Gulf returnees turn to paddy farming in Kuttanad

They revive fallow fields to eke out a living

Vipin Vijayakumar left for West Asia from his house surrounded by green paddy fields at Chirayakom in Thakazhi at a relatively young age of 22 seeking better fortunes. Working as an aircraft maintenance engineer in Kuwait, he returned home on leave in November 2020, but could not fly back due to a raging COVID-19. The curtain has fallen on his expatriate life.

"After realising that I won’t be able to go back, I contemplated a few ideas, but soon settled on paddy cultivation," says Mr. Vijayakumar.

He is joined by his brother-in-law Yedhu Krishnan, another Gulf returnee, in eking out a livelihood through rice farming. The duo recently revived cultivation under the State government’s Subhiksha Keralam project on 25-acre Maveli padashekharam in Thakazhy that had remained fallow for 17 years. "Both the grama panchayat and Krishi Bhavan are providing us all support. We have spent ₹4 lakh for farming and are hoping for a good yield," says Mr. Vijayakumar.

More people into farming

They are not the only ones who have returned to Kuttanad from abroad in recent times and are engaged in farming, especially rice cultivation. Suresh M.U., Anujith Udayakumar, and John Joseph, all three Gulf returnees, are busy growing paddy after transforming 30-acre Kallepuram Vadake padashekharam that had remained fallow for two decades.

The trio from Kunnumma first ventured into farming in the last puncha crop season (first crop). Their initial experience, however, turned out to be a failure after the torrential downpour in May washed away the crop in its entirety. But it did not prevent them from farming during the additional crop season (second crop). “We have suffered a loss to the tune of ₹11 lakh in the puncha season. Our sheer love for paddy cultivation has led us to do farming in the second crop season,” says Mr. Suresh.

Sreerekha R., principal agricultural officer, Alappuzha, says the Agriculture Department is providing all help to Gulf returnees for farming. The government is providing a subsidy of ₹40,000, which included ₹35,000 for farmers and ₹5,000 for landowners to make fallow lands cultivable.

“People who wish to be part of Subhiksha Keralam should register on a portal. We are giving people, including those who have returned from abroad, all kinds of assistance,” Ms. Sreerekha adds.

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