Organic vegetable cultivation and marketing

 Gramiya is a member NGO in LEISA network of Pudukkottai district since 1995.  It has been working in a number of villages in that area promoting ecological agriculture. Malayandi is one such village, where Gramiya has made some interventions.

Vegetable cultivation plays an important role in the livelihoods of the farming community here. Usually, women in the family are involved in vegetable cultivation on the little space available in their backyards. Vegetable cultivation has been a source of nutrition besides providing income to the family. With Gramiya’s support, these farmers have been growing vegetables organically. But marketing of their organic produce has always been a challenge for these farmers.  Some of the well known factors were lack of transportation to marketing centers, lack of consumer awareness on organic produce, competition with chemically grown vegetables in the market etc., Gramiya made a systematic study in 2003, to understand the situation and help these vegetable farmers.

Perungalur, a small town Panchayat, is a next major marketing center after pudukottai for about 50 surrounding villages, of which Malayandi is one. Even though it is a town panchayat, people here faced difficulties in buying vegetables. It was not remunerative for the vegetable sellers tooto go to either Pudukkottai or Gandarvakkottai, to buy vegetables owing to the high transportation costs. Thus, Gramiya, based on its study found this as a potential market for organic vegetables. It discussed with the farmers groups. The group felt that it was necessary to create a local vegetable market, which could be possible only if vegetables were grown locally. After a series of discussions, farmers decided to take up organic vegetable cultivation.

Farmers Association develops ‘business plan’

Malaiyandi farmers association is a group of 20 women farmers in Perungalur. The group is well organized and it has a chairlady, secretary and treasurer. All the farmers except few owned small pieces of land under rain fed condition.  But vegetable cultivation needed access to irrigation. Members discussed on how to resolve this problem. They felt that those who had irrigated land could spare the land for growing vegetables by the group members. This they felt would help in providing work for the members during the season. Finally, a women farmer owning 5 acres of land with irrigation facilities volunteered to give her small piece of land of 0.75 acres on lease to grow the vegetables. In the mean time, the Government of Tamil Nadu had announced a scheme of Revolving Loan of Rs. 25,000 to farmers of Self Help Group, with a good business plan.  Moreover, the loan was offered at a subsidy of Rs. 10,000/- To avail this opportunity, Gramiya helped the farmers group to prepare a viable business plan. ‘Growing organic vegetables for the local market’ was one of the business plans prepared by the Malayandi farmers association.

Before implementing the plan, the group entered into an agreement with the land owner. The terms and conditions were as follows:

    • 40 % of the profits earned from vegetable cultivation should go to the landowner. 60% of the profits earned from vegetable cultivation should go to the farmers group.
    • The landowner should provide water for irrigation and land for vegetable cultivation throughout the cropping season.
    • During the time of harvesting, the vegetables should be weighed in front of the landowner. Price of the vegetables will be fixed based on the day-to-day market situation.
    • The landowner should maintain a register for recording the date wise yield details.

The members of the group decided on certain terms. Labour had to be shared among the group members. The group will decide on engaging labour for day-to-day activities. Labour charges were to be paid to individuals from the profit earned and the remaining should go to the group’s account.

Method of Cultivation

Annuals, creepers, greens and tubers were grown in a mixed cropping method. Seasonal vegetables like Tomato, Brinjal, Solanam torvam, Ladies finger, Kothavari and Green Chilies were planted at a distance of 5 feet in a triangle shape.  Greens (like mulaikeerai, puthina, coriander, thandukeerai) were planted in between the seasonal vegetables. On the borders, creeper varieties like Field Bean, Ridge Gourd, Bitter Gourd and Snake Gourd were planted at a distance of 10 feet. Moringa olerachia (Drumstick) was also planted at the distance of 30 feet.  Alternative Furrow method of irrigation was adopted to minimize the water use. In the entire land area, earthen pots containing herbal decoction were kept inside the soil and covered with paddy straw to control the pests. Vermi compost to enrich the soil fertility and ‘Panchagaviya’ to induce the plant growth were applied to the field. During the first year of the initiative, the seeds and farmyard manure were bought from outside.

Allocation of work in the field

The allocation of work in the field was finalized in the weekly Sangam meeting of the women farmers. Every week all the Sangam members came together to discuss and review the activities carried out in the previous week and planned the activities for the next week.  In the planning, they jointly decided the nature of work, number of labour days and the number of people required. They also maintained a register of the work done on every day, number of persons involved, details of activity carried out, details of harvest.  This register was placed in front of all the Sangam members during their weekly meeting for the approval of the payments made.  Usually payments were made once in two days based on the frequency of selling in the market.  The quantity of the harvested vegetables was weighed in the field itself. Two members in the group were responsible for verifying and cross checking the market price for the vegetables.

 Linkage between production field and marketing center

Meanwhile, Gramiya was lobbying with the Public Works Department for seeking access to the unutilized space of 40 cents, adjacent to the main roadside of Perungalur village, owned by the department.  The intention of lobbying for the place was to help the women self help groups to set up some petty shops for marketing various products. After a lot of efforts by the farmer’s group leaders and NGO staff, the department finally offered the land to the NGO with the following conditions.

  • The SHGs should utilize the space for only the proposed activities
  • They are allowed to erect simple tents, thatched sheds for the purpose
  • No permanent structure will be allowed
  • The shops should be vacated whenever the PWD wants that place

Based on the above written conditions, the NGO took over the land area and established a shopping center for the SHG members.  At present there are about 35 shops in that including vegetable shops, petty shops, fish shops, country chicken shops, provision shops, saloons, fancy shops.  The members involved in the organic vegetable cultivation also took 5 shops in the shopping complex to sell the organically grown vegetables. Two family members of the group took responsibility to run the vegetable shop.

Voluntary Support for storage

Considering the farmers difficulty in transporting the produce to and fro to the village, the Public Works Department also provided two rooms just behind the marketing center, for storage purposes.

The net income from this organic vegetable cultivation for the group is Rs. 4,713. The programme provided employment for 2-3 members on a rotation basis for a period of 3 months.  Apart from this, it has provided opportunity for 2- 3 sangam family members to set up a vegetable shop and earn an income.

The soil is also enriched with the cultivation of mixed type of plant species.  The group has retained different type of vegetable seeds for sowing for the next season.


Gramiya played an instrumental role right from the beginning.  In the initial stages, they visited the fields and gave technical inputs for cultivation, preparation of bio manures, pest repellent mixtures etc. They discussed about group activity and its usefulness and put in lot of efforts in the beginning to bring in the culture of working as collectives. Now the group has evolved considerably in terms of managing their own activities and needs very little support from Gramiya.

It is interesting to note that the collective initiative of the farmers got support from various sections of the society – NGO and the Public Works Department in providing awareness, infrastructure and linkages and importantly consumers support, in purchasing the farmer’s produce.


I am extremely thankful to Mrs. Kanaga Bai, the team leader of Gramiya, and the field staff  of Gramiya Ms. Rajeswari.


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