Kerala: Home-grown Flowers Add Colour to Onam Celebrations in Kattakada
MLA IB Satheesh inaugurating the cultivation of flowers in Kattakada Panchayat in the presence of president and councillors (courtesy: IB Satheesh)
Athapookkalam or Pookkalam (flower rangoli) is an integral part of Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala. The rangoli requires various flowers in different designs and patterns in temples, houses and public places. People have depended on neighbouring states for the flowers during the Onam season so far.
In an attempt to change the decades-long practice, 'Nammude Poovu, Nammude Onam' (Our Flowers, Our Onam), was launched in the Kattakada Assembly constituency.
Several local bodies, educational institutions and individuals joined hands in the effort to cultivate flowers. Now, home-grown flowers, predominantly marigolds and chrysanthemums, meet the demand during the Onam festival in the constituency.
Taking a cue from this, the Kudumbashree, the women's self-help group, have also joined the project of cultivating and selling flowers through special outlets.
Around 500 groups have joined the venture in 11 districts in an area of more than 130 acres.
Despite rain spoiling the yield, the efforts have borne fruit as the flowers have been in high demand, with the festival being celebrated on September 8.
ATTEMPT ATTRACTS MANY
The scheme to cultivate the flowers in Kerala was conceived and implemented in the Kattakada Assembly constituency. The constituency's legislator, IB Satheesh, inaugurated the sampling planting programs in June and July with wide participation.
While several individuals willingly joined the program, local bodies, including Kattakada, Malayinkeezh and Pallichal village panchayats, also stepped up the campaign to rope in people. In Malayinkeezh, the NSS volunteers in the MMS Government Arts and Science College and students of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Naruvamoodu, also stepped in.
MLA IB Satheesh, inaugurating the planting of saplings in Chinmaya Vidyalaya in July (Courtesy:.facebook.com/ib.sathish.9)
Justin Jose of Kattakada, who farms his 1.5 acres of land around his house, is among people who joined the floriculture attempt without hesitation.
“I have been into agriculture for the past several years, planting mangoes, and rambutan among 20 varieties. When our MLA called upon the people to harvest flowers for Onam, I had no second thoughts,” he said.
Justin Jose in his farm with 2000 grown up plants of marigold.
Jose has harvested 100 kgs already, with another 200 kgs expected to be sold in the next couple of days.
“We had no idea how and where to get the saplings. The efforts of the MLA and the Kattakada panchayat ensured the timely purchase of saplings,” Jose added.
Nishanth, another small farmer in the area, has cultivated flowers on his land and runs a shop to sell flowers to the public at the initiative of the gram panchayat.
“I have planted 1000 saplings in my 15 cents land. The flowers are in high demand from the schools and offices celebrating Onam with fervour after a gap of two years,” he said.
Had rain not affected the yield, Nishanth would have sold much higher than the 200 kgs he has sold so far.
NIshanth selling a variety of flowers for the Onam festival.
“As the festival is approaching, people are happy to purchase locally cultivated flowers. Previously, we have been relying on Thovalai for all kinds of flower purchases,” he said on the patronage he received.
LOCAL BODIES STEP IN
The mission achieved traction when three gram panchayats also stepped into cultivation.
Kattakada, Pallichal and Malayinkeezh grama panchayats played an active role in encouraging individuals to join the campaign.
In Kattakada, the ward councillors themselves took up the task of cultivating flowers on the land owned by the panchayat.
“We three ward councillors, with the able support of the residents and Area Development Society (ADS) of Kudumbashree, took up the task. We got a yield of 15 kgs so far with around 50 kgs ready for harvest,” Kumari, one of the councillors, said.
Kumari, Dhivya and Shiny Mol, all first time councillors, with local residents in the farm, are happy with the yield they have managed.
Most of those who cultivated the flowers are eager to continue in the coming years.
“I have planned to increase the area cultivation with more variety of flowers in the next year,” said Jose.
The local bodies and the state horticulture mission have played a crucial role in empowering the interested farmers to undertake floriculture.
K Anil Kumar, president of the Kattakada panchayat, told Newsclick, “We ensured the purchase of a hybrid variety of marigold saplings from Bengaluru for all who joined this mission. Further, financial aid has been sanctioned to the schemes available with the agriculture department.”
The culture of growing vegetables is increasing in Kerala since allegations of vegetables with dangerous pesticides have made an impact. A similar effort has been proved successful, with flowers being cultivated for the traditional Onam festival across the state, with Kattakada stealing the limelight.
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