The Vegetable Farmer of Kotagala

For the past 38 years, Bose Pichai Chandran, 52, has been cultivating vegetables on the Dryden Estate in Kotagala.

“My three children are all schooling,” he told Roar. “My oldest daughter is studying to become a chartered accountant in Colombo, and my younger son and daughter are both pursuing their higher education. My vegetable business has been the only support for my children’s education and my family’s livelihood.” 

Chandran said that he had managed to make a living even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with his gardening. But a number of issues — like the fertiliser shortage —  had made this year particularly hard. 

“Farming is a difficult endeavour these days, he said. ‘A bag of fertiliser which used to cost 1,600 rupees is now between 18,000 and 25,000 rupees.” 

“We are also greatly impacted by the scarcity of kerosene. Last year, kerosene was sold at 80 rupees a litre, but the price has drastically increased to 350 rupees.”

Chandran initially mitigated some of the impact by storing away vegetables. But the rising cost of fertiliser, kerosene and the inability to make a profit from seedlings, have made things significantly harder. 

Because Chandran and his family have built their life around agriculture, they had no alternative but to continue with it despite their numerous hardships.

“These problems that we face today will make future generations reluctant to choose agriculture as their livelihood,” he said. “The  government should get involved and help by providing proper training, and capital assistance.” 

Images and story by Manojnath Sathasivam

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