For many, agriculture is the means for a livelihood, but for Kunjumol, farming was a way to distract herself from the sudden loneliness she faced when her husband died.
Kunjumol, a widow from the outskirts of Iddukki has turned her 10-acre plot into a rich farm where she cultivates coffee, pepper, coconut, paddy, vegetables and other spices.
Kunjumol has developed an integrated farming method in her land, planning, calculating and applying it meticulously. The cow dung and other wastes from animals are used as manure and for biogas. Agricultural wastes are used to feed the animals.
“We have vermi compost pits. This is a good way to manage the wastes and it is used as manure.”
This agricultural explorer, the daughter of Kunjachan and Mariyama from Munnar was married to Jose George from Parathodu when she was 25. Till then, agriculture was something, which she had seen from far away. Later, she entered into farming with the support of her husband and family. She was blessed with two children Anoop and Arun.
“I had no idea about farming. In the initial days, I used to go with my husband and in-laws to the farm. My father-in-law taught me to plant trees. It took a lot of time for me to get accustomed to an agricultural family,” said Kunjumol.
The main crop here is coffee. There are 10,000 plantains, 4000 pepper plants and 250 cardamom plants. Paddy is cultivated in one and a half acre of land and the yield is around 3000 kilograms of paddy
It was 16 years back that she lost her husband all of a sudden and was shattered. The responsibility of the entire family rested now on her shoulders. Even though she fell into deep depression, she had to cope and come out of it.
This was when Kunjumol turned to farming. The plants and soil gave her support and strength to overcome her loneliness. After 17 years, she is a successful farmer now, with sustainable and integrated farming.
“I wanted to overcome my sadness. It was hard to accept my husband’s death. But I had no other way. I had to take care of my kids. I never wanted to work outside. That’s when I felt that farming would be the best option. Here I depend on nature. Outside I have to work like a slave listening to other’s instructions. ”
Even though there is no proper transport facility from this remote area, Kunjumol successfully markets her yield. Plantains and vegetables are sold in the market founded by the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council on every Wednesday and Saturday. The rest of the products are sold in the nearest towns-Adimali and Kambilikandam by transporting it in rented vehicles.
“I get immense support from my relatives and neighbors. Our agricultural officers and people over here are of great help. I could not have survived if I was alone.”
Kunjumol has combined agriculture and animal husbandry together with a proper water management system. She farms in the 10 acres of land, which is the ancestral property of her husband . Here she cultivates paddy, coffee, cocoa, pepper, vegetables and spices. She also raises cows, goats, buffaloes, poultry and fish.
She has 30 hens which lay 150 eggs per week, 3 cows, 3 calves, 1 buffalo, rabbits, ducks and two ponds with fish.
Every seed, plant and animal in Kunjumol’s farm gets individual attention from her. The farm has an excellent water management system with 5 ponds around the 10 acres.
“I personally take care of each plant and animal here. They are my strength. I do not feel lonely when I am with them.”
Her greatest support is a group of faithful farm hands to work for her. There are six permanent members to help her, including men and women and she considers them as her family members.
Kunjumol Jose from a remote village of Kerala sets an example for those women who struggle to be emotionally independent and self sustained. This women farmer has proved herself to be a woman of substance and continues to be a hardworking and passionate farmer.