organic amendments like neem-cake and vermicompost, growing legumes like cowpea and incorporating them along with the root-nodules, use of bio-control agents such as Trichoderma and Pseudomonas, bio-fertilizers like VA-mycorrhizae and other beneficial microbes, for achieving a balanced nutrient management.
Appropriate schedules for the management of leaf-rot are also available, which result in the greening of the newly emerging leaves, and consequently giving higher nut yields.Use of microbial pesticides like Metarrhizium along with marotti and neem cakes for controlling insect pests of coconut, will also be popularized. Post-harvest technologies for obtaining good quality copra and oil will also be demonstrated.
Training Programmes / Dialogues / Seminars: Will be organised periodically to empower farming women and men, through hands-on training, in the conservation of natural PGRs, enhancing crop production through effective crop protection and organic agriculture, value addition of farm produce and establishing viable market linkages.
Nutrition Gardens / Floriculture: Considering the fact that Thazhava village has been a traditionally vegetable growing tract, and in view of the prevailing high cost of vegetables and fruits, ‘Navasakti’ will promote and encourage farm women and youth to raise seasonal vegetables and fruits, in their kitchen gardens, both for local consumption as well as to have enough surplus for the market. Field demonstrations will be organized both in house-holds and school premises on demand, so as to involve the women and students also in their cultivation and aftercare, in a participatory mode. Likewise, farmers and housewives evincing keen interest in growing ornamentals, will be given training in raising high-value Anthuriums, Orchids, foliage and other plants of export demand, in order to augment the family income, for which the requisite market information will also be provided.
Conservation of Natural Resources : With the help of experts from CPCRI and CWRDM, “Navasakti” will help organize suitable demonstrations in farmers’ plots for prevention off soil erosion, moisture conservation, rainwater harvesting and storage, and organic soil enrichment.
Revival of Local Skills: The Village of Thazhava got its name from the traditional cottage industry of Screwpine (‘Thazha’ or Pandanus) mat-weaving, which is now vanishing due to shortage of raw material and poor marketing opportunities. This thorny leaved screwpine which was traditionally grown as hedge plant has now dwindled in numbers due to the large-scale replacement of these live hedges by concrete-slab fences (Snehamathil). There is therefore, an urgent need for reviving Pandanus cultivation in a systematic manner, to ensure adequate raw material availability. Bringing in the expertise of designers to develop new utility and decorative products from screwpine leaves will give a fi|lip to this cottage industry. Organizing Cooperatives to facilitate collective bargaining which would fetch remunerative prices for their products, would restore this matweaving cottage industry to its past glory.
Revival of Rice Farming: Most of the once lush-green paddy fields sure now either lying fallow for youth to play cricket, or getting converted to coconut gardens under neglect, due to high cost of labour and other inputs, besides unremunerative prices. At the farmers” meeting with the M.S. Swaminathan Commission held at Nedumudi (Alleppey District) on 13th March, 2007, one farmer lamented that whereas his cost of production for one acre of paddy was Rs. 10,000/-, his returns from sale of paddy was only Rs, 800QM Who will compensate him for his loss of Rs. 2000 – per store, was his question? Perhaps only through a co-operative, community approach and benefit-sharing methodology, can one hope to come out of this crisis in of nurturing misconceptions that landowners are ‘vargashatrus’, we need to adopt a philosophy that all of us are but links in a wholesome societal chain, as suggested by an elderly local farmer Adityan Potti, at a recent farmers’ Meeting organized by ‘Navasakti’
Consultancy : ‘Navasakti’ trust will offer expert advice on re-structuring farms to enable them to have the right combination and right density of plants to maximize the productivity of holdings. Advice shall be made available on plant protection methods and efforts will be made to procure appropriate planting materials based on need and sustainability of the land.
Establishing a Village Knowledge Centre: This will be vital for realizing all the above objectives of ‘Navasakti’ Trust in Thazhava Village. Farmers will be trained in the art of gathering relevant information on cultivation practices, sources of planting material and inputs like bio-control agents for disease and pest-control, harvest- and post-harvest technologies, marketing economics, and animal husbandry.
Inter-Institutional Linkages: By creating a network of experts that the local farmers can tap into, ‘Navasakti’ will mainly act as a facilitator and motivator of farmers and their families, by liaising with appropriate institutions and organisations such as KAU, MSSRF, CPCRI, CTCRI, HSR, CMFRI, IIHR, RRII, CWRDM, CDB, Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation, Spices Board, Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, ARTI, other NGO’s and retired scientists, by requesting their help in organizing training programmes, field trips and demonstrations. Initially, Navasakti will operate in and around Thazhava Grama Panchayat, but in course of time may extend its activities to other Villages in Karunagapally Taluk of Kollam District.
Thus, ‘Navasakti’ looks forward to fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the farming community and motivating the youth to adopt modern methods of agri-horticulture, so as to retain them in farming and make it a sustainable and remunerative enterprise using the right varieties, pest and disease control, organic cultivation and value additions to meet the trends in the industry.