It was a rare occasion witnessed by hundreds of people when the harvest festival started in the 14-acre paddy fields of the tribal hamlet here on Friday.

Nearly 75 students from the nearby schools, including tiny tots led by teachers and peoples' representatives, harvested the grown organic paddy at the fete that was organised for the second consecutive year.

Once known for its self-sustainability by feeding the entire tribal community here where 21 Urali families live, the acreage of paddy cultivation has shrunk over the years from nearly 50 acres to just 14 acres.

Despite various factors, the prime reason is shifting the paddy fields to other cultivation including plantain and tapioca. “Not only the tribals, even the non-tribals who take the land on lease; engage mainly plantain cultivation,'' said Sivaraman, a tribal member.

He attributed the loss of interest among tribals, low prices on their produce and lack of availability of local labourers during the sowing and harvesting seasons as the reasons for the shrinkage in the acreage of paddy fields.

However for the students of the local schools, who reached the paddy fields for harvesting, it was a different experience. The basic lesson provided by the teachers for harvesting the paddy helped them to complete harvesting in a single plot within half-an-hour, marking the beginning of the festival.

The festival started with traditional harvesting songs rendered by the students and the local people re-sung it.

Arunkumar Anil and Ajmal Khan, both sixth standard students, said that it was for the first time they are engaged in harvesting in a paddy field. “It's all enjoyable,” says Ajmal.

Students from St.Mary's Lower Primary School and High School, Government Lower Primary School and Grace Garden Public School participated in the harvest festival.

The Ayyappancoil Service Co-Operative Bank had provided interest-free loans to the farmers for starting the paddy cultivation.

Earlier, P.T.Thomas M.P inaugurated the harvest festival.

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