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Mar Gregorios explained that many of his people do not possess that minimal material comfort; they live in painful circumstances, knowing only hunger and want. Eighty percent of the Indian population in India live on farms, as opposed to six percent in the U.S. Most of these farms are as small as a quarter of an acre.

Mar Gregorios stated that India “must experience an agrarian revolution to precede any industrial revolution; to do this, scientific farming must be done and many of the farms must be consolidated. And if the farmers are removed from the land,” he continued, “there must be a place for them in society, there must be homes and jobs waiting for them. Even more vexing is the problem of raising the education level of millions of people to make such a revolution possible.”

Such a revolution is already in progress – conceived, developed and nourished by this Renaissance man of Trivandrum.

Farming is a poor profession in Trivandrum. A farmer gets 10 percent of his profits, the rest is absorbed by costs. This is why the archbishop works so diligently on farming and farm products.

Small demonstration farms, attached to local parishes, have been set up in several areas. Some of these land parcels are funded by donors of Catholic Near East.

These small plots of land cover about three acres. Rubber trees are grown to help fund the food crops. The newest techniques are employed, and the people can see, and eat, the results for themselves. Thus, methods of agriculture that were previously suspect can be introduced and win popular acceptance through the teaching and the example of the church.

Mar Gregorios has also encouraged the establishment of poultry farms and backyard chicken coops to supplement the protein-poor diet of many of the people who now eat rice three times a day.

A new hybrid grass for cattle has also been developed. It grows rapidly in the Indian climate and can be cut frequently. The villagers are then encouraged to collect seeds for planting on their own farms.

Fast-growing tree seedlings are given to farmers and proper planting techniques explained at evening sessions to the men and women attending the classes. Mushrooms, a cash crop as are cashew nuts, are cultivated in specially constructed rooms and processed in the places they are grown, saving shipping costs.

Perhaps the buildings and research laboratories are crude by Western standards (the air-conditioning in one chemical plant was a low rack that held heavy cotton toweling periodically soaked with water. The evaporation caused cooling for the entire room) but the old cliche held true: “It works!”

Mar Gregorios has never been swayed by the “small is beautiful” economic philosophy. Early on he recognized that a healthy economy and society needed both the large and the small. Indeed, the two are mutually interdependent.

“Look at the abundance of raw rubber in Kerala…yet the processing and all the products are made elsewhere…so are the profits.” Catholic Near East recently funded a processing plant to keep profits in Trivandrum Archdiocese.

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Tags: India CNEWA Kerala Poor/Poverty Syro-Malankara Catholic Church