“When I wake up in the morning, I am greeted by the sunlight reflecting through the dewdrops in the rice leaves of the vast fields. This sight is one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences of my life, ”says Bino, 32, a young aspiring farmer.
The story of Korangatti, a small hamlet of Adimali Panchayat in Kerala, is inspiring. A rare wetland in the state of Kerala, Koranagatti at one time had nearly 100 acres of paddy fields. Excessive cultivation using hybrid paddy varieties has left the land fallow over time and paddy cultivation has shrunk to less than 10 acres. This year, indigenous rice cultivation returned to the region with 42 acres of fallow land converted to fertile fields, under the GEF-supported India High Range Mountain Landscape (IHRML) project led by UNDP.
Build trust between communities
Solving small problems at the community level helps build confidence and bring people together. For Korangatti, it started with the issuance of a small waterlogged canal. With their main water source deteriorated, the people of Korangatti faced many problems and the pandemic added to their woes. The IHRML team started cleaning up the waterlogged canal and enlisted the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Haritha Keralam Mission and the Minor Irrigation Department, and with their coordinated efforts, ensured the cleaning of the canal in an accelerated time. way. This won the trust of the local community, which is largely tribal.
As the sowing season approaches, the IHRML team also decided to organize an exhibition of native seed varieties in Korangatti. The exhibition aimed to draw the attention of local farmers to the more viable alternatives like IR8 and Jaya that they had worked with in the past instead of hybrid paddy varieties. Upscale landscape rice varieties like Koottu Mundakan (Malabar), Malli Kuruva, Thavala Kannan have been reintroduced to them. Farmers were made aware of the importance of conserving native seed varieties and how this in turn would contribute to wetland conservation.
This initiative attracted a strong participation of the local population, and 42 farmers decided to collectively plant indigenous rice varieties in the reclaimed fallows. For this, high quality native rice seeds were provided to volunteer farmers through the Haritha Keralam mission, with the help of the Department of Agriculture, and 27 acres of land were plowed and sown in June. The fields were lush with healthy crops ready for harvest in late December and early January. The Kuttu Mundakan variety has shown great promise, both in terms of production and growth. While the overall yield appears to be a little lower than that of hybrid seeds, the benefits from sowing native varieties are much greater: fallow land could be reclaimed for agriculture, seeds can be used for replanting, and it helps conserve the rare wetlands in the region that were previously in the process of degradation.
Successful land use, sustainable conservation
“I have been cultivating rice regularly for 50 years. Over the past seven years, rice cultivation in Korangatti has been limited to just seven acres. But now it’s back and my heart fills with joy when I see ripe rice waiting to be harvested, ”said Raghavan, 72, from Korangatti tribal settlement. The responses of the farmers involved in the pilot project are filled with their enthusiasm. They understand the importance of their role in wetland and seed conservation. Although the harvest is currently mainly for domestic consumption, farmers are optimistic and plan to create a Korangatti brand in the future. The Farmers’ Committee’s immediate plans include setting aside more of the native cropland next season.
The collective farming project not only inspired a sense of unity within the community, but also became a successful conservation enterprise. The rehabilitation and conservation of the rice fields of Korangatti is of great importance as it has not only helped to promote and conserve the indigenous varieties of rice, but also helped to strengthen communities and evolve towards a sustainable model of rice conservation. wet area.
This blog was written by Karthika S. and Liji M. George in Malayalam and translated by Anupama Suneja. Korangatti field activities were led by Tony Jose and Karthika S.