The CPI (M) has launched an Onam-specific organic-vegetable cultivation initiative in Kerala’s Ernakulam district which it plans to promote across the State in the future.

The initiative — named ‘Organic vegetables for Onam feast’ — aims to make ‘non-toxic, uncontaminated vegetables’ available to a significant number of homes in Ernakulam district. It will be implemented in around 1,000 acres under 45 gram panchayats ruled by the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front in the district.

“We want to keep the pesticide-laden vegetables coming outside the State off the dining table at least during the Onam festival,” P Rajeeve, former MP and district secretary of the CPI(M), told BusinessLine . He flagged off the initiative on Tuesday at Kanjoor where organic vegetables would be raised on 12 acres, which until recently had been used for making earthern bricks. The farm, to be managed by a farmers’ cooperative society and sponsored by the gram panchayat, will raise vegetables that are used to prepare the customary Onam feast.

Demand for organic farming has leapfrogged in Kerala over the past five years, mainly due to the scare over ‘toxic, pesticide-laden vegetables and fruits’ being imported from Tamil Nadu and other neighbouring States. Kerala imports most of its vegetables from other States as farmlands have shrunk and agriculture has turned uneconomic in the State. The demand for organic vegetables and other foods has also been propelled by an increased awareness of healthy food and healthy eating. The incidence of a host of lifestyle diseases such a high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol as well as cancer, heart ailments and kidney diseases are alarmingly high in Kerala.

Chemical-contaminated food is blamed for most of these diseases. Organic farming, particularly of vegetables, is considered a major preventive step by the government, health experts and socio-cultural organisations. The result is the mushrooming of tiny plots of vegetable farms across the State. In urban and semi-urban areas, middle-class families raise vegetables on house terraces and in tiny garden plots.

The CPI (M) and its affiliated organisations actively promote the organic vegetable cultivation in kitchen gardens and homesteads. It also encourages self-help groups and NGOs engaged in organic farming — mainly as way to widen its popularity base, though. Senior party leader Thomas Isacc, who is the current Finance Minister, is a strong campaigner of the organic revolution.

Rajive pointed out that it was during the last Vishu festival that the party had started actively promoting vegetable cultivation. By the Onam festival, the movement had caught on. Currently, he noted, there were a dozen permanent organic vegetable stalls supported by the party in Ernakulam district alone. This helped check the price escalation during Onam.

Now that the CPI (M) is in power, the organic vegetable revolution is likely to get a big boost.

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