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Thiruvananthapuram local self-government bodies promote flower cultivation for Onam

Flowers are grown in several panchayats in Thiruvananthapuram in view of the Onam market

Flowers are grown in several panchayats in Thiruvananthapuram in view of the Onam market

Dew-soaked marigolds, chrysanthemums, jasmine and oleander in full bloom sway in the breeze at Plamoottukkada near Parassala, about 30 kilometers from Thiruvananthapuram. Here, on an 80-cent plot, the Parassala block panchayat is promoting Poovili 2022, a project to encourage floriculture.

Also in Thiruvananthapuram, marigolds are also grown on almost 8.51 acres in six grama panchayats spread over the block panchayats of Nemom and Vellanad.

Thiruvananthapuram local self-government bodies have made every effort to promote floriculture to take advantage of the blooming Onam market to make floral carpets, which are an integral part of the celebrations. The plan is to reduce reliance on flower markets in Kanyakumari district and Bengaluru during Onam. Several blocks and grama panchayats grow flowers on their own plots, albeit on a small scale.

“It was an ambitious project. But the result exceeded our expectations and we had a bumper crop, particularly of marigolds, in May this year. Now the second batch of marigolds is ready for harvest,” says SK Ben Darvin, Parassala bloc panchayat chairman. “We had people coming from other parts of the district to see the flowers,” adds Alvedisa A, vice president of the panchayat.

The Parassala block panchayat launched the project in March this year, as part of the five-year plan. Marigold in three shades of dark yellow and orange, oleander in red, pink and baby pink, and different varieties of jasmine such as kuttimulla and pichi have been planted.

Ambitious project

“We adopted the mulching method (to prevent weeds and protect the roots and soil) with drip irrigation. Initially, 20-day-old marigold saplings were planted and within two months we got the harvest. We get 40 to 50 flowers from one plant,” says S Vijayakumar, a former agricultural officer and Agro Service Center facilitator, who provided assistance and advice for the project.

SK Ben Darvin, Chairman, Parassala Block Panchayat, Alvedisa A, Vice Chairman of Panchayat and S Vijayakumar, Facilitator, Agro Service Center

SK Ben Darvin, Chairman, Parassala Block Panchayat, Alvedisa A, Vice Chairman of Panchayat and S Vijayakumar, Facilitator, Agro Service Center | Photo credit: SREEJITH R KUMAR

About 450 kilograms of marigold have been harvested up to July, in addition to 200 kilograms of chrysanthemum, 10 kilograms of jasmine and 15 kilograms of oleander. They have achieved sales worth ₹40,000 so far. The goal is to collect around 200 kilograms of flowers for Onam.

Oleander (arali)

Oleander ( Arali) | Photo credit: SREEJITH R KUMAR

Flower prices are the same as Thovala in Kanyakumari, Ben adds. Marigold, usually priced at ₹50-60 per kilogram, costs ₹250 and above during Onam. Oleander buds usually fetch ₹1,000 per kilogram, while flowers are sold at ₹150 per kilogram. Prices of both kuttimulla and pichinormally priced at ₹150 per kilogram, can go up to ₹1,000-1,500 during the festival, which coincides with the wedding season in Kerala.

SK Ben Darvin, President of the Parassala Block Panchayat, at the UP Lutheran School Worry Farm, Ponvila

SK Ben Darvin, Parassala Block Panchayat President, at Lutheran UP School Marigold Farm, Ponvila | Photo credit: SREEJITH R KUMAR

The first batch of jasmine and oleander continues to yield. “It is necessary to prune these plants regularly to ensure a better yield,” says Vijayakumar. The panchayat has also grown 30 cent marigold at the premises of UP Lutheran School, Ponvila, which is ready for harvest.

Floriculture in five grama panchayats of Vilappil, Vilavoorkkal, Malayinkeezhu, Maranalloor and Pallichal under the Nemom bloc panchayat, and Kattakkada under the Vellanad bloc panchayat was an initiative of MP Kattakkada IB Sathish. This is done under the close supervision of the Nemom bloc panchayat committee. The Kerala Land Use Board also provides the support.

Marigold Farm in Kattakkada

Marigold Farm in Kattakkada | Photo credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It is implemented under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) – Watershed Component in convergence with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). “It was a new venture, but we were able to implement it well,” says Ajikumar K, Block Development Manager at Nemom.

The 33 beneficiaries of the scheme include individual farmers and groups of farmers. “Our marigold farm is 20 cents. It was a challenge when we started but now we are looking forward to the harvest. As we have to water the plants twice a day, we do it in separate batches,” says Sheeja Kumari V, a member of a 20-member group from Maranalloor.

Inauguration of the marigold harvest in Pallichal.  The farm is managed by the Farm in Trivandrum group

Inauguration of the marigold harvest in Pallichal. The farm is managed by the Farm in Trivandrum group | Photo credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Farm in Trivandrum (FiT), an agricultural joint venture, grows 50-cent marigolds in the Kannamkode neighborhood of Pallichal. “We grow several crops, especially fruit trees, tubers, etc. Marigold was introduced as an intercrop. The women employed under MGNREGS prepared the land and we did not have to spend on saplings as it was provided by the Krishi Bhavan. The harvest will start before Atham (August 30),” explains Vinod Venugopal, who conceptualized the FiT.

The panchayats plan to continue floriculture even after Onam. “It will be an additional source of income and our dream is to make it a flowery village,” adds Ben.

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera