Success Story

This Mechanical Engineer quits his Job for Farming and is Conserving Pepper and Cashew Indigenous Varieties

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Biju Narayanan, a mechanical engineer from Kannur

Conservation of Indigenous Varieties may seem like an insane job to others, but I'm consulting on how to make farming profitable with them says Biju Narayanan. Biju, at present provides guidelines on how to make farming profitable. These guidelines have been prepared after years of trials and success. 

Biju Narayanan, a mechanical engineer from Kannur, is one of the farmers who cultivates varieties of pepper. It is not surprising that Biju resigned from his job and found that most of the Pepper and Cashew that were traditionally cultivated in the country were cultivated by constantly researching on it. It would be a wonder if people did not call Biju a half-witted man when he resigned from his job and landed in his farm. But it took a lot of hard work to make his work acceptable to others and Biju believes that he has succeeded in that. 

There are many varieties of Pepper and many of them cultivate hybrid. The indigenous ones have got forgotten in the long run. Biju claims that he has many of them in his hands today. TEGP (Tellichery Extra Garbled Pepper) is known as the most expensive pepper in the world. That pepper is actually the pepper that went up in the name of our Thalassery Pepper. That pepper is very different from the Black Pepper we see today. Karimundi, Kalluvalli or Karinkotta, which existed at that time, is a combination of all these or some variant of it. But if you ask a farmer about it today, it is not in anyone's hands. This is because there are no well-produced native varieties. Everyone abandoned the native folk items and went after the hybrid Panniyoor says Biju Narayanan. 

The same thing happened with cashews also. When the Agricultural University launched its own cashew varieties, our native varieties were cut down and destroyed and people went after the isolated varieties developed by the Agricultural University. Because the university will get a subsidy for the items. We all gave up the indigenous items and went after the university made varieties. However, the Cashew trees made by all the Universities bear fruit only once a year. But in their home district of Kasaragod and Kannur, they could get three times as much Cashew nuts from indigenous varieties and they were the best cashew nuts in the world. 

Biju Narayanan at Nursery Bijus Pepper Garden

Biju reminiscences the cashew nuts that they used to get once in February and March from April 10 to 20 as Vishuandi (because it is available during Vishu). After that there was a cashew season in the rainy season after May 15th. The native cashews of that time were grown on different horns. Because when a cashew blooms, its horns will break off, and it will be so heavy. Biju says that there were so many indigenous cashew varieties in country. So it was a system taken by nature itself. It blooms in two or three stems. It looks like a sack that encloses with a drawstring. At one point of time these cashew trees were cut and transplanted and replanted by the university-produced variety of cashew nuts. 

Biju also bought 12 varieties of cashew seedlings from the university and planted them in his plot. The plot was reclaimed to conduct a study on the yield of these and repurchase the good ones. But within 3 years we realized that it would bear little fruit. Biju remembers exactly, how he was involved in picking fallen cashewnuts during his childhood days and he reminds us that it is a very tedious job and he also reminds us about the simple days of yesteryears. It seems if you collected the nuts that are produced during Vishu, he used to get money to buy firecrackers. It was also a childhood pastime to collect and bake nuts during the rainy season. That is why it is important to remember that cashews bear fruit in three seasons reiterates Biju. 

As a mechanical engineer, he resigned from his job of ten years because he felt he had nothing special to do with the job. Before that, farming was a part of his life. His father died when he was 18 years old. Since then he has been involved in farming. But he has learned more at present says Biju. He is at present involved in creating a genebank of indigenous varieties of pepper and cashew and guiding farmers too. There are at present many who come in search of him asking for tips and plants of indigenous varieties. There is always the family behind says Biju. We wish him all the best for more success on farm and in life. 

Story courtesy - Krishi Jagran Malyalam

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