S. Chandrasekharan Nair is a farmer, blogger and Paper.li publisher who cares about the future of farming rubber and other farmers. He cultivates his own trees in Kerala, India, and is building a campaigning online community.
This ex-serviceman learned to read and write English better from the Internet. And he shares news through three Paper.lis published in Hindi, Malayalam and English, as well as on his multilingual blog. Even though he calls himself “an old-age blogger”…
What made you start blogging?
I started KeralaFarmerOnline.com to help other farmers cultivating rubber. At the time I was Secretary of the Quality Rubber Marketing Society, a non-profit that tries to protect the interests of the farmers. And I had bought a computer for my daughter’s studies, so I decided to start blogging.
I wanted to highlight and campaign on some of the issues in farming and marketing rubber. So I began publishing an analysis of the official Indian Rubber Statistics which are issued by the Rubber Board. I also write about topics of interest to farmers, like rubber marketing, grading, soil quality and farming practices.
What are some of the difficulties for farmers?
There is the problem of over-exploitation. The price of natural rubber is high, so farmers produce as much as possible using chemicals which damage the quality of the soil and cause disease in the trees.
I learned this from personal experience. When I began cultivating rubber I used chemical fertilisers and even a stimulant to increase my yield. Very soon 65 of the 340 trees I had then were diseased.
Organic farming is obviously better than using chemicals, but we need more knowledge to be able to maintain the nutrients in the soil.
Over-exploitation also shortens the lifespan of the trees so in the end it is going to lead to a fall in production.
Farmers also need education to stop the improper tapping of trees which leads to disease (tapping is the process of scoring the trees and allowing the latex — which is used to make natural rubber — drip out).
Many farmers cannot afford to employ skilled labour, because wages are high in Kerala, as compared to other states. Agricultural producers do not get price hikes that are equal to salary growth.
What do you hear from the community?
They want to know about about the prices of various grades of rubber, planting and tapping. I often hear from students of statistics or economics — even someone doing an MBA — who want data relating to natural and synthetic rubber for various projects.
Do you blog only about rubber, or other kinds of farming?
I know more about rubber, and I have almost one hectare with 419 trees. But I have some experience with other crops too like paddy, coconut, vegetables, banana, and tapioca. I also held a small diary farm for 26 years.
What made you start your different Paper.lis?
And your blog is in three languages…
I publish in all three with a single keyboard by selecting the input language. I hope an online translation will be available in the future!
My first post in Malayalam was in August 2005. When I started, I got help from IT professionals all over the world. If anyone needs help with Malayalam blogging, they are welcome to contact me.
I started English blogging in June 2000. I have a lot of support from my nephew Padmakumar who has an IT background and is the General Manager of oneviewsystems.com and CellApp.in. I started my multilingual site KeralaFarmerOnline.com on 1 September 2008. I get technical help and space for my site from Sreekantakumara Pillai (Sree) who runs the Teck.in blog.
What next for you in farming and blogging?
I’ll be looking out for new innovations from experiments and experiences in farming that I can share with others. And day by day increasing the number of friends I have on social media. From this I can see that there is interest in the subjects that interest me.