Manivelu Aseerpatham is a driving instructor. “I am not a farmer. But that doesn’t mean I cannot contribute towards good agroecological practices,” he says.

Activist Who Continuously Imparts the Benefits of Natural Farming

Manivelu Aseerpatham of Sungai Siput, Perak, has been an activist for the past 3 decades. He immersed himself in all of CAP’s consumer activities from the day he realised how relevant and crucial CAP’s messages are to creating awareness among Malaysian consumers.

Manivelu is a driving instructor. While guiding his students on the road, he also takes the opportunity to alert them to faulty products and chemically tainted food, thereby turning his daily routine into a combination of earning and social service.

When CAP started promoting agroecology, Manivelu swiftly joined in and contributed his time and energy towards educating consumers. “I am not a farmer. But that doesn’t mean I cannot contribute towards good agroecological practices,” says Manivelu.

With CAP’s support, he went to meet farmers around Sungai Siput to do his own research and gain some insight into conventional farming practices. Manivelu found out that almost 99% of farmers use pesticides and most of their agrochemicals are imported from Thailand.

They have the least conscience about the deadly impacts of those agrochemicals. “I talked to them about the benefits of natural farming and as they have respect for me, they listened to what I said. But I must admit that some farmers are utterly indifferent. Their reply is ‘Spray the pesticide, reap the harvest and get the cash. Other things are not my concern’, pointed out Manivelu. Such replies reveal the level of ignorance and insensitivity in the farming community.

A farmer in Sungai Siput, Perak explaining to Manivelu the brinjal plant problem at his farm.

“Some farmers, despite knowing the benefits of natural farming, are uncertain of how to go about it. All the while, they have been guided by agrochemical companies regarding what pesticides to spray and what chemical fertilisers to use at different stages of planting.

“Minus that, a lot of farmers will be left in the lurch. Farmers’ thought patterns and actions, unbeknownst to them, have been designed to suit the needs of the profit-oriented agrochemical companies,” explained Manivelu.

Manivelu assists CAP to organise natural farming training programmes at Sungai Siput, Perak. He connects farmers interested in learning about natural farming methods with CAP. So far, with the help of Manivelu, natural farming training has been conducted in a few places at Sungai Siput.

The introduction section of natural farming training was held in Sungai Siput with farmers gathered by Manivelu. Most of them are farmers using agrochemicals, and some of them are exploring fertigation methods.

Farmers were guided by CAP officers N. V.Subbarow, Saraswathi Odian and Theeban Gunasekaran to make natural growth promoters such as pancakavya and fish amino acid (FAA). Open-space composting methods were also introduced to farmers.

Urban gardener Letchumy Sathiah sharing the herbal plant Pegaga (Pennywort) with Manivelu.

This was followed by methods of making pest repellents using herbs available at the farmers’ respective farms. Farmers were asked to identify the herbs and the significance of those herbs and plants to repel pests the natural way was explained to them.

The distinct nature and aroma of different herbs and methods of combining the herbs to turn them into pest repellents were also demonstrated. These are crucial to motivating farmers to use those herbs instead of buying deadly pesticides, which are also costly.

“Convincing the farmers to shift to natural farming is an arduous task. We should keep propounding the idea of natural farming and introducing the techniques to farmers, because I believe any effort we put in will, in one way or another, bring results. It’s only a matter of time and involves a lot of patience and persistence,” summed up Manivelu.

Agroecology Fund