KP Unni Gopalan, fondly known as Unni Gopalan Master — a retired teacher at Chemancheri in Kozhikode is totally immersed in farming, to be more precise, zero-budget natural farming. Having practised this technique in his one acre paddy field for seven years, Unni Gopalan Master attributes an increased yield to natural farming and its proponent Subhash Palekar. The School of Agriculture, Chemancheri promotes and propagates zero-budget natural farming techniques is also being run by Unni Gopalan and his friends. His sincere efforts was awarded recently by Animal.
He begins, “Agriculture is there in my blood. My forefathers including my own father were avid farmers. Farming was the way of life. None of them had used chemical fertilizers. When I began looking after the land, I practiced organic farming. But I had felt some sort of ineffectiveness in that technique and
after a long wait, I changed to natural farming.”
He retired from Palora Higher Secondary School, Ullyeri in 2001. On his farm he grows traditional paddy varieties such as Thavalakkannan, Orappandi and Thekkan Chitteni.
Vegetables such as ladies finger and long beans are also being cultivated.
Zero-budget natural farming is nothing but allowing the seeds to grow in its natural way without external interference or induction. It is the same way in which plants grow in a forest. Unni Gopalan was introduced to zero-budget farming by his friend KP Chandrasekharan in 2007. He then attended several classes which was on natural farming by Palekar. Influenced by master and his pure high-yielding technique, hundreds of farmers in and around Chemancheri have now become natural farmers. He also houses four indigenous Kasargodan variety of traditional cattle which are high yielding and one other traditional cattle variety, ‘Malamadu’ in his shed.
Under the aegis of the School of Agriculture which began functioning in 2008, exhibition of rare varieties of cattle folk was conducted recently. ‘Mattupponkal’, as the show was titled was conducted in 2011 and 2012 also. If in the first mattupponkal, 40 cattle varieties were exhibited, in 2012 the number was 140.
Due to financial constraints, this time, Mattupponkal showcased only
70 cattle varieties. Apart from conducting classes and campaigns on natural farming, The School of Agriculture helps farmers increase yields with their methods.
He says, “The idea of setting up an organisation of farmers who practice zero-budget natural farming in the district originated after a class we attended at Hotel Nalanda in 2008. The class was taken by Subhash Palekar, who is the father of zero-budget natural farming. Back at Chemancheri, we started the School of Agriculture which aims to promote zero-budget natural farming techniques among farmers in the district and the same was inaugurated by Subhash Palekar in 2008. Due to our continuous work, many farmers have started housing indigenous cows in their cattle sheds. As far as I understand, there are
500 indigenous cows in this district now.”
Though he taught Hindi in school, he never limited his teaching to one subject. He would take students to Peruvannamuzhi dam to closely watch farming activities during Thiruvathira Njattuvela. “This was an annual excursion and we would visit the farm and nurseries even during heavy downpour. The children enjoyed this activity a lot. When I joined the school, the whole area was an arid region. The students and I, with years of effort, grew many trees in and around the campus,” he beams. He even presented the school a beautiful garden of flowers when he retired.
Unni Gopalan attributes his success to the relentless efforts and support of his mother Madhavi Amma and wife Padmavathi. “There is a culture of unity, simplicity and shared success in natural farming. My aim is simply to uphold these values. The School of Agriculture’s activities are vibrant with participation from a pretty good number of youngsters. It is very fulfilling,” he concludes.