Agri Business

Kochi-based Agronature mulls promoting organic rice planting through Pokkali farming

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on June 28, 2021

The farming system is especially prominent in the backwaters of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur

To restore the past glory of Pokkali farming, organic cultivation of rice is being combined with aquaculture followed in the coastal areas of Kerala. Agronature, a Kochi-based private company working for the farmers' economic upliftment, has drawn up a plan to promote and sustain this unique traditional farming practice.

Pokkali is an integrated rice-fish rotational complementary farming system in the saline backwaters of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur. The rice varieties are salt tolerant and adapted to submergence.

The company has been partnering with Palliyakkal Service Cooperative Bank, at Ezhikkara, a prominent Pokkali rice growing region near Kochi, since 2017 to support the efforts of Pokkali farmers and to extend its reach not just in Kerala but across India.

The brand Pokkali already has bagged a geographical indication (GI) tag.

Agronature intends to address the challenges faced by Pokkali farming such as low output, high cost of production, absence of mechanisation and low value addition, through its new plan.

“Pokkali farming is more than preserving a farming heritage; it holds the clue to a sustainable and secure food future for India. It is of great interest to the responsible tourism community as well”, said Ranjit Rajendran, co-founder Agronature.”

Further, conserving this traditional variety also forms the basis for the efforts to address climate change related issues such as sea level rise and saline water intrusion, he added.

Features

The core features of the plan are a fully mechanised and equipped trial farm for the benefit of academics, farmers and tourists, seed bank of high-quality indigenous seeds by dedicating 200 hectares of paddy field in Ezhikkara for it, along with a seed testing laboratory. The company aims to apply technology-based solutions for the on-farm problems, especially related to farm operations which are to be conducted in standing water.

Other aspects include seeking globally important heritage status and responsible tourism of international standards for Pokkali farming and implementing renewable energy resources in Pokkali farms.

Agronature supports Palliyakkal Service Cooperative Bank by working alongside 4,074 farmers. The bank pays higher MSP rates to farmers to encourage Pokkali farming. In 2021 when MSP was ₹28, the bank paid ₹55 per kg.

Owing to the efforts of Agronature to streamline seed production and increase production capacity, the land under Pokkali rice cultivation increased by 39 per cent to 819.5 hectares in 2018 from the previous year. Subsequently, the two floods and Covid-19 have hampered the activities of the organisation.

Partnerships

Agronature is seeking out a partnership with Pokkali Land Development Authority that will help implement the programmes across Pokkali farming sector. Under its Sampoorna Pokkali Project, a pokkali regeneration programme in Ezhikkara, Varappuzha, Kadamakkudy and Kottuvally panchayaths, besides technical and training support, Agrinature has formed a labour bank of Pokkali Karmasena.

The construction of a ₹3 crore rice mill is underway in Ezhikkara with funding from NABARD. The women-friendly rice mill will help greatly in the value-addition process of Pokkali products, apart from employment generation to the women folk.

As a result of the intervention of Agronature, a responsible tourism project has been approved for the bank, along with government funding. As part of renewable energy creation, the organisation plans to erect solar panels on the fields.

Published on June 28, 2021

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