Thiruvananthapuram, July 21: Vegetable imports by Kerala have fallen steeply, thanks to a growing number of people whose kitchen gardens have boosted vegetable production in the state.
And Agriculture Minister K.P. Mohanan is beaming.
According to Mohanan, nearly 75 percent of all vegetables consumed now in Kerala are grown within the state -- and in kitchen gardens.
Mohanan, who made the endeavour to boost vegetable production, told IANS that his aim was to ensure that this figure reaches 100 percent.
"Several factors have contributed to a substantial growth of the domestic vegetable production," the minister said.
In 2012, the production of vegetables in Kerala was a mere 22 percent. This made the state heavily dependent on Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for daily vegetable supplies.
If there were traffic disruptions in the border regions of the two states, Kerala's vegetable imports would suffer -- immediately shooting up prices.
And so Mohanan decided to actively promote the concept of kitchen gardens in Kerala.
Even students and schools were roped in for this purpose.
Eventually, the habit of "growing and eating one's own vegetables appears to have clicked", the minister said.
Now the arrival of vegetables from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has fallen to less than 400 trucks a day from over 750.
"Today, practically in every state-run school, there is a kitchen garden and it is tended to by students," said Mohanan.
"Besides, we have set up biogas plants in 3,825 schools. Today, the vegetables grown in these schools are used in the mid-day meals. The waste generated is used to power the biogas plants," he added.
Ninety percent of these embrace organic techniques.
"We are confident that more and more people will start kitchen gardens," Mohanan added.
Congress president in Kerala, V.M. Sudheeran, is one of those who has a full-fledged kitchen garden at his home.
And he is telling everyone in his constituency to follow suit.
Marxist leader Pinarayi Vijayan too feels that people in Kerala should grow their own vegetables.
Cardiac specialist A. Haris told IANS: "Seventy percent of the vegetables we consume in our home are from our kitchen garden, set up on our terrace."
Haris, who spares half an hour daily for the garden, produces cauliflower, cabbage, beans, tomatoes, chilly, ladies' finger and brinjal. "Now I am trying to grow beetroot too.
"If more and more people take up kitchen gardens, not only will we get fresh vegetables but consume organically grown vegetables too," he added.