It had been 25 long years since the fields of Manakathazham saw golden paddy heads nodding their head in the breeze. This year, though, the harvest festival was celebrated grandly on February 9.
It was all possible because a group of determined residents and a dedicated ward member transformed the fallow land in the village into lush green paddy fields.
Led by the Manakathazham Padashekara Samithi, six out of 25 acres were tilled, sowed and reaped with the help of Krishi Bhavan and the Chottanikkara Panchayat.
‚ÄúThe project was done as a part of making Chottanikkara a fallow-ground-free panchayat. Though the initial plan was to cultivate the whole 25 acres of land, the owners of the land were not ready to give us permission,‚ÄĚ says Manoj Kumar, assistant agricultural officer, Chottanikkara.
‚ÄúHowever, we will take up the whole 25 acres in the next phase,‚ÄĚ he adds.
The cultivation was done with the help of farming machinery on rent from the agriculture department and overseen by officers from the department, who also gave advice on the fertilizers to be used. Other smaller plots under the panchayat have also been transformed and used for cultivation by similar self-help groups.
‚ÄúIn another year, the dream of turning Chottanikkara into a fallow-land-free panchayat can be achieved,‚ÄĚ says Manoj.
The rice cultivated would be sold in the area itself, so it will inspire more local people to participate in such ventures.
The Mulanthuruthy achievement
The success story of the once abandoned Chengola Padam in Mulanthuruthy panchayat is no different. The rice harvested has already been made available to the public under the name ‚ÄėSahakari Rice‚Äô. Chengola Padam had been lying fallow for the past 25 years and was used as a dumping ground. After being neglected for years, finally the panchayat took the initiative to cultivate the land.
‚ÄúThe whole area was overgrown with wild bushes and over the years the field had become a waste yard. But once the fields were cleaned up and the cultivation started, things changed,‚ÄĚ says Jaya Soman, Mulanthuruthy block panchayat president. ‚ÄúIt has also come as a solution to the mounting garbage, to some extent at least,‚ÄĚ she adds.
Sowed and harvested under the initiative of Mulanthuruthy panchayat with the help of Krishi Bhavan and other organisations like Kudumbashree, the paddy was procured and brought in for sale by the agricultural service centre of the Mulanthuruthy Service Co-operative Bank. Sahakari Rice was launched by Asha Sanil, Ernakulam district panchayat president, on February 8.
The rice is available with varying percentage (30, 50 and 70) of bran content. The rice, priced at Rs 55 per kg, has been made available to the locals through the Service Co-operative Bank. It will be also sold through outlets opened in the head office, the Arakunnam, Pulikkamali and Vettikunnam branches of the bank, as well as through the public library.
‚ÄúThe bank has decided to continue the cultivation in the next farming season also. Even if the panchayat is unable to cooperate with the venture, we have decided to ensure the continuation of the farming and production of Sahakari Rice,‚ÄĚ says KP Vijee, secretary the of Mulanthuruthy Service Co-operative Bank.
The government also has introduced a number of schemes to encourage people to enter farming. There are even schemes meant exclusively for paddy cultivation.
‚ÄúFor fallow land cultivation, you have a monetary remuneration for both cultivators and landowners. While the cultivator is paid Rs 25,000 per hectare, the owner is paid Rs 5,000; the required machinery and resources are lent out by the respective Krishi Bhavans,‚ÄĚ says S Raji, agriculture officer of Thiruvankulam.
‚ÄúThough most fallow land under my office is infertile due to industrial effluents and water stagnation from nearby factories, we are trying to rescue at least small plots of land,‚ÄĚ she adds.