Is Kerala repeating Cuba’s path of farming?

Kerala and Cuba has undergone tremendous social reforms.
They also have a lot of things in similar be it foot ball, tourism (tourism is one of the main sources of income in kerala and cuba), politics(Communist Party has high influence). It reminds me of a Malayalam movie by sreenivasan Arabikatha. Actor Srinivasan’s name in the movie is “cuba Mukundan”. He has great respect for cuba and its leaders. In the movie Mukundan is forced to work in gulf country and he tries to propagate his ideology in Gulf. But all in vain. You can read more here cuba Mukundan.

Farming currently in Kerala is heavily dependent on subsidies from government.

Agriculture has a little different story, or rather kerala is repeating cuba’s mistake.
Petroleum products(Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, tillers, deweeder) have become a must. Having said so Cuba once was on this path. Heavily dependent on petroleum products and subsidies from souvient union.
Cuba’s agriculture came to a halt with the collapse of Soviet Union. Cheap fuel for tractors were unavailable. Pesticides and fertilizers ran out of stock. As a result Production fell drastically.
On the onset of this situation cattle was slaughter and eaten. Killing a cow is crime in Cuba. But that has not controlled the drop in cattle numbers from 7m to 4m. source
In a desperate attempt to survive cuba was forced to revert back to its age old traditional way of farming. Manual Labour and oxen returned to the fields. All the hybrid cows were replaced with zebu cattle. Unlike the former cows zebu cattle could feed on the road side grass and farm waste.
Cuba is back on track, however they still import grains, legumes and cooking oil from other country. Vegetables, tubers, sugar are produced locally.
Urban farming has also been very effective in Cuba. Most people consume fresh produce.
It has been documented well that even without synthetic chemicals and pesticides quality and quantity food can be grown in Cuba or any other part of the world. Indian has been practicing it for many centuries.
Most western society is unaware of sustainable farming or they consider it waste of time. They will never understand sustainable farming till the time they get cheap oil.
Why most Keralites don’t farm anymore?
Kerala has its unique set of problems. It rains for more than six months starting from mid may till november. It becomes ideal breeding ground for weeds and wild trees. Lot of things have to be considered and taken care when farming here in Kerala.
Because of rains and the landscape most parts of Kerala has forest. People are located on small pockets every where unlike other parts of India. So any form of Industrial development or large scale farming can cause or disrupt the lives of people. Kasaragod is one of the best example.
Rain water carries all the pollutants with it. Spreading diseases and poison in the food chain.
This makes average malayalee to flee to other parts of the world and earn his living. Rest now lookout for government jobs.Leaving the fields and cultivable land unproductive.
Remaning people in Kerala earn their living through lottery, liquor, land deals, construction work,  remittance and tourism.
I agree that corruption is less in kerala as compare to other parts of the world. Most people get regular meals. Government hospitals are also not in bad shape. By the way Kerala has the highest density of hospitals in India. Is this a good sign? Most people are always sick. Anyways how long can you sustain such expensive process?
Coconuts and nendrapazham are produced in bulk locally. So it is cheap, rest every thing has to be imported and is expensive.
There are farmers and hobby cultivators located in every part of Kerala. One best solution is to get the merchants and stockist out of the buying and selling picture. Creating farmers market to sell their surplus production directly to the population should help farmers and consumers.

Is Kerala really Better than other Indian States?

Producing food is a loss making venture. Merchants buy produce for dirt cheap from farmers and sell at a higher price. So paddy fields or any productive land is converted to housing property with the help of panchayat offices. yes all this is because of decision making or implementing powers with the local government officials.
I feel that Kerala has not developed actually it has and is degrading. If you cannot locally produce and feed your people then how do you say Kerala is way above other states in India. Human basic needs are food, clothing and shelter.
If you have to understand kerala’s problems you have to stay with the locals and understand, how problematic a average malayalees life has become. Everything is way too expensive and their is absolutely no choice you have to live with what you get even in the interior parts of Kerala. Wage for most workers are 500 to 700 rupees a day.
I wonder when oxen will be seen ploughing the fields in Kerala!!!
This article has 4 Comments
  1. Yes we understand the problem . now what is the solution. there are several persons like you really intended to go back to agriculture activities . but in kerala land price and labor cost is beyond any workable formula. rest left with courtyard farming but again economically non sustainable. so what solution we can bring. are we better to choose neighboring states to produce foods by ourselves and keep our home in kerala?

  2. Hello Rajan,

    Thank you for the comment.

    If you visit most part of Kerala Town or panchayats close to bigger towns. Land is scarce. But when you visit panchayats and small villages there is so much of uncultivated land.
    Land prices are high where a property or house can be build. Paddy fields are relatively very cheap.
    I agree on the labour part. But don’t you think healthy individuals can easily manage half acre of land. Produce rice for their family and also sell surplus vegetables in the market.(Concern is when you compare the income of a farmer with a government employee it will be way to low) This makes most people not spend any time in fields. Grains and other food products are always available through ration and other govt agencies.

