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Authors: Manikandan R., Subhashini Sridhar., Abarna Thooyavathy R. and
Dr. K. Vijayalakshmi

The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) in Chennai is an organisation working with the farming communities of five southern districts of Tamil Nadu for the past 17 years with a prime goal to empower the farming community and enhance their livelihood security through sustainable farming and allied technologies. All the members of the farming households are encouraged to participate in the farming activities and their capacity is built suitably. One such model organic farmer is Mr. Thila gar from Nemmeli village of Sirkazhi Taluk in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. Agriculture is his family occupation and also the primary source of income for his family. He owns seven acres of land in the village and maintains an integrated farm that fetches an average income of 4 lakhs per annum. The entire farm is organically certified. He has always been proud to call himself a farmer and now, he is even more proud to call himself an organic farmer.

Linkage with CIKS

He started to experiment with sustainable methods of food production from 2002 onwards and he started to reduce the use of chemical inputs in his farm. In the absence of any continuous guidance or mentoring to shift to organic agriculture practices, he could not muster enough courage to completely stop the use of chemicals because agriculture was the only source of income for the family. The actual transition from chemical agriculture to organic agriculture started in 2006 when he joined the farmers' group working with CIKS. Since then he has been an ardent supporter of the organic farming movement and actively participates in all the training programs and meetings. He is one of the office bearers' of the Sirkazhi Organic Farmers' Association in Sirkazhi. With the guidance and mentoring of CIKS, today he is a successful farmer following integrated farming practices.

Mr. Thilagar in his integrated farm

The Integrated farm

Mr. Thilagar is an ardent lover of plants, animals and nature. Initially, he was only into the cultivation of different varieties of paddy, black gram, green gram and vegetables. Though the yield is very remunerative in organic farming, his thirst for sustainability led him to form an integrated farm with several components like crop cultivation, vegetable gardening, poultry farming, fisheries, cattle and goat rearing. His farm is a typical example of an integrated farm. His wife Mrs. Karpagam helps him in all the farming activities like vermicompost production, biopesticides preparation, maintenance of livestock etc., and supports him in each effort.

Farm pond

It is interesting to know how he diversified and included the different components in the farm. All the paddy fields irrigated with water from a newly dug bore well completely died out. On testing the water, it was found to be brackish. Since Nemmeli village is located 25 kms from the coast and also due to excess pumping of water through bore wells for years, the water table has turned saline and paddy crop was affected badly. In order to treat the water and remove the salinity, the water is pumped into the pond and allowed to stand for a night before irrigation. Through a subsidy from the Department of Agriculture Engineering in Sirkazhi, a pond of 40'x 60'x 6' was dug in 2006 – 2007. The pond is filled with water from the bore well and pumped out to the paddy fields after two days. This improvisation worked.

Farm pond - the irrigation source as well as pisciculture medium


The pond within the farm seemed an ideal situation to rear fish and he started pisciculture. He rears 5 different kinds of fishes like C atla,   M rigal ,   Rohu  etc., based on feeding habits and the feeding strata. He is not feeding any special food for these fishes other than 1 kg azolla each day. Each year he used to introduce 1000 juvenile fishes to the pond. On an average he is harvesting 750 kg of fishes and selling it for Rs. 100 per kg. True spirit of resilience and the determination to turn every block/setback into an opportunity is the hallmark of this farmer.

Poultry farming

Above the pond at 5 ft. height a cage of 10' x 16' x 8' size has been setup and 14 country chicken and 18 white legan are being maintained. He himself prepares the poultry feed using paddy, cereals, paddy husk etc., from the farm produce. Apart from this, greens like Sesbania, Moringa and Azolla are also added to the feed of poultry. Through eggs and the sale of poultry he is getting at least Rs. 10,000/- per year. The poultry waste directly fells into the pond nourish the fishes as well as the water that is used for irrigation.

Hut for poultry that also sustains fishes in the pond

Cattle and goat rearing

There are native and crossed breeds of cows and goats in the farm. The cow dung is used in the production of vermicompost and biogas. The slurry from the biogas plant and waste water and cow's urine from the cattle shed are let into the pond, which not only enriches the water for irrigation but also provides nourishment for the fishes growing there. The goat droppings are used as manure for the trees around the farm. There are three native and cross breeds of cows that yields 10 – 13 litres of milk per day and sold at Rs. 20/- per litre.

A total of six adult and 10 kids of native breed of goat called “Thalachery” are being reared in an elevated cage. This elevated cage ensures the safety as well as the health of the goats. The five adult female goats beget at least 10 goats every year that are reared and sold after one year at Rs. 5,000/- per goat. This fetches an income of about Rs. 50,000/- per year.

The bunds of the pond are planted with fodder grass that serves two purposes – bank stabilization and fodder production. The green fodder crops like Co3, Co4, Gliricidia, Sesbania etc., are cultivated organically in the farm and fed to the cattle. This helps to maintain healthy livestock.


He strongly believes that locally adapted traditional varieties of seeds are the true wealth of a farmer and that it is every farmer's duty to conserve as many of these traditional varieties as possible. In his farm he grows four different traditional varieties of paddy – Seeraga samba, Mappillai samba, Thanga samba and Thooya malli as part of the seed conservation program. However, for commercial cultivation he grows white ponni and ADT – 43 in kuruvai and thaladi seasons. On an average he gets an income of 1.26 lakhs in kuruvai by cultivating ADT – 43 and Rs.1.5 lakhs in thaladi by cultivating white ponni in six acres. Following the cultivation in thaladi he used to cultivate black gram in six acres and gets a net income of Rs. 50,000/-. He sells all his farm produce to the Sirkazhi Organic Farmers' Association in Sirkazhi for better price than the market trend.

The farm has vegetable cultivation area of five cents where a whole range of seasonal vegetables are grown. Every day on an average 5 kg of different vegetable varieties are being harvested and sold. This fetches an income of approximately Rs. 18,000/- per year. Also grown in the farm are several fruit trees including mango, guava, sapota, pomegranate, moringa, coconut, goose berry, banana, papaya and lime. There are also several other multi-purpose tree species like teak, gliricidia, leucaena, neem growing in the farm. Plants like Calotropis, Adathoda, Lantana, Vitex that are used for pest and disease control are also grown in the farm along the boundaries.


Over the years, with continued use of organic manures, vermicompost, biofertilizers, panchagavya and practice of green manuring, mulching etc., Mr. Thilagar sees a definite improvement in the soil quality in the farm as is evident from the improved crop production. His input costs have been progressively declining as most of the inputs required for agriculture like seeds, soil fertility management inputs, inputs for pest and disease control are all being produced within the farm itself. In addition to the environmental benefits that accrue through the practice of organic agriculture, there is overall improvement in the food, health and livelihood security as well.

Mr. Thilagar explaining the importance of family farming to fellow farmers


By creating self replicating cycles within the system there is efficient use of resources as well as time and energy. The careful selection of species - both plant and animal, the effective utilization of space and resources and efficient recycling processes has not only added stability and resilience to the system, but has also helped in increasing farm income.

For further details, Mr. Thilagar -94882 15244