Kochi: An organic farming initiative in Kerala involving about 3,000 small and medium farmers has received its first big boost: an offer by a government agency to provide technical expertise in making eco-friendly lawns.
The National Research and Development Corp., or NRDC, has proposed to provide Sevashram, the voluntary organization representing the farmers, a seven-year licence to use its technical know-how in making lawns using geo-textiles, a coir matting woven from coconut husk.
Popular fibre: Women display the geo-textiles woven by them at Sevashram. Made from coconut husk fibre, these textiles are gaining in reputation as an ideal material for erosion control or embankment protection. (Photo: Ajayan / Mint)
NRDC will provide this at a subsidized rate of Rs1 lakh, or one-third the original cost, said K. Mampilly, a priest who founded the organization at Angamaly, near Kochi international airport, 13 years ago. The Central Coir Research Institute at Alappuzha in Kerala will also provide assistance.
Sevashram’s farmers recently adopted organic cultivation in their coconut farms, giving up synthetic fertilizers or pesticides to instead rely on crop rotation, green manure and biological pest control. They also grow pepper, nutmeg, arecanut and bananas organically to supplement their income.
Geo-textiles made from coconut husk are gaining in reputation as ideal material for erosion control or embankment protection. Being bio-degradable, they help strengthen the soil and are used in civil engineering works as a natural fabric for protection of mines, roads, railroad, airfields, reservoirs, dams, canals and embankments.
Coir geo-textiles, fibre and pith or residue after making coir are used to form a blanket on which grass can be grown.
These lawns, known as coco-lawns, can be used to restore vegetation in denuded areas, moulded to fit any contour, or even rolled or cut for transportation and re-laying in another location. “This ready habitat promotes fast growth of grass and within three months a live green carpet is organically woven,” said Mampilly. “Being a good water absorbent, it also promotes growth of vegetation by allowing adequate passage of air, water and light.”
He added that South Korea-based Dae Sung Trading Co. Ltd, Shin Sung Trading Co. Ltd and Shin Sung Mineral Co. Ltd have expressed interest in buying Sevashram’s coir-based products.