It was in November 1, 2006 (Kerala formation day) that the Niravu Residents Association, Vengeri in Kozhikode City corporation decided to actively take to organic farming and ensure that every member household had a backyard vegetable garden for them. Niravu had as many as 101 residents then. When the forum came across a scarcity of good and indigenous vegetable seeds, its members decided to collect vegetable seeds from different parts of the State.
NIRAVU was formed Inspired by the then Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achyuthanandan’s exhortation on November 1, 2006 (Kerala Day) to social workers to take up at least one task each with dedication. We have constructed a one-kilometre-long new road linking Netaji Road and Janapriya Road, which spared the residents of a long detour in their daily travels. We are collective of hundred and one residents of the area at Calicut district, Kerala-India .
State's organic farming policy
Former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan unveiled the State's organic farming policy in a function held at Vengeri village on May 9, 2010. It seems to be ‘Vengeri’ is the right place for unveiling the State's organic farming policy. For the past four years, no chemical fertilizer or pesticide has been used at Vengeri. More importantly, all residential and vacant plots within this ward grow vegetable and fruit-bearing trees. Before 2006, Vengeri's story was like that of other places in the State. Dreams of Public Service Commission recruitment and jobs in the Gulf were foremost on every youth's mind and farming, the traditional occupation of the people, was suffering. When K.C. Anilkumar was elected as an independent from the ward in 2005, a socio-economic survey of the 1,824 houses in Vengeri on the lines of the Kerala Studies conducted by the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP), under the guidance of Green activist Professor Sobhindran, winner of the National Vrikshamithra Award, Sr (Dr) Ancilla, Principal of the Providence Women’s College, and Corporation Councillor K. C. Anil Kumar. Detected five cases of cancer in women in the locality who neither smoked nor consumed alcohol. Having come to the conclusion that the malady was caused by the consumption of pesticides-socked vegetables and fruits brought from mainly outside the State, the NIRAVU fraternity decided to transform Vengeri into a Zero pesticides organic farming village.
The faculty of the Pathology Department at the Kozhikode medical college told Mr. Anilkumar that consumption of vegetables grown using fertilizers and pesticides could be responsible. He then rallied support for a campaign to make the ward self-sufficient in food and use of only organic manure to grow the crops. it was decided to raise paddy on 10 acres as a community effort. Agriculture officials said the effort was bound to fail as seeds, labour and organic manure were scarce and the youth would not cooperate. We got ‘mundakan' seeds from an old Vengeri farmer. Sixty-one houses owned cows here but the cow dung provided by just 20 households was sufficient for manure. The Principal of Providence College asked for 100 students, 175 NSS members from the college volunteered. Soon, the 12 residents' associations and the 36 Kudumbasree units in the ward joined in. In 2008, a large-scale vegetable farming initiative began on 12.5 acres, armed with a government subsidy of Rs.50,000. The vegetables harvested that year included spinach, okra, bitter-gourd, snake-gourd, pumpkin, cucumber and brinjal. We earned Rs.1.37 lakh and spent only Rs.33,000 from the subsidy. More importantly, we learnt about optimum water use, using the right manure and warding away pests. In 2009, a ‘Thousand Kitchen Gardens' project was launched so that every household had a vegetable farm. Today, we grow all the vegetables we need.
Unique and endearing
NIRAVU stands out among neighbourhood residents’ associations in several respects. The entrance gates of NIRAVU households are always kept open and their backyards never walled up and shuttered. Families interact freely and move from one compound to another unhindered by walls and gates. The sense of camaraderie this generates should be seen to be belived.
That agriculture has sparked a cultural renaissance in Vengeri is another aspect the residents are proud of. We have organised a ‘Chakka Mahotsavam' in March 2009 with 63 food items produced from jackfruit, followed by an exhibition in November showcasing 150 food items, artefacts and implements made from the coconut tree. Once a year, all the families shut their kitchens and come out and join in a cook-in get-together. NIRAVU members believe that keeping their surroundings clean is important for their general welfare. The head of each family is held responsible for the upkeep of his/her surroundings and the stretch of road in front of the house. They process their household garbage into manure and recycle whatever they can. They gather the unrecyclable wastes for delivery to the Corporation dumps once in three months. The cumulative impact is visible in having a very clean Vengeri.Our logo indicates our ideas which designed by artist Madanan
1 lakh seedlings
In 2009 when agitations against BT brinjal erupted across the country, the residential forum decided to respond to the development in a creative way. We decided to get ready as many as 1 lakh seedlings of this variety of brinjal and distribute them among people from different parts of the State. A variety of brinjal was among four unique varieties of vegetables we collected as part of an aggressive drive to gather as many good vegetable seeds as possible. All the 101 residents cooperated fully with the drive and more than 1 lakh saplings was prepared. The then Agriculture Minister(Kerala state) had even visited the place to appreciate the initiative. It was during this period that KAU Director of Research T.R. Gopalakrishnan visited Niravu Vengeri to witness their agricultural initiative. He collected the seeds of this brinjal and handed them over to the Olericulture Department of KAU for a study of the variety. It was following this that Dr. Indira undertook a study on this variety of brinjal. The Kerala Agricultural University had recently granted a certificate of merit stating that the ‘Vengeri Brinjal’ was high yielding, relatively tasty and suitable for backyard vegetable gardens. Saplings of ‘Vengeri brinjal,’ an indigenous variety of brinjal popularised by the residential forum ‘Niravu Vengeri,’ will soon be available commercially with the Centre for Environment and Development, an autonomous research and development body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, deciding to tissue culture and make it widely available to the public.
Niravu Organic Village
The members of Niravu, a collective formed by 101 households in Vengeri Near Kozhikode district in Kerala, is spreading their mission-“connecting farmers” through their new project “NIRAVU ORGANIC VILLAGE, KOZHIKODE”, which, they claim, is sustainable and can spark interest in agriculture. The zero-budget plastic waste management programme conceived and successfully launched by the Niravu Residents Association at Vengeri here is now being extended to many residential association and also to Calicut Airpot and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode. Our mission is, Niravu model would be extended to entire Kerala in the next five years with the help of school students, youngsters, and farmers. A ‘light revolution’ is slowly emerging in Kozhikode. As in many other groundbreaking, eco-friendly initiatives, we are the epicentre of this pioneering initiative too. It all began as part of an energy conservation project, ‘Oorjasree' (assembling LED lights)..