    Yes as you said, there are many people looking forward to do farming. I would say take a firm decision and step into farming. Things will work out in some time.

    but again most people will only do farming when all this sources stop, when oil becomes scarce. Life is way to easy now.

  3. Though the author had written in context of Kerala, but this is common phenomenon in other parts of India. But the intensity varies.

    Though I haven’t spoken to second/third generation farmers. Majority of them cannot think of farming without Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides. Even when you talk of sustainable farming by means of integrating livestock, they cannot or not willing to accept.

    On doing certain basic analysis I am seeing the following

    1) Knowingly or unknowingly we all are towards consumerism. Pay the money and get it from shops/markets – attitude. Lost the habit of storing food items/seeds till or for next season/harvest.
    2) Willingness to work is very low. Want to earn quick money by hook or crook. This is the common phenomenon across the entire society (There may be very few exceptions)
    3) Everything in denominated by Fiat Currency. Which doesn’t hold its value. You are always on the run to make more money to continue having the same life style.
    4) It has been forced by the society (Govt. /System whatever you want to call) that every person is bound to make payments periodically (weekly/monthly/quarterly/annually etc.). Whereas there is no such concept in farming.

    Though above is not an exclusive list, but these are some of the points to ponder.

    1. “Though above is not an exclusive list, but these are some of the points to ponder.”
      I want to read more points from you. This is an excellent list.

  4. Dear Anoop,
    keep up the good work. would like to meet you next time when Iam coming to kerala next time .though I am in mumbai for the last 35 years I have strong roots in kerala ;my mother,sis ,and bro are there at N.parur EKM dist
    hope to see you soon.
    regards,
    ranjit

    ———-
    Dear Ranjit,

    Thank you. sure send you a PM.

  5. Hi Anoop,

    I became Mumbikar in the year 1994 before leaving from my home in Thiruvalla in search of greener pastures. I came across with your blog today and I am stumped to know that an urban-raised youngster went to nature for a sustainable living. I salute you for your brave attempt and wishes all the best. Just would like to know – do you employ people for manual labour or do yourself? How do you cope up with the exorbitant financial demands of the labourers? Do you think that the decision you took was a life-turning one?

    ——————

    Benny, Thank you.

    Our property is small and not like a big farm. And I do most of the activity. planting, harvesting, getting grass for cows etc.etc. I even pluck coconuts, tree climbing is in my genes, all my uncles and grandfather are good at it. After all I belong to thiyya community.

    But I mastered harvesting coconuts after I settled in Kerala. I spend 3 months with a traditional plucker, he also happens to be my relative. I still some times go out for harvesting nuts with a friend. 2 to 3 hours of hard work pays off descend, plus no reporting to the boss or dead lines.

    Yes labor is so dam expensive. I am a farmer cum labour with other skills, I feel all this while I have been able to survive with what I love doing is because I am blessed. But mind you I have many problems with family and relatives. Because when I am suppose to earn descend I am trying to be a waste, anyways I am not bothered with what people say. Every one dies be it poor or rich. I also started working online again because of some financial crisis(house construction is so dam expensive here in kerala) I wanted to build a mud house. But you know how malayalees are my family members, neighbors, parents no one allowed me. anyways things happen for good.

    I even plan to buy some paddy field which has so far not worked out. No cash in hand.

    Online and farm produce has not been smooth for me all this time. Some times I earn from it, I know it will take some more time. Harvesting nuts has been smooth for me with regular income. However I am finding it difficult to move out as I have 2 cows and a Bull now, one cow will deliver by this month end, so will have to manage all together 4 cows. Too much of work. I currently live with my dad elder sister she is in here 70′s.
    I am 28 and not married. I am planing to get married with some who can get here hands dirty in the fields.

    Its not so difficult to lead a simple life. Provided you have a understanding partner. Some time again in future will be offline with no cell phone, cam and comp.

    Hoping things with work out.

  6. Great work friend! You’re living the real life! Glory to the farmers of this great country!

    ——————

    Thank you. indeed they are the one’s who run the economy. As Bahadur Shastri mentioned “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”

  7. Hi Anoop,

    True, as you had mentioned, natural farming requires lot of effort, especially in understanding nature’s way and I think Fukuoka talked about it in his books, but probably people don’t dig much and indicate, natural farming is leaving everything to nature. For example, Fukuoka had mentioned during transition weeding, composting etc will be required. He had asked to dig trenches and put organic matter (cut wood parts) to it in order to develop an orchard, while planting saplings, deep hole should be put and coarse organic matter should be filled into it.

    Keep it going, good work !!

    Regards,
    Nandan
    http://farming-experiments.blogspot.in/

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