Tamil Nadu

Nel Jayaraman, who preserved traditional paddies, is no more

Nel Jayaraman.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nel Jayaraman, farmer and consumer activist, who dedicated his life for collecting, reviving and preserving traditional paddy varieties, died in a private hospital on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was so popular that the word Nel (paddy) became part of his name.

Adirangam, his native in Tiruvarur district is a famous vaishnavite pilgrimage centre. In recent times it turned into a hub of paddy festival visited by a lot of farmers every year. He practised organic farming.

Jayaraman, closely associated with CREATE, a consumer organisation, organised paddy festival since 2005 and distributed 2 kg of traditional paddy seeds to farmers and they had to return 4 kg after harvest.

“His enthusiasm earned the goodwill of an NRI from his village and he donated nine acres land for crop cultivation and for organising training programmes,” said S. Ranganathan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers Association.

Mr. Ranganathan said traditional paddies would grow very tall and the haystack was used to cover the roof of huts as they had the capacity to arrest leak during rainy season.

Jayaraman, who coordinated “Save Our Rice” campaign, began with distribution of 15 paddy varieties and increased to 64 varieties. He was able to collect seeds of over 170 paddy varieties and also organised training programme for cultivating them.

Though Cauvery Delta region is known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu, natural calamities wrecked a havoc year after year. Encouraged by later natural agronomist Nammalvar, he collected information about the diversity of traditional paddy in coastal areas as they have potential to withstand climate variations.

According to his website, some of the important varieties he maintained were Kattuyanam (best suited for flood condition), Poongkar (suited for saline soil), Karunguruvai (best for making biriyani), Kuzhiyadichan (for alkaline soil), Kudavaalai, Gauvuni, Mappillai Samba (for high energy), Samba Mosanam (best suited for making flat rice), Arupatham Kuruvai (short duration variety (60 days). The website also gives details about traditional varieties, their special characters and land suitable for their cultivation.

All the varieties can be easily cultivated under the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method.

He received the best organic farmer award of Tamil Nadu government in 2011 and invited to the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines.

After he was diagnosed with cancer, actor Sivakarthikeyan admitted him in a private hospital and agreed to take care of the educational expense of his son. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami visited him in the hospital and offered ₹5 lakh.

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Printable version | Sep 10, 2021 5:01:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/nel-jayaraman-who-preserved-traditional-paddies-is-no-more/article25681121.ece

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