Agriculture

An Aeronautical Engineer Turns Teacher for Those Interested in Taking Up Farming

Paramu from Dindigul in Tamil Nadu has big plans from little seeds.
Farmer's Notebook.

At a time when even hardcore farmers are finding it difficult to sustain themselves and are discouraging their children from taking up agriculture, a 24-year-old engineer in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, is doing his best to buck the trend. Parameshwaran, or  Paramu as he is referred to by his friends, was doing a Masters in aeronautical engineering when he decided to become a farmer and get his hands ‘soiled’. What is surprising is that he does not own even a patch of land.

Why did he choose this risky, unpredictable vocation when he could have easily worked in a private company and earned thousands of rupees as salary? Paramu shares his thoughts in an informal chat in his own words:

“I had been pursuing aeronautical engineering, final year in 2012 when I thought that I would be working only for privileged people after my graduation. I discontinued my education and started to do all kinds of daily labour, including working as a helper in a catering service which kept me happy. I trained myself to ignore the many snide remarks I got from my relatives and neighbours – that I was mad to have discontinued my studies and take up farming full time.

“Since 2013, my family is living on a leased farm of six acres. My father, with his 45 years of experience in agriculture has nothing to say except the word “loss”. His earning was Rs.60, 000 in six months but his expense was Rs. 70, 000. Finally he had nothing but debt of more than Rs. 1,50,000. I knew that something was terribly wrong in this type of agriculture and I decided to dedicate myself completely to farming, starting my life right from zero since 2014.

Starting with seeds

“As a first step I started searching for people who are successful in agriculture. I identified and contacted few likeminded people through Facebook. I got a chance to attend a five days training program in organic agriculture, which turned my life around and created a big impact on my understanding about agriculture. One of my Facebook friends asked for native seeds and I started to collect them for him. I was able to collect around 20 varieties of native seeds and gave it to him at Rs. 10 per variety. Thereafter, a few more requests came for the same. I was able to increase supply from 20 varieties to 70 varieties in eight months. Today I have around 150 varieties and am multiplying them with the help of my parents.

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“I am interested very much in collecting variety of brinjal seeds. There are around 4,000 varieties in the country and
nearly 100 from Tamil Nadu alone. Most of the people who seek seeds from me are doing so for for their kitchen
gardening, including terrace gardens. I recommend they buy the seeds only once from me and multiply themselves. I am guiding people to set up a kitchen garden so that those who live in cities can lead a self sustainable lifestyle. I am also
providing suggestions in designing a permaculture farm in agricultural lands.

“At the same time, I am sad to see that those people who buy seeds from me are home gardeners rather than farmers. Farmers who produce crops and sell are not producing their own food according to me. They depend on the vegetables sold in markets for their kitchen all thanks to monoculture. But today we can see many urban people moving towards nonpoisonous food culture by utilising the available space in terraces or backyards. A single person requires 100 sqr ft. of space for cultivating vegetables for himself or herself, one cent is enough for a family for vegetable needs and 33 cents of land is sufficient for cultivating all the crops needed for a self sustainable life.

Paramu, the aeronautical engineer turned farming instructor.

Paramu, the aeronautical engineer turned farming instructor.

“I charge Rs.1,500 for training interested people who call me to set up home and terrace gardens. This income helps me sustain myself now. I also share my knowledge under the name Aadhiyagai (meaning ‘first blooming’). Its objective is to preserve native seeds and eradicate the GM varieties. I had been working as a single person in the beginning and now we have formed a group. We are moving a step ahead and plan to set up gardens in school premises. Awareness will be spread among school children about the importance of self sustainable lifestyle and children can learn how to do home gardening easily by reusing the containers which we throw as waste and pollute the environment. Our next plan is to guide and set up gardens in orphanages, old age homes for their food needs which will reduce their expenses and improve health as well.

Sustainable livelihood

“For earlier generations, agriculture had never been a trade, it was our ancestors’ way of living. Lifestyle was associated with self sustainability within the boundary of the farm. There were no inputs sourced outside the boundary for livelihood. Indeed, agriculture had never been practiced for trade. The green revolution changed all this. Agriculture became a trade and middlemen started dictating prices to farmers who are forced them to look for alternatives. Frustrated unsuccessful farmers encourage their children to go for work in private firms and not suffer their plight. The result is that in the  last
30 years, educated people migrated to urban life and villages became a place where only the elderly reside. Not only have our land turned infertile, our farmers mind also became infertile as far as agriculture is concerned today. As the manpower
for agriculture drastically reduced, farmers started selling their small units of 5-10 acres farming land to realtors.

“The young generation needs to turn towards agriculture. We need to practice agriculture for our livelihoods regardless of the  educational qualification that we hold. We have to stop the agricultural debts that previous generations have accumulated.  Let us start the changes from our side for our forthcoming generations. We are no more going to be dependent on others for our food. The younger generation has already started loving natural way of living. It may not be easy to change one’s ways but one must try.

“My aim is to buy an acre of land for my parents from my earnings in a few years. My dream is that I must make it self
sustainable without any expenses. If this thinking is possible for me then it should be possible for many youngsters too. My only goal is to show to the world that agriculture, like other professions, is also
remunerative,” says Paramu.

Those interested can reach Paramu at Kuttiyagoundanpudur Village, Oddanchathram Taluk, Dindigul District 624619, Tamil Nadu. Telephone: 08526366796 and 08973982739. Email: paramez.zurich@gmail.com. He can also be reached via Facebook.