In the coastal belt of Kerala, fences used to be made with plaited and dried coconut fronds. This practice is mostly discontinued now because of reduced availability of the fronds, lack of sufficient workers (mainly women) for plaiting, and the high cost of material and labor.
The new trend is to use plastic sheets, often of an ungainly blue color, for fencing. The material is non-biodegradable and not eco-friendly. And it doesn’t blend with the greenery around. It is an eyesore.
At Olavipe, my village, we are planning to introduce an innovation. The objectives of a barrier around a homestead or plot are protection and privacy. These can be achieved with hedges formed with plants or shrubs or small trees. And, they can, in the bargain, bring some additional income as well to the owner.
What we are thinking of is to encourage people to have hedges of medicinal plants. The first experiment may be with Vitex negundo (Nirgandi in Hindi, Karinochi in Malayalam). It is considered to be anti inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial.
Ceasalpina Sappan (Pathimukham) and Hibiscus (Chembarathy), both having many uses, are other possibilities being considered. We are also in touch with different sources to identify medicinal plants best suited for hedgerow in our area. Any suggestions would be welcome.
A project of this nature anywhere should be able to attract financial and/or technical support from local administration, government departments, NGOs, and manufacturers of herbal medicines/cosmetics.
It may not be easy to convert the villagers to this idea. People have a tendency to resist changes. But fortunately we have a committed group of young volunteers under the leadership of my brother Jacob (it was his idea in the first place) to undertake the mission.