A much-needed leg up for Munroe Thuruthu farmers

 thehindu.com  09/16/2020 14:42:56 

Farmers of Munroe Thuruthu, who have been facing a slew of problems such as tidal ingress and saline intrusion due to the islands fragile ecological features, will soon switch to a new and sustainable system.

A project integrating biosaline agriculture and cage aquaculture developed by the International Research and Training Centre for Below Sea Level Farming (IRTCBSF), Kuttanad, will help them in protecting their crops from the adverse effects of environmental degradation.

Due to environmental changes, the topography of the island has become vulnerable affecting the livelihood of farmers. Earlier, we used to cultivate rice and coconut in abundance, but with the salinity levels going up all those farms are lying idle. Fish farmers are also suffering as there is a considerable dip in the catch from Ashtamudi Lake. This project, funded by the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, has been conceived as a measure to survive environment-related issues and improve the ecology of the island, says Munroe Thuruthu grama panchayat president Binu Karunakaran.

The project aims to introduce a sustainable and innovative land use model by implementing multi-commodity farming and the first model farm at Peringalam will be inaugurated on Saturday. This integrated farming method will ensure good earnings for the farmers and such model farms will be extended to all parts of the panchayat, he adds.

Rice varieties such as pokkali with high salinity tolerance will be used for farming while fish and duck will be raised along, emulating a method in Kuttanad polders.

The polders and ponds will be protected by a thick bio-belt of mangroves, which will also help in shoreline protection and soil stabilisation. Residents were cooperative when we put forward the idea of a bio-wall and fence farming will be done in some parts. It is a comprehensive project of adaptive farming as some of the dykes will also be used for rainwater harvesting, says K.G. Padmakumar, principal investigator of the project.

Since Munroe Thuruthu is a wetland strewn with lagoons and canals, it is an ideal location for aquaculture. Open water-cage farming will be carried out and the fish will be fed with commercial pellets instead of the traditional methods as part of the project. Only high-quality fish seed will be used and the fish will be raised in high numbers inside cages and pen enclosures.

Munroe Thuruthu residents are the first set of climate refugees from our land and since land is a scarce resource on the island, the focus will be more on aquaculture. Due to its high commercial value, pearl spot will be raised in designated areas in the backwater adjoining the island. Seeds of Kanjirottu kaayal karimeen, the most-relished pearl spot variety, will be ranched, says Mr.Padmakumar.

Fisher self-help groups and such clusters in the ward will be responsible for cage maintenance, feeding, marketing, and monitoring the environment under the guidance of experts.

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