Farmer Muthu Murugan grows millets for birds in his farm land

This Coimbatore — based farmer cultivates pearl millets and sorgam in half an acre of land

As the sun sets, 62-year-old Muthu Murugan, strolls through his farm at Thondamuthur in Coimbatore. Slow-paced, he walks, and stops on spotting a peacock at a distance. “He is a regular. He does not run away at my sight,” he says.

The evening walk has been a part of Muthu Murugan’s routine for the past four decades. “For me, this is the best place on theplanet. I live in harmony with the animals and insects here,” says the farmer.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, he allocated half an acre of his land to cultivate pearl millets and sorghum for the birds to feed on. “I sowed the seeds in April. It took three months for the plants to yield.” Since then, birds have been thronging in large numbers. “Last week I saw a flock of Munias. They came in hundreds. Sadly, I could not document that moment,” he says. Muthu has also spotted pigeons, crows, bats, sparrows, peacocks, parakeets, kingfishers, and squirrels amid the millet field.

And, in case they get thirsty, the birds are also welcome to visit the birdbath Muthu has thoughtfully arranged. “Many farmers think of birds as a menace. But, I don’t see a problem with sharing what I produce with them.” Muthu sees the animals in his farm as his guests. “I don’t disturb them and watch from a distance. Most of the birds come in early mornings and late evenings,” he says.

The farmer has been cultivating pulses and vegetables from a young age. “I have always cultivated them along the boundaries of my farm. But this is the first time that I have exclusively reserved a patch of my land for it,” he explains adding that he grows beans, tomatoes, bitter gourd, ladies’ fingers, and fodder for his cattle on the rest of his property.

Birds in Muthu Murugan's farm.

“With farmers switching to cash crops and buildings taking up agricultural land, birds are not able to find food. This has reduced the bird count in our city and I want to bring them back.” He uses rain water for irrigation and cow dung as manure for the millets. He also stays away from chemical pesticides. “It alters the food chain of the locality as it kills the worms and other insects, that are food for birds and small animals.”

Muthu’s farm is surrounded by trees that he has planted for the birds to nest. “Some of those trees grew from seeds dropped by birds. These are all small ways of giving back to Nature.”

Wildlife cinematographer Varun Alagar Surendran who visited his farm captured photographs of the birds. He says, “I could not spot the birds on my first visit. I came back the next day and photographed Ashy prinia, Scaly-breasted munia and White-rumped munia.”

Muthu plans to continue leaving portions of his land for birds in the future. He says, “I hope this will be an inspiration to others. It is heart-warming to hear them chirp.”

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