Kerala youth's journey from paddy fields to ‘global solutions’

Kuttanad lad Aby George has received a C40-lakh scholarship for a master’s programme at a UK university,  reports  Biju E Paul

Published: 26th September 2021 06:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2021 12:30 PM   |  A+A-

Aby George

Aby George

Express News Service

ALAPPUZHA: Having grown up in the little, waterlogged village of Chempumpuram in Kuttanad, Aby George is ready to fly to the United Kingdom. The Exeter University of Devon county in South West England to be precise, on a Commonwealth Scholarship of Rs 40 lakh for a master’s programme in ‘Global Sustainability Solutions’.

The 23-year-old’s ‘passport’ to a potentially fulfilling career comes in the form of the knowledge he has gained from the paddy fields of Kuttanad, with its unique below-sea-level farming. 

The son of traditional farmers George Joseph and Jophy, he has spent a lot of time helping his parents in their five-acre paddy field — at the Puthenkari polder in Chambakulam panchayat — right from childhood. “We earn our livelihood after fighting the vagaries of nature. Sometimes flood, and at other times, a lack of fresh water, pest attacks and many other unforeseen natural calamities have to be dealt with before completing a harvesting season. Those experiences gave me the courage to overcome obstacles and receive the prestigious scholarship,” Aby says.

The scholarship enables an all-expenses-paid 12-month programme at Exeter. He grew interested in research after he completed BCom at the St Berchmans College, Changanassery, in 2019, he says. He then joined the International Centre for Technological Innovations, an Alappuzha-based research organisation, as a research associate.

“There I gained an opportunity to coordinate projects in sustainable agriculture, given the uniqueness of farming in Kuttanad. Unseasonal rain and floods have become frequent in Kuttanad, damaging crops. I studied about climate-resilient agriculture and disaster-risk reduction in paddy farming. The basic knowledge I had gained from childhood were a huge help,” Aby says. 

Realising that the farming sector was unorganised, with many farmers unaware of various government schemes, he went on to form a ‘farmer producer organisation’. “It has nearly 900 members now. My initiative received support from the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium, a central government agency, and the Agricultural Insurance Company of India to provide paddy seeds and crop insurance to farmers. The effort has benefitted many paddy farmers in my village, and in Kuttanad,” Aby says.  His brother Alloshious too helps in farming and the related studies.


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