“AGROECOLOGY FOR ALL: Initiatives in Malaysia” – FARMERS

Kumarasamy Thannimalai

A Lecturer that Farms to Cater to the Needs of the Local Community

Kumarasamy Thannimalai is a successful farmer despite his busy schedule as a lecturer at IPG. His unquenchable thirst for farming made him keep learning all the nuances of growing and caring for plants.

In 1993, he started farming on 25,000 square feet of land adjacent to his house at Taman Kangkung, Lunas, Kedah, and ever since there has been no turning back.

Tying the diluted fish amino acid to the bottom of the banana stem. The stem absorbs nutrients from the fish amino acid and the result is nutritious bananas.
“It takes a year for my pineapple to fully mature, and it tastes heavenly. However, in conventional farming, with the help of hormones and carbide injections, the time is shortened to 6 months,” says Kumarasamy.

Kumarasamy traces his interest in farming back to his adolescent years on a plantation. His father owned 5-acres of land in Dublin Estate, Kedah, where they planted rubber and durian.

Those were memorable periods of his life despite the arduous task of assisting his father on the rubber plantation, tapping rubber trees and collecting and processing latex.

The durian seasons were even more unforgettable. “I loved collecting the fallen durians and loading them into the lorry to be transported. The income from planting and selling was an appealing factor for me at that time,” he recollected.

Besides that, catching fish in the nearby pristine river and playing football are part of his life on the estate, which he cherishes until today.

With such a background, and despite launching himself into a noble career with demanding hours, he still could not expect a life without land, and hence bought his own piece of land to follow his father’s tradition.

As for now, Kumarasamy grows to cater to the needs of the local community. He shared his valuable experiences and information.

“Curry leaves as a perennial plant promise an excellent income for a farmer. I sell them to nasi kandar sellers, vadai and omappodi (traditional Indian savoury) makers.

Kumarasamy rears chickens for their eggs. These chickens are fed a decoction made of cumin, turmeric, and fennel seeds, a traditional method to enhance the immune system of livestock.

The price of curry leaves can reach up to RM12 per kg, but I sell them only for RM6 per kg. For the healthy growth of the curry leaves, I rely on the fish amino acid. The common leaf spot fungus that attacks curry leaves can easily be controlled by spraying fish amino acid.

“The main ingredient for making fish amino acid is fish waste. I collect the waste from the nearby market. The fish waste is then mixed with brown sugar and left to ferment for 3 months. This is the standard method followed by most organic farmers.

During the olden days, water was stored in a dried bottle gourd, which served as a natural coolant for our body. Reviving the tradition is one way to sustain good agroecological practices.

“I grow pineapple on my farm. After eating the fruit, I add the pineapple skins to the prep. On and off, I modify the preparation according to the availability of a variety of fruits on my farm.

“The solution is then left to fully ferment for 6 months in an airtight container, after which it is sifted and mixed with the right proportion of water before spraying on plants,” explained Kumarasamy.

Kumarasamy grows banana varieties such as berangan, emas, rastali, awak, udang, bunga, and asam. The fish amino acid also contributes to multiplying the banana harvest.

“I tie the diluted fish amino to the banana stem. The solution is then absorbed by the stem. As a result of this, fruits are compact, bigger in size and shinier, an indication that they are well-nourished.

“This method is sure to give maximum yields,” guaranteed Kumarasamy.

“Turmeric gives a yield only after 9 to 12 months. I planned the turmeric cultivation in a way that it could be harvested in the month of January in commemoration of the celebration of Ponggal (Farmers’ Day) by the Indian community.

“Turmeric is easy to grow. They adjust to all types of climates and hence, not much care is needed. I could easily earn RM2,000 for every Ponggal celebration.

“Similarly, the elephant foot yam (Tamil: karunai kilanggu), also fetches a better price in the Ponggal season. This yam is believed by the Indian community to be a tuber variety with the highest nutritional value compared to any other tuber.

“Flatbean (Tamil: avarai), the traditional Indian food, has year-round demand as it is a good source of protein and vitamins for vegetarians. I am happy to notice that, of late, the demand for Sesbania grandiflora (Tamil: Agatti keerai) has been increasing as well.

Kumarasamy plants elephant foot yam (Tamil: karunai kilanggu) a tuber variety with high nutrient values.

“This traditional Indian plant, widely consumed by our ancestors, has made a positive comeback in the local market as many are opting for traditional ways to restore their health,” revealed Kumarasamy.

The coconut plantation spanned over an area of 10,000 square feet with around 50 trees and thrived well after Kumarasamy used traditional methods to prevent the rhinoceros beetle, which had previously been his major problem.

“These beetles bore into the opened fronds of the young palms and cause damage to the plant. This method is easy and effective, and I could drive away the beetles without resorting to any toxic input,” said Kumarasamy.

Kumarasamy says he does crop rotation wherever possible. That way, he ensures the soil is not exhausted of its vital nutrients. No ailing trees on his land are ever subjected to toxic chemicals to get rid of them. He uproots them and revives the soil with all the growth promoters in hand.

He pointed out that natural farming is labour-intensive and one needs to be physically and mentally strong to tend it.

For the squirrels, there is no concept of sharing when it comes to this cempedak tree. They gleefully nibbled all the cempedak fruits. Yet, Kumarasamy ensures the tree gets a fair share of its fertiliser and let the wildlife enjoy the fruit.
Kumarasamy’s 50 coconut trees thrived well after he used traditional methods to prevent the rhinoceros beetle, which had previously been his major problem.

Currently, he rears 65 chickens for their eggs. These chickens are fed intermittently with a decoction made of cumin, turmeric, and fennel seeds, a traditional method to boost their immune systems. All these spices carry distinct antiviral properties and enhance the chicken’s immunity against diseases.

Local eggs (popularly known as kampung eggs) are preferred by the locals as vigour boosters and hence fetch a better price in the market. “I sell one egg for 90 cents, still a lower price compared to other sellers. These eggs are free from antibiotics and chemical feeds that are widely added to the feed of broiler chickens,” assured Kumarasamy.

“Very few are conscious of the dangers of agrochemicals. Toxin-free food is still not a concern for many consumers. As long as the vegetable looks good and the price is low, they are ready to buy. We need to caution consumers on this angle and make them better informed consumers,” summed up Kumarasamy.

Kumarasamy collects fish innards from the nearby market and turns them into fish amino acid.

Methods of Preventing the Rhinocerous Beetle

  1. Select a PVC pipe that is 1 foot long and 1 inch in diameter.
  2. Make several holes in the PVC pipe.
  3. Squeeze rock salt, black pepper, tobacco, and naphthalene balls into a PVC pipe. Put caps on both sides of the pipes.
  4. Hang it on the spot where the beetle attacks the coconut tree.
  5. The beetles are repelled by the smell of the combination of ingredients.

Agroecology Fund