Page 36 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
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         Papammal got married to Shri Ra- masamy, when she was around 20, but the couple continued to stay at her na- tive village home as was the wish of her father before he died. She doesn’t have any children. Her husband died in 1996.
Much before her husband’s death, bold as she was, Papammal started a gro- cery store and an eatery along with her grandmother’s support, to make their ends meet and support the family. Her sister’s families also live with her.
Thekkampatti village is close to the foothills of the Western Ghats, from where the perennial river Bhavani originates. The land is semi-arid but is naturally endowed with access to ample ground water as it is part of the Bhavani River Basin.
As a bold and independent entrepre- neur, Papammal embarked on a political career at the village level. In 1959, she was elected to the Gram Panchayat as a member and in 1964 she was elected as a Union Councillor representing her village. Her access to various welfare schemes of the government, including those for farmers, inspired her to take up agriculture.
With the money she earned from her business, Papammal initially bought some 4.29 acres of agricultural land at the cost of Rs 700 in her village. After working on the farm for a few years and emboldened by the opportunities made available through the Tamil Nadu Ag- ricultural University (TNAU), Coim- batore, she bought more land parcels (2.07 acres @ Rs 3000 + 2.07 acres @ Rs 3000 + 1.50 acres @ Rs 1500) that were adjacent to the land she had already bought, making it into one contiguous farm of almost 10 acres. She has been a farmer ever since, for almost 60 years now. She also adds that waking up early and keeping oneself brisk are natural ways of nurturing life.
The government of Tamil Nadu’s agriculture department with the active involvement of the Tamil Nadu Agri- cultural University (TNAU) at Coim- batore, has been actively reaching out to the farmers, educating them on farming
Papammal met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24 in Coimbatore
Though Papammal has had no formal education, she has been an ever ready learner. She turned to organic farming in 1970s after learning about the ill- effects of using fertilizers
A young Papammal
techniques, offering them various seeds, fertilizers and pesticides that would give them maximum yield.
Though Papammal has had no for- mal education, she has been an ever ready learner. She has educated herself in agriculture through the farmers’ meet- ings arranged by TNAU, numerous visits to the TN Agricultural University and visits to other farms, arranged by them. Over the last six decades, she claims to have been invited by all the 13 vice chancellors at TNAU, honoured and re- quested to share her understanding of the earth, the soil, the seeds, the seasons and the crop. Her native intelligence and boldness impressed many of them. She has received many awards and appre- ciation throughout. Many students and farmers visit her farm to understand and learn from her farm practices. She is also a treasure trove of knowledge on native medicines, she has a suggestion for all the regular ailments that include herbs and spices, with specific techniques to use the medicines for each ailment.
During the initial years (1970s), Papam- mal used fertilizers as recommended by the officers of the agricultural depart- ment. However, in one such meeting, she was told about organic farming. She realised that the use of fertilizer killed the soil and made it lifeless. It was then that she decided to revert to age-old prac-
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