Fruits of Labour: After an initial hitch, A Raghupathi (below) was able to expand farming of traditional varieties of paddy in his farm in Kancheepuram
After a crop loss, A Raghupathi had almost given up on farming when he chanced upon some traditional paddy seeds. A seed bank in Kancheepurm supplied him with the seeds of ‘kitchadi samba’ and he went ahead with its cultivation on his two-acre field, following organic methods. After five-and-a-half months, the yield was promosing, but there was a problem. The wholesale market which promoted only pesticide-oriented grains didn’t acept his product.
Once the harvest was over, marketing became a stumbling block. “I took the grains tothe rice mill, removed the husk, packed them into bags,” he said. As there were no takers, Raghupati, with the help of some agricultural actiists of the Green Cause Foundation, an organization that promotes organic farming, took to social media to find buyers. In a couple of months, he managed to sell all 29 bags of 25 kg of rice each. The 64 year old farmer, from Sirunagar village in Cheyyur, has now started cultivating traditional seeds on 10 acres.
A couple of years since, Raghupathi’s experiment has many takers today. Once a laid back region, Kancheepuram has begun waking up to organic farming with traditional seed varieries. Distribution of region-specific traditional paddy seeds proved to be a big boost. “I stopped using high-end variety of paddy seeds mainly due to the increasing cost of fertilizers and labour. At the same time, I was not confident of traditional paddy seeds. But after I got used to the basics of organic farming I didn’t look back,” said Raghupathi.
More than 120 farmers from his village have come forward to try traditional paddy seeds in their fields. “Many helped me. Since there was no chemicals and fertilizers involved in the farming, we needed to try out organic methods, to protect the crop from pests. Although the yield was a bit low compared to the high-end variety, I could save on the expreses for fertilizers. It was a revelation,” he said.
Finding the right paddy seed for the right place is challenging. Nel Jayaraman, the collector of traditioanl paddy seeds, had distributed 12 paddy seeds suitable for Kancheepuram a coule of years ago. “We distributed those 12 paddy varieties to the farmers here. Raghupathi was successful mainly because he worked hard. He also followed the basics of organic farming,” said M J Prabju, a journalist and member of Green Cause Foundation.
Raghupathi believes in the midicinal value of the traditional paddy varieties. Kattuyanam, garudan samba, kuzhiadichan, jeeraka samba are some of the special ones with medicinal value. “I want to try to grow traditional paddy seeds having medicinal value from this season. The idea is to regain our health through native varieties,” he said.
First published by Times of India Chennai on 18 Dec. 2018