Water logged, saline soils? Enter Pokkali, a unique salt-tolerant paddy and a tale of revival
Along the scenic, water-logged coastal regions of Kerala, more famously recalled for its annual boating and cultural festivals, is the story of a unique traditional crop. Tagged with a Geographical Identification for its special features ‘Pokkali’, is a unique saline tolerant paddy cultivated along with aquaculture in Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Thrissur districts of Kerala.
The rice is cultivated from June to early November when the salinity level of the water in the fields is low. From mid-November to mid-April, when the salinity is high, prawn farming takes over. Ernakulam District has around 4,000 ha of Pokkali fields of which 70% have not been used for cultivation for a long time, for which reasons are many. Unavailability of pure seeds, zero mechanization in standing water are the major concerns towards promoting this crop.
This year, the Government of Kerala has announced the restoration but this is only for about 400ha. MSSRF with the support of HDFC Bank’s CSR programme Parivartan, is devising a holistic approach in Pokkali revival ensuring:
1) the availability of quality seeds by adopting participatory seed purification,
2) promoting sustainable management of fish wealth, and
3) supporting farmers in creating marketing avenues.
The component is ongoing in the villages of Kadamakkudy, Kottuvally and Ezhikkara of Ernakulam District. The project over a period of one year, in the initial phase aims at creating small model farms in a total of 32 ha for the revival of this traditional crop system.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.