Joykutty From Bhaarath
Most of us living in cities hardly know Bharath though people in villages form about 80 % of the population of the country. This story is as much about the hard realities in Bharath as it is about the melodious song of human spirit even while confronting painful challenges. This is the story of an ordinary man, Joykutty from a tucked-away village in Kerala, in Bhaarath (read India)
After his graduation and a year of industrial exposure in Bangalore, Joykutty in 1980 opted to return to his native village in Kerala to help his ageing father manage his small farm of barely 6 acres.
Farmers like him in villages are at the mercy of the vagaries of nature and of the market forces. Two examples from the life of Joykutty illustrate this poignantly.
Smoke House Going Up In Smoke
Rubber plantation was then the mainstay of his family as it was of many other farmers in the area. In 1997 he constructed a smoke house to dry rubber sheets of farmers in the surrounding areas to the right tone and colour, collecting a small fee in the bargain for his services.
The price of rubber soon plummeted and plantation owners found the cost of tapping rubber trees outstripped the income they could get from selling rubber sheets. He did not find takers for his idea and shut shop.
About Vanilla – The Green Gold
Vanilla cultivation (vanilla extract is used in making ice cream, cosmetics etc) was extremely lucrative at the turn of this century. Green vanilla beans were selling at more than Rs.3000 per kg in 2003 and Joykutty thought the idea of a life time had come. As the process and method of cultivation were well-kept secret of wealthy estate owners, he visited many vanilla farms in Kerala to master the subtle nuances involved in their cultivation.
He cut the rubber plantation on his land and planted vanilla creepers in their place. He painstakingly tended the vanilla plants like one takes care of his children, finding about Rs.40,00,000 mainly through borrowing, for buying the costly vanilla creepers, erecting elaborate fencing, arranging for drip irrigation and planting leafy trees for the frail creepers to grow under, and guarding them at night from thieves.
He then shared his new found knowledge with farmers in his district of Kannur. Over a period of three years, Kannur became the number one district in the state for cultivation of vanilla.
Withering Of The Vanilla Dream
After nearly 3 years of nurturing of his vanilla plants, the beans blossomed. But soon, a multi-pronged tragedy unfolded. A majority of his plants rotted on account of a combination of excessive heat during summer and heavy monsoon downpour.
The crash of the world vanilla market followed. From the dizzy heights of more than Rs.3000 per kilo for green beans, the price plunged to about Rs.65 per kg. Some cartels in the West decided that consumers would henceforth use synthetic vanilla, a harmful tar bi-product, to replace natural vanilla. That was the end of the vanilla road for Joykutty and thousands of others. He re-planted rubber trees in his farm.
Nanma – A Coperative Store
Joykutty also led a few friends of his, and started NANMA (Nanma in Malayalam means “goodness”) which is a provision store functioning in the style of a co-operative. Though this venture has been profitable and the quality of provisions supplied speak of good quality, it is yet to pick up steam. Nanma also has a catering wing to help during marriages etc.
Giving Voice To Farmers On The Fringe
Though weighed down by severe financial pressures he is now on to another passion – that of giving voice to farmers on the fringe. He along with a few other sincere, like-minded people founded Indian Organic Farmers Producer Company in 2004 (visit www.iofpcl.com) to protect the farmers from the tentacles of big business houses and middle men. He is now one of the directors of IOFPCL which buys products directly from farmers at prices much higher than what they get from leading business houses. IOFPCL currently is scouting for more buyers in Europe and America for selling their products.
He now also concentrates his energies in popularizing Bio-dynamic Farming and Zero-budget Natural / Spiritual Farming model introduced by Subhash Palekar of Maharashtra. He believes in ethical farming which is all about maintaining the pristine sanctity of the earth, going with the flow of nature. He is equally passionate about ethical marketing of farmers’ produce, which is another name for transparency and integrity in money matters.
Profile Of Courage And Love
Joykutty knows how to raise his level of leadership in crunch situations. He once stood up, weaponless, along with friends of his village, against armed CPI(M) thugs’ designs of rigging Assembly elections by force. Also, he does not think twice about taking a stand against the top hierarchy of the church in their not-so-godly demonstration of power and pelf. With all this, he is deeply spiritual and is frequently seen on some TV channels waxing eloquently on spiritual matters. What is important is, he walks his talk and is an embodiment of love for his immediate family and the lives he touches daily.
One can find fault with him for trading his and his family’s prosperity for the happiness of the world around him. Yet, his life has already impacted hundreds of lives and it would touch several thousands more in the years to come. I wish he also learned the knack of attracting wealth his way while attempting to make others economically self sufficient.
Sadly, those who occupy our consciousness are people like Kasabs, the Thackerays and Mayawatis. Bad news titillate enormously. Yet what makes India remain Special are seemingly ordinary people like Joykutty.
Let a thousand Joykuttys blossom in our land. Let us create a wonderful 2009 for our kids and ourselves.