May 10, 2011
Subhramanyam and his wife Marudai live on a 750 square meter plot in Maeskiliya, Sri Lanka. 500 square meters of their homestead is used as a home garden. Subhramanyam used to grow vegetables and fruits in the garden using chemical fertilizer and pesticides. He was not careful about maintaining variety in his selection of fruit and vegetable crops. He didn’t think about the nutritional needs of the family– his crops were sold rather than being eaten by the family. Growing crops this way cost him 3000-3500 Rupees each four-month growing season, and he could sell his crops for 5000-5500 Rupees.
In 2008, Subhramanyam received eco-agriculture training by MONLAR, a PWRDF partner focused on teaching about and supporting organic and ecological home gardening in Sri Lanka. Now, he plants 10 to 12 different varieties of vegetables each season and grows a variety of fruits including guava, papaya, banana and jack fruit. He built a compost pit and uses the compost instead of chemical fertilizer. MONLAR taught him to prepare fermented juice from fallen leaves and cow dung and use the concoction as a natural pesticide. Now that he practices eco-agriculture, the cost for his crops each season ranges from 500 to 1000 Rupees. The income from his produce has remained the same, which has significantly increased the family’s income.
After working with MONLAR for a year Subhramanyam now favours indigenous crops which grow well, conserve biodiversity and need less support. Each season, he preserves some of his own seeds from the indigenous varieties he plants. It is difficult to get indigenous varieties of all the fruits and vegetables he grows, so he still gets seeds from the market to grow crops such as carrots.
During the dry season, watering the garden was a challenge. He has learned to save his kitchen and bath water to use in the garden. He also learned to use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.
Subhramanyam is healthier since he began eating the organic produce of his home garden. Before working with MONLAR, he often had gastrointestinal problems. These problems have diminished since changing his diet, leading to fewer visits to the doctor. Each day the family eats at least four different vegetables grown in their garden. Since they stopped using chemical fertilizer, they have also been able to gather more types of leafy vegetables that are growing naturally in their garden and are very nutritious.
Even after MONLAR field workers stopped working with him directly, Subhramanyam is able to contact them if he has a question or a problem to solve. MONLAR has taught him a valuable lesson that will enable him to grow clean healthier food in a sustainable manner and have a direct impact in improving the health of his family.