MALAPPURAM: The June breeze swaying green paddy stalks among the fields at Puzhambram in Ponnani Municipality have the tale of a great comeback to tell. Through the Ponnaryan Koyyunna Ponnani scheme, the seeds have been sown for the revival of rice cultivation here.
Last year, farmers turned 45 acres of barren land into paddy fields in their first attempt. The enthusiasm soon gave way to disappointment with drought bringing down the yield. This year, though, no rain or drought appear to be able enough to draw them back.“We are looking to expand it to another 45 acres this year,” says Rajeesh U of the farmers’ collective here.
While the production stood at 1,200 kg per acre last year, farmers believe the yield could be increased to 1,500-2,000 with better care. Under the aegis of the ‘Padasekhara Samithi’, 45 farmers were part of the sceme last year. Ten more have been added this year. These 55 include ten young professionals who have either given up their jobs or found time for farming.
For them, cultivation is not just an affair for profit. Rather it is a mission to revive the indigenous varieties and ensure healthy food for local residents. Ranging from ‘Thavalakkannan’ to ‘Kokkan’, 13 local varieties on the brink of extinction due to the intrusion of new brands are cultivated here. Besides, fully organic farming methods are followed.
“None here dares to ask whether we can use chemical fertilisers or pesticides. We only use organic manure like cow dung and oil cakes,” Rajeesh says.Most farmers have their own cattle, helping them get manure. The farmers’ community has opened an eco-shop for direct marketing and to ensure maximum profit for the farmer.Last year, rice was collected from only some farmers and was sold to local residents. With the opening of the eco-shop, Padasekhara Samithi is looking to procure rice from all farmers and market it under the brand name ‘Ponnani Ponnari’. The plan is to sell one kg rice for Rs 70. Farmers will be given `63 while Rs 7 will be spent for transportation and packing charges.
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan and Ponnani Municipality deserve special mention for their constant backing to the farmers. The municipality is providing a subsidy of `6,500 for each acre while seed is distributed for free. Besides, it allocated Rs 2.5 lakh towards purchasing two tillers.“Farmers should be treated as a privileged community,” says municipal chairman C P Mohamed Kunhi. “We are obliged to extend any kind of help.”The civic body has earmarked `6 lakh for the project in the 2017-2018 budget while the previous year’s allocation stood at Rs 5 lakh. Farmers here says Sreeramakrishnan, who represents Ponnani, is keen to know the developments and visits the fields. “He has offered us all support,” Rajeesh says.
"The scheme was envisioned to reduce barren land and help people get toxin-free food. The scheme will be spread to more areas. We are looking to encourage organic farming. The government will extend all possible help to the farmers," said Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan