‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’

An experience of bounty in farming from the Kerala Province

By Wilson Mulackal SJ

Wayanad is a rural district in Kerala, southwest India. It is a popular area with beautiful landscapes and tropical forests, hillocks and plainlands, with paddy fields and other vegetation. Hectares of lands are converted into coffee estates and tea plantations. With about 20% of population being tribal, the culture of the area has a unique charm.

Once a haven of plenty, for more than twenty years in recent times, farmers in Wayanad have been struggling for survival because of destruction of their livelihood by wild animals and climate change. People in Wayanad mainly depend on agriculture. Low price of cash crops and other agricultural produces and climate changes like drought have led to a lack of interest in farming.

In 1987, Jesuits in Kerala started a new mission in Wayanad. We bought fifteen acres of land at Pachilakad and built a residence, Prasanthi. Fr Mathew Pullattu was the superior and Br Kurian the manager of the farm. (Both are of happy memories.) They cultivated coffee, pepper, coconuts and areca nuts. It gradually became a Model Farm in the district. The land was very fertile and yielded a rich harvest and therefore it was running profitably for some time. But for the last ten years the farm was not profitable because of the hike in labour charge, and the destruction of crops especially areca nuts infected by fungus. For a few years, the farm was totally neglected.

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I was appointed Director of Prasanthi Family Counselling Centre in 2020. After a year, the Provincial asked me to take charge of the farm. I hesitated for a while in the beginning. Being a farmer’s son, I was interested in cultivating differently from the traditional method of farming. With the help of a business partner, I planted 3,500 banana plants. My plan was multiple farming - to experiment with growing coffee plants and areca nuts among the banana plants. Without any additional expenses, I planted 2,000 coffee plants along with the banana plants. They grew up very well. After two years, we can harvest coffee beans from coffee plants and after five years areca nuts also will start yielding.

In the last two years, I made a profit of 600,000 Indian rupees (6,800 €) from the banana cultivation. Our operation became very profitable. I also planted 500 pepper saplings among the rest of the coffee plants. The land is now fully cultivated. Because of the multiple farming system, I could reduce labour charge considerably. Over the last two years, Prasanthi farm, once a loss-making concern, has become profitable.

The lesson: Multiple farming can bring profits. I am trying to propagate the benefit of multiple farming system among farmers which is more profitable for their livelihood.

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Further, as a Jesuit, I show my commitment to UAP 4, caring for our common home: collaborate, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s creation, has taken on a concrete realization in the revived farm. As other farmers look at our plantation, our way of doing becomes an inspiration and challenge for all.

I often take my clients, those who buy our products, to the plantation. Seeing this beautiful lush green garden, they forget their wounds and experience healing. They are delighted to see the variety of fruits and vegetables growing on the farm.

My plan is to develop the Prasanthi Counselling Centre, another work of our community, and the Prasanthi Farm into a holistic centre for healing in Kerala.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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