We need to think beyond agriculture and tourism

(Coffee curing unit in Kushalnagar. Source: Tata Group)

By Hareesh K G

Industrialise or perish is the modern-day phrase. For faster economic growth and to improve the standard of living, industrialisation has become necessary. Industries can be established in a geographical area where the administration can provide infrastructure like all-season road connectivity, railway lines, airports, 24×7 electricity etc. But in a place like Kodagu, it is a tough task to establish industries and also it is not advisable or feasible from the environment point of view.

What are the opportunities in Kodagu to generate revenue? Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of this land. But the fluctuation in the prices of agricultural products and persistent labour problems are major issues faced by farmers. Tourism is adding a substantial amount to Kodagu’s economy, but its negative impact on culture, geography and environment is hard to ignore.

Food processing industry is one of the biggest opportunities we have right now. This industry doesn’t need huge investment. Moreover, it doesn’t impact the nature and it can be decentralised. Women can establish small units in their houses which will allow them to earn extra revenue. Collecting the finished products from homes, delivering them to main units, distributing them to different places and collecting raw materials can generate indirect employment opportunities with attractive returns.

Kodagu is the land of coffee with several coffee curing works. Why can’t we produce coffee powder and market it in a large scale? We have many well-known coffee brands like Bru, Nescafe, Sunrise and so on. But no one from our district has thought of starting a coffee powder brand. There are several central government schemes through which entrepreneurs can avail loan for this project.

Floriculture is another field with ample opportunities in Kodagu as the district is gifted with tropical weather. But the problem here is that of transportation. In cities, there is a huge demand for different varieties of flowers. Because flowers are perishable commodities, it has to be preserved in specific conditions and should reach the destination as fast as possible. Picking, packing and transporting can provide handful of employment opportunities as well as financial returns if people are keen on floriculture.

Dairy farming and poultry are other domains which have great potential. These days government is providing subsidies through different schemes for building the infrastructure and for procuring livestock. Dairy products are always in great demand. Government provides support for dairy business by giving subsidised prices through milk collecting centre.

Apiculture is on a decline in Kodagu these days. People are not interested even though there is a training centre in Bhagamanadala. In Kodagu we can see hundreds of spices and honey selling shops, but from where does the honey comes from? It’s puzzling. It is no secret that farmers in Kodagu are not keen on producing honey anymore since extracting honey needs experience and dexterity. Moreover, few years back because of a disease, honey bees perished in large numbers. After that incident farmers have not tried to restart apiculture.

What I have mentioned here are just a handful of opportunities we have in front of us. Instead of depending upon only on agriculture and tourism, we have to think constructively. After the floods and landslides, the tourist traffic to Kodagu has taken a hit. It pains to see travel and tourism-related people pleading with tourists to visit Kodagu on social media channels. We have to look for better opportunities and diversify.

(Hareesh K G is an Assistant Professor at First Grade College, Murnad, Kodagu.)

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