It's a happening rural life

It's a happening rural life

IN THEIR STRIDE  The Muliya village may not have a mall or a restaurant
to hang around in, but the villagers have sure found a productive way to keep their lives vibrant with agricultural pogrammes, observes Anitha Pailoor

At a time when villages are dubbed as mere nature retreats, a few farmers in Dakshina Kannada district are organising activities that showcase the vibrancy of rural life.

Preparations are on for the two farmer gatherings planned in the early months of 2015 in the Muliya village of Dakshina Kannada district. Such meetings focusing on information sharing and plant

exchange have given a new dimension to the rural life in this part of the state. Farmers’ groups from neighbouring areas also participate actively.  About 20 farming families in and around Bantwala taluk have come together, under the banner of Halasu

Snehi Koota (Jackfruit Friends Forum). It is not a registered body, but the idea of creating a forum took a definite shape in 2011, when a programme to ‘taste and select’ best jackfruit varieties was organised in Muliya Venkatakrishna Sharma’s house.

The forum came into existence in April, 2012. Initially, it worked towards creating awareness on the significance of jackfruit to the eco-system, with an emphasis on varietal conservation, consumption and value-addition. The idea was to popularise jackfruit as a vital product of nature.Overwhelming response to the programmes encouraged the core members to think of other aspects of the village life that need attention.

Rues Kadambila Krishna Prasad, a key member of the forum, “Agriculture, here, is no more the meaningful way of life that it used to be. Our food habits have lost the touch of nativity and traditional wisdom. In a bid to increase our assets, we seem to be forgetting health and
happiness.”Thus, seven programmes that touch upon different components of agri-
cultural life have been organised in the last two years. It includes three jack-
fruit fairs, one tuber fair, one millet

programme, one vegetable fair and a wild fruits programme. Some of them are hosted by the farmers while others are organised in a government school in Muliya village.
Each programme spans a day and

requires a minimum of three-month preparation. Muliya Venkatakrishna is the major force behind the initiative. He shoulders most of the responsibilities, from conceptualisation to execution.

Shirankallu Narayana Bhat and Varmudi Shivaprasad are other active members of the forum. Tasks which vary from growing necessary crops to sourcing a variety or material are assigned to members.Unlike other social and agriculture-

related gatherings, women’s participation in these programmes is on par with men’s.
Organic vegetable cultivation was discussed in detail in the programme
Varshavidee Tarakari (Vegetable Round The Year) at Malya Shankaranarayana Bhat’s home in Puncha village. The day-long interaction explored both

time-honoured and innovative ideas involved in seed preservation and
treatment, planting, pest management, harvest, conservation and marketing. The discussion was aimed at minimising

dependency on the mainstream market alone. Malya family had grown about
20 varieties of vegetables to demonstrate the possibilities. 

About 50 edible tubers were displayed at Balu Upakari Gadde Tarakari (Useful Tuber Vegetables) programme hosted by Kaje family in Manchi village. “It was a rare experience. It gave a new dimension to the concept of food security,” says
Vasanth Kaje, an IT professional who is actively involved in the forum's activities.

In April 2014, the forum introduced millets to the rice-centred cuisine of
Dakshina Kannada. The programme narrated the significance of millet
cultivation and consumption: the growing of millet has a soothing effect
on environment and its consumption has great nutitional benefits.

For that purpose, rice was replaced by millet in a variety of dishes that are unique to the
region. Another programme on wild fruits emphasised on the need to
consume and conserve lesser known food varieties, particularly wild fruits. One more interaction threw light on the significance of medicinal plants in daily diet.
All these programmes are designed

in such a way that the audience get useful information. Experts create awareness about the subject, linking it to the present situation, its relevance to the farming
community, and also share their personal experiences and perform demo-cooking of the special recipes.

A small fee is fixed depending on the nature of the programme. Remaining
expenses are met by the organisers, with the help of donors. Some of the
programmes are supported by the Horticulture Department and the
University of Agricultural Sciences.Each and every such acitvity gives
opportunity for the farmers to exhibit their produce. Be it a vegetable or a fruit,
varietal display is a regular feature of these programmes.

Observes Ubaru Rajagopala Bhat, “It leads to information exchange and inspires market-dependent participants to grow their own vegetables. Also, it has given an opportunity for farmers to awaken their creativity and look at farm life from a different angle: While the value of native food has enhanced in their views, it has also encouraged them to get involved in conservational activities. Most of the people who participated in the programme, so far, have developed a taste for home-grown food.”

After collecting about 30 commonly used leafy vegetables, Vani Sharma is now focusing on uncultivated ones. “I am able to notice quite a few long-forgotten, wild and edible leaves in my farm,” she remarks.

But above all, according to Muliya Venkatakrishna, it gives a sense of
fulfillment and helps farmers overcome the inferiority complex that is imposed upon them. It is also an attempt to assert that village life is not stagnant. It may not have a mall or a restaurant to hang around in, but the villagers have sure found a productive way to keep their lives

happening. These activities help them
look beyond routine agricultural chores and explore new possibilities. Naturally, it changed the lifestyle of the villagers.

Interestingly, these programmes have caught the attention of urban dwellers
as well. Says Mamatha, a resident of

Mangaluru, “I have a kitchen garden in my apartment. When I learnt about the programme, through a newspaper, I
was curious enough to attend. And
then, I returned not only with valuable
information, but also high-quality seeds.”

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