KOCHI: Lissymol J Vadakuttu, agriculture officer of the state seed farm on the shore of the Periyar at Aluva, is all smiles when she shares her dream to transform it into the mythical ‘Noah’s ark’. Her reference was not just a coincidence. Rebuilding the 100-year-old farm, which recently celebrated its centenary, from the harrowing flood of last year took a similar collective effort.
“The entire land was completely cut off for five days with numerous stranded animals at my office rooftop. It took a herculean effort to bring everything back to normal. With the help of 16 regular staff and five extra workers, we transformed the seed farm into a diverse agriculture zone,” she said. Lack of connectivity proved to be the major headache officials faced duing the harrowing flood.
As the railway line offers the sole connectivity, officials didn’t have many options but to seek the help of the national transporter. “We had requested the Railways to halt their service for a few minutes to shift animals to the temporary shed at a coconut nursery at Nettoor. As the place was unhygienic, the animals had to be brought back on August 14,” she said.
On Independence Day, things became even more severe and all animals were shifted to the rooftop. “Farm assistant Anoop V and night security Babu called me in the morning and said that water level was getting higher.
Though we managed to save cows, oxen and ducks, we lost the three goats and all the hens. But the six long days surrounded with water had an impact on the animals. One of the cows was pregnant and though she had a hard time with no food, she gave birth to ‘Juno,’ a bull,” said Lissymol.
The farm’s lone boat was also washed away in the swirling currents. “We had tied the boat to a nearby coconut tree and when we come back on August 21, it wasn’t there. A few fishermen found it at Manjali, an islet faraway from Aluva town. We refurbished it with the support of Ernakulam district panchayat,” she said.
The 13-acre land, part of a naturally evolved islet, has stability, believes the officer. “The land withstood the calamity. But the water seepage has been ruining the sides of the land. We have requested the government to build a wall and two permanent boat jetties,” she saidAmidst the silt deposited by the floodwater, the team managed to harvest three tonnes of rice. “With permission from the department, we displayed it in Vaiga annual agriculture fest in Thrissur. Much to our surprise, it sold like hot cakes. We are planning to brand our agro-products as well,” she said.
The agricultural officer points out the need for a common shelter at a higher point in the district to safely shift animals during natural calamities. “As we faced back-to-back torrential rain for two years, it’s high time we prepared for future adversities. I have already requested the district administration to set up a permanent shelter for animals. If it can be set up at Kakkanad, a higher point in the vicinity, many can make use of such a facility to rescue their animals,” she said.
Outlet for sale
Along with the plans of enhancing basic infrastructure, the farm dreams of having an exclusive outlet to sell its products. “As we cultivating items according to the season, we can’t ensure a regular supply of certain items. At times, we have surplus production and no one will be there to take up our organic products. If the government allots a stall at Aluva railway station, customers can easily purchase the products,” she said.