Organic rice transplantation festival celebrated in Patna
By Robert Athickal
Patna: At a time when farmers leave traditional rice crops, more than 100 young people associated with a student green movement celebrated on July 11 the annual organic rice transplantation festival in Bihar.
The Tarumitra (friends of trees) members from Delhi Public School, Don Bosco Academy, May Flower, S R Vidyapeeth, A N College and St. Xavier’s College gathered at Tarumitra farm at Digha Ghat, a western suburb of Patna, capital of the eastern India state.
They entered the muddy field to plant rice seedlings and monsoon rains added to the celebration. All seemed excited at the rare chance to try their hands in farming during their academic life.
This is the seventh year Tarumitra celebrated the festival.
The program started with a PowerPoint presentation on the preparations that preceded the rice plantation at the Tarumitra organic farm. Hundreds of students had worked hard to supply adequate organic manure for the rice cultivation.
The students also received instructions on the right way to plant rice seedlings according to the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method in the field. After the presentation, the group made their way to the farm for rice transplantation.
Noted classical singer Ranjana Jha sang songs right in the rice field, dedicated to nature and Mother Earth so as to mark the auspicious beginning of the rice transplantation ceremony.
Three rare varieties of paddy were sown this year — Bauna Mansuri, Kunjunju and Kakshan. For the seventh year of cultivation, the students resorted again to the time-tested SRI method for crop.
The students transplanted rice paddy in the slushy farm amid laughter, joy and celebrations. They also joined Jha in singing. Even teachers and volunteers too joined the students in the transplantation event.
Margaret Molomoo, a veteran organic farmer trained in Japan, supervised organic farming. She said it was time to make a break from the pesticide laden rice cultivation which is further enervated by the heavily expensive chemical fertilizers. “Poison is flowing out of our farms,” said Molomoo. “If we don’t opt for healthy farms, who else would?” she asked the students.
The concern for the poisoned foodies kept coming back to the students all these years. Tarumitra students realized the need for urgent action to check it.
“We have successfully completed totally organic farming for rice and lentils last six years. The outcome has energized us to take upon more farming,” said Devopriya Dutta, who co-ordinated the event this year.
Two American students from Lehigh University, Angie Rizzo and Robert Smith, also joined the entire cultivation work. Rizzo said organic farming was the right step to sustainable development. “Students are the future of the planet and they should be sensitized about organic cultivations,” she asserted.
Smith said that engaging oneself in farming such as paddy cultivation was being going closer to nature and it showed reverence to Mother Earth.
The SRI is a methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It is a low water, labor-intensive, method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools. It was developed in 1983 by the French Jesuit Father Henri de Laulanié in Madagascar. However full testing and spread of the system throughout the rice growing regions of the world did not occur until some years later with the help of Universities like Cornell.