Happy and hopeful New year!
It was not a planned visit to the Thrissur Kole lands recently. It happened because of an important meeting that took place in
Thrissur where Devinder Sharma, the well known writer and expert on food and trade policy, joined to deliberate about Ecosystem Services of agriculture land in India. Sridhar, R from Thanal also participated in this meeting . There were discussions on wetland paddy cultivation and its importance to water and biodiversity protection . Many other values of wetland paddy fields like recreational value , tourism , etc were discussed . But many of the paddy fields in India are irrigated and very exploitative in nature like in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. Here paddy has a negative ecosystem service value. Sridhar said that it was an interesting session . It is very difficult to encompass the diversity of Indian agriculture and hence its ecosystem value.
So on 8th we thought of taking Devinder Sharma to the Kole wetlands in Thrissur district. Raju S, an ornithologist and programme coordinator in Thanal took us to Manakkody which is close to the town . He is a regular visitor to Kole lands and studies the dynamics of Kole wetlands and paddy cultivation. He focus on birds and its relation to agriculture and he had interesting story to share with us. Kole lands are a very productive wetland ecosystem where farmers take one or two crops of paddy and cultivate fish in between . Even before green revolution this region used to yield well without much intense farming . One of the main activity was to de water the wetlands and do sowing. Then take a good harvest. All those have changed in the last 30-40 years . Traditional seeds were replaced and it resulted in changes in the farming practices also. Most of the area is now under a single variety called Jyothi, a popular high yielding variety from Kerala Agriculture University.
Farmers were still there when we reached the field. Dewatering was still going on .
All the water is discharged in to a canal and is stored there. Women were seen doing weeding operation. We talked to some farmers standing near the shed which shelters ‘Petti and para’ , the dewatering equipment, which was introduced long back during british period. It used to be run on diesel and on electricity. Earlier farmers used wheel to dewater and they used to sing while doing this work. Those Songs also got lost during this transition. Do not know whether that had an impact on the production.
This is one area where collective farming still continue. Farmers said that pesticide use has come down. In the recent years. Weedicide use has gone up instead.
Kole lands is a Ramsar site which hosts a lot of migratory birds . We could see many of them including a group of Curlews. Raju said they are very rare . It was dark when we started to return. By then lot of young families had come. While walking back Devinder told us that now he know why we are always talking about wetland paddy.