MANGALURU: When students of Government First Degree College, Car Street, Mangaluru, had their first mid-day meal on Wednesday, with excitement and a great sense of achievement. For, they were eating what they had sowed and reaped, literally.
About 200 students of the college who are NSS volunteers had toiled in the fields of Konaje village on the city outskirts for over five months to grow about 14 quintals of rice in rainwater. The college had taken on lease four acres of land that had become fallow after five farmers had stopped cultivating it for more than a decade following losses. In return, the land owners would get a share in the crop and paddy straw besides the fallow land being repaired at the end of a three-year-lease period. The students had made more than a dozen trips to Konaje starting last August 15 in order to level the field, till it, plant seedlings, de-weed and finally to harvest the crop last month. Impressed by the initiative, some villagers and Manohar Shetty, a farmer leader, joined the students.
Dr Naveen Konaje, a lecturer and NSS officer of the college, said the idea was mooted jointly by the college principal, Prof Rajashekar Hebbar, and lecturers-cum-NSS officers Prof Jeffry Rodrigues, Dr Nagaveni and himself, keeping in mind the agriculture scenario wherein it is becoming less attractive to people day by day.
The initiative, he said, helped rekindle interest towards farming among students, some of whom are city-bred. A quintal of rice of the total reaped will be handed over to the two farmers who had leased out the land shortly. The remaining 13 quintals will be enough to feed students till the end of the current academic year, which is less than 2 months. Donors and college lecturers have contributed towards vessels and other cooking needs.
Initially, apart from 200 NSS volunteers, 50 other students who are economically poor will be fed.
The college plans to increase the numbers gradually as it expands the area of cultivation. According to Dr Konaje, over 100 acres of neglected paddy fields is available in Konaje and Belma GP limits and farmers are eager to lease it out to them.