She is the oldest farmer who is still active in the field. Besides farming, she has also dabbled in politics.
On January 26, Media people gathered in the western periphery of Coimbatore where they came to interview 105-year-old lady farmer of Thekkampatti, Pappammal.
Pappammal is one of recipients of Padma Shri, the civilian award. The well-known woman farmer was watering her banana crops when her 5-year-old grandson R. Balu came and told her about the award and media people’s presence that time she didn’t believe it.
She met media persons and answered their questions. The government of India honored her with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in 2021 for being a role model woman farmer and her major contribution in encouraging and promoting women in agriculture. She was noticed for her social engineering skills-organizing women in agriculture extension programmes and for being an ardent organic farmer. She also adapts modern technologies and introduces new farm practices.
Having a look on her bio she is an organic farmer from Tamil Nadu. She is said to be an oldest farmer who is still active the field. She is regarded as a pioneer in the agriculture field and is affiliated with the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University’s Department of Education. She works everyday on her 2.5 acres land.
She was born in 1914 in the village of Devalapuram. She lost her parents at a young age, and she and her two sisters were raised in Thekkampati, Coimbatore by their paternal grandmother. She inherited the shop and opened an eatery. She made profit from that and also raised her sister’s children.
Besides being a farmer Pappammal has dabbled in politics as well. In 1959 she was an elected former ward member of the Thekkampati panchayat.
Pappammal says, “It’s the right time for everyone to get back to farming. We need more farmers. I hope many more people take up farming after hearing my story and work as hard as me. One should never sit idle.”
She is now a local celebrity and she said, “I am really very happy and proud to have received this honor. The whole world is surprised that even after crossing the age of 100, I do farming. I have been getting 50-100 visitors everyday, who come from far to congratulate me. It feels so good.”
Talking about her field, she told she had no means of irrigation. Only the perennial Bhavani River helped her that flows down from the Nilgris Mountains runs about 2 km from her farm. So she grew rain-fed crops like millets, pulses and grams during the North East Monsoon. In the last ten years she has been cultivating banana under micro-irrigation besides the traditional rain-fed crops.
Back in the starting time period of her work, women were unheard in the agriculture even today also, officials statistics do not properly represent women’s actual share in agriculture work and the economy.
According to an Oxfam report of 2013, women in India undertake around 80% of farm work but they own only 13% of the land.
Rural women produce about 60-80% of food yet still they are not recognized as farmers and in the patriarchal social set. They do not get share in family or husband’s land.
Women without land title are denied of institutional supports of the bank, insurance, cooperatives and government schemes.
Pappammal took basic training and become an instant leader in the local management committee (LMC) of KVK Krishan Vigyaan Kendra).
LMC became a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and Pappammal became a member and that built her capable of a practical farm scientist and elevated her to interest with experts.
“I had my own fear and dislike for chemical based fertilizers and pesticides when chemical inputs were introduced in the country, I continued to follow the natural way that I’d learnt in my father’s farm,” said Pappammal about her involvement in organic farming. “I did not follow any particular school of organic farming or was not trained by any expert.”
About her secret of her health and activity at an advanced age, her grandson Balu she eats steaming hot food served only on a banana leaf. “ Five years ago when she visited Delhi representing women farmers in Coimbatore. She took banana leaves with her and used it in the plane and also during lunch time at the conference,” said Balu.
The centenarian is currently busy attending functions arranged to facilitate her for the Padma Shri award. “Women should take part in decisions at the farm, household and in the social institutions only then there whole community will benefit,” she tells in all the meetings.