Looks to Resolve Issues Impacting the Sector
In a first, banana farmers in Kerala have come together to constitute an
association in an effort aimed at resolving issues they have been suffering for long. Veterans
as well as current farmers in the banana farming sector in the state have given shape to the
Banana Farmers Association (BFA).
Paving the way for the formation of such an body was
the Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA),
which had successfully organized the first ever National Banana Festival in Kerala last year.
It was after the National Banana Festival that the need for such an organization was thought
about. CISSA had been continuing with its efforts across panchayats, and inspiring banana
farmers to come together to form a common platform so that their voices also could be
heard. According to Dr. C. Suresh Kumar, General Secretary, CISSA, banana cultivation is
almost a household practice in Kerala. A large number of farmers with many decades of
experience in banana farming had turned up for the debut meeting.
“If banana farming survives the tests of time in the state, it is chiefly attributed to the notably
large number of smallholder farmers. Though the farmers of many plantations crops have
their own associations, the banana farmers have not yet had an organization of their own,
political patronage or benevolence of god fathers, Dr. Suresh Kumar said.
“Even as Kerala continue lamenting of a declining number of its farmers, the number of
farmers who are into banana farming in the State seems otherwise”, he added
CISSA's intervention was mainly aimed at plugging this gap between mainstream
cultivations and banana farming. The principal objective behind such a move was to offer the
much needed support to hitherto unorganized and neglected banana sector. During the last
few months, a number of meetings were organized under CISSA’s initiation to openly
communicate with banana farmers at the panchayat-level, which eventually led to the
constitution of the Banana Farmers Association (BFA).
Following the formation of the BFA, there was a passionate call by its inaugural office
bearers to stand hand in hand for bringing back the deserving place for banana in the agro
economy of Kerala. Sreekumar, an agriculture scientist-turned-farmer, was elected the first
president of the BFA. “Currently, farmers from the vicinity of the capital district form the
association’s members. We are looking to spread the message and bring more banana
farmers from across Kerala into the BFA fold. The current office-bearers have voluntarily
expressed their willingness to offer whatever they can for strengthening the platform”, said.
According to Sreekumar, Kerala, which has the largest banana diversity, mainly consumes
the raw banana fruits. “Manifold benefits contained in the banana tree are yet to be
popularized in our state. Recently, there were newspaper reports on the health benefits of
consuming Vazhakoombu (the bud of banana flower) that underlines the medical
significance of the plant,” he added.
Dr. Suresh Kumar reiterated CISSA’s commitment in offering support in all possible ways to
entrepreneurs who come forward to explore the huge scope of value addition in the sector.
“An enthusiastic entrepreneur can tap hefty economic benefits inherent in the fruit, fiber,
pseudo stem, leaves and inflorescence of banana tree,” he said.
Banana Resource Centre (BRC): CISSA has also set up its Banana Resource Centre
(BRC) as a pilot endeavor at Kalliyoor panchayat. With the objective of turning each banana
tree into a source of profit for farmers, the BRC would look to provide scientific training and
familiarize the latest know-how among the banana farmers. Complex science is made
simpler and dispensed palatably so that farmers find it easier to choose a climate resilient
banana variety or the one suitable for their locality. BRC would also help farmers in
developing a gene pool of local, versatile varieties that can thrive in the challenging climatic
situations of the region.