P.P. Mehaboob believes in eating healthy and realised that it is not an option for most people these days. “One cannot eat in peace with the kind of poison our food items come with today and I wish to have some peace of mind while having food.” This is the thought that inspired him to take farming seriously. Mehaboob, a PWD contractor from Alathurpadi, Malappuram, is today an award-winning farmer.
Mehaboob has converted his terrace into a polyhouse with fresh vegetables planted in about 170 grow bags. “Capcisum, green chilli, green bird eye chilli, carrot, cabbage, ladies finger and brinjal, snake gourd. I have them all on my terrace,” he says with pride.
Explaining how he made it happen, Mehaboob says, “I use Thirinana (wick irrigation) system in my farm. This system works like our old oil lamps, the wick sucks up the water that is necessary for the plant. Wick irrigation is now a scheme under Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s Atma programme. The best part of this style of irrigation is that we do not have to water these plants every day. These plants require watering only maybe twice a week.”
Mehaboob started off with 25 grow bags on his terrace. “It’s just been two years since I started my terrace farm. I got training in poly house at Malappuram Agriculture Office and learnt about wick irrigation from Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kozhikode. Right now, I have planted new seeds in 75 bags, just a few days ago on Kerala Piravi day,” he says, sounding very excited and adds, “Apart from these, I have also spread out the pumpkin and ash gourd plants.”
He learnt the art of farming the hard way. “There was always some kind of farming in my house, right from my father’s time. Later on we used to spend money, buy grow bags and grow all kinds of vegetables in them. Unfortunately, all of our efforts used to go to waste because most of them hardly ever survived, due to various reasons. I learnt that vegetable farming is not ideal for a place surrounded by trees.”
He elaborates about the biggest positives of having a vegetable farm to himself. “I only use organic manure and organic pesticides for my plants. As a result, even the leaves from my pumpkin plants are fresh and edible. To be able to consume vegetables without any poison in it is the biggest plus point of all.”
“Vegetable yield from 150 grow bags is more than enough for one family. Sometimes the yield is so good that we even give away some in our neighbourhood. We get around 25 grow bags free from Krishi Bhavan and that is the start of my inspiration. Then the Krishi Bhavan helped set up wick irrigation that turned around things for me on a large scale. Under Atma Scheme, 125 bags were set up, after which I took an effort to fix more pipes and placed more bags.”
Mehaboob has also constructed rain shelters, which help his farm. “I had constructed these under yet another Krishi Bhavan scheme, with a subsidy, and thanks to these shelters, no matter what the climate is, it does not affect the yield. I have been getting fresh brinjal from my terrace farm for the past six months, just imagine! I spent around Rs. 1 lakh to construct this on my house, which is on 2.5 cents of land. I also got a subsidy of Rs. 50,000 for constructing this. ”
For his dedication, Mehaboob was honoured and awarded the Agricultural Award 2017 by Malappuram Krishi Bhavan and Malappuram Municipality. Right now, Mehaboob is busy attending phone calls from curious wannabe farmers to turn their terraces into lush green farms.