While the barren piece of land at Niravi Pudhupatti is slowly undergoing a transformation under our watchful eye, there is also an impact on the local socio-economic climate. We provide year-round employment to people in the local villages. The local economy is otherwise subsistence farming, dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon. Since we commenced operations, we have not only demonstrated our short term commitment to the local economy by providing avenues for daily labour irrespective of the climate but have also taken a giant leap of faith by investing in infrastructure. We have built post-harvest processing and bottling facilities within the village and not relied on the facilities available in nearby towns. This infrastructure provides avenues of employment opportunities for the educated youth in the village, who are otherwise headed to cities to realize their employment dreams. An added impetus to create infrastructure within the farm was to maintain a lead-time of “under an hour from harvest to processing” to retain the freshness in the product.
The backbone of our farming endeavours is our group of women. Our strength in the fields, harvest, post-harvest activities and in administrative activities are the women of Niravi Pudhupatti and the surrounding villages. Women from different backgrounds, strata and personal life stories work with us and motivate us with their hard work and perseverance. We are encouraged by their commitment to scale faster, bring in better facilities and help us become a change agent in their life.
Our simple farming endeavor was never fathomed to be a catalyst in the life of the village. All farm hands now have bank accounts, own a vehicle or have dreams of owning one soon. They now dare to dream of a better life and in doing so, alert us to our responsibilities towards them.
We are in an area blessed abundantly with the sun and wind, and our focus has been on tapping into clean sources of energy as we grow.
Bringing back the trees, flowers, birds, bees and butterflies
The environmental impact of every thing we do at the farm has guided our plans, process and practices. It has been a learning curve for us from lessons learnt on the ground as well as from interactions with those who have paved the path of organic, regenerative and sustainable farming practices.
Balancing the negatives of mono-crop plantation with the desire to be a self-sustaining regenerative farm, in the long run, has thrown up interesting challenges and lessons. While we are a mono-crop plantation (acres dedicated purely for Capers or Moringa to achieve efficiency of manpower and infrastructure spend), we rotate crops between beds of the commercial crop with sun hemp, pulses and millets. We also have barrier areas between sections of the farm planted with indigenous tree saplings and flowering shrubs. These not only help in nitrogen-fixing but also provide the green matter for our compost heaps and also get mulched into the soil while being the sacrificial plants for pest attacks.
At the outset of the farming journey, we focused on sturdy plastic mulch sheets to trap moisture, prevent evaporation of precious water from the beds and curb weeds. Over the years, we have experimented in the new areas being cropped with planting in planters created from discarded roof tiles, cylindrical planters made from clay, and bed covers of bio-waste. This approach has helped us enrich the soil and curb the weeds that come up during the monsoon in a more holistic fashion. The health of our plants points to the balance that has been achieved with the environment.
The land we procured in 2012 was bereft of trees, shrubs or any avian life. To correct that imbalance and encourage the symbiosis of birds – insects-flowers-trees, we commenced an afforestation plan. We are focused on planting trees endemic to that region in the hope that the parrots, peacocks and kingfishers that make the nearby villages their home, will soon choose to dwell on our land too. We look forward to their role in pest control so that we continue to be organic in all aspects of our functioning.
The trees (saplings) that are now flourishing on the farm will not only increase the water table in the years to come but will also provide the biomass needed to enrich the land.
We are committed to water conservation and water recharge – a commitment made even before farming operations commenced. This not only led us to identify crops that we would grow but also guided us in investing in state-of-the-art drip line systems for irrigation and fertigation. The natural slope of the terrain is being used to our advantage to channelise water in monsoon towards old dried-up springs. While we use bore wells, we are delighted to note that our peak summer yield of water has been significantly improving since we started working the land in 2014.
Fertigation is done using only certified organic products with an emphasis on time tested formulations made on the farm – cow dung, cow urine, neem, chilly, garlic, and other natural ingredients play a major role in our operations to save the crops from pests. We have fostered relationships with local self-help groups to make some of our fertigation requirements, thereby fostering relationships within the community we work with.