Farming being revived on 350 acres of polders

The winds of change in the sleepy village of Kalliyoor, near Vellayani here, is quite visible with the district panchayat embarking on an ambitious programme to revive cultivation in around 350 acres of ‘Pandarakarai Padasekharam’ (polder), once a verdant area.

One could see on a morning visit to the area, a large number of local women enthusiastically engaged in weeding the paddy fields so as to make the land cultivable. These women are engaged by the district panchayat under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).

“We have cleaned up a large stretch of the area and in places where weeding is over, people have started cultivating paddy and vegetables. It is a mixed trend, while some have shown interest in reviving paddy cultivation others are cultivating banana and vegetables,” Sudhakaran, representative of farmers’ forum in Kalliyoor, said.

Expressing optimism in bringing back the area to its pristine glory, he said “the polder was once a major contributor to the rice markets in the city and adjoining places. The fields are fertile and the recent efforts to strengthen the storage capacity of the canal, known locally as ‘Kannukalithodu,’ would help re-charge groundwater and protect vegetation from floods,” he said.

Another option

The enthusiasm of the MGNREGS workers is quiet understandable as apart from the days of guaranteed income, they have the option of taking up cultivation on their own after entering into agreements with the landowners. Shanthi, a worker, said she had already made enquiries with a few owners on the option of cultivating paddy in stretches already cleaned.

“Some gave a favourable response and a couple of them turned down my offer. As both of us [she and her husband] are farmhands we plan to cultivate paddy. Already we are cultivating paddy in one acre of leased land in a nearby locality. Since we are doing the work on our own, paddy cultivation is profitable,” she said.

Other workers too had shown interest in taking up farming in the polder, Mr. Sudhakaran said.

District panchayat vice-president Rufus Daniel told The Hindu that the civic body was keen to make the area cultivable. The panchayat in their consultative meetings with owners of the fields had “categorically” told them to start cultivation immediately or else to handover the land to farm workers for farming. “In case they fail to do so, we would start cultivating the land with the help of interested farmers. We will not allow the cleaned up area to be left barren,” he said.

The district panchayat had incurred expenditure to the tune of Rs.15 lakh for cleaning the area, the vice-president said adding that the local body was willing to spend more money if necessary.