In a day and age, when gourmet cuisine is available at our doorstep thanks to various apps, 200 students of a college in Mangaluru, have made a commendable effort in growing their own food.
The best part is that not only did these students successfully cultivate rice on land which was fallow; they will also use some portion of the yield to feed 50 economically backward students.
These youngsters are students of the Government First Degree College in Mangaluru, and all of them are NSS (National Service Scheme) volunteers. The NSS scheme aims to develop a student’s personality through community service, and keeping the spirit of the scheme in mind, the students hit the fields of Konaje village, and toiled, day and night, to harvest 14 quintals of rice in rainwater, over a period of five months.
The land, used for the cultivation was fallow. Five farmers, who earlier used to grow crops on the land, stopped cultivating on it for more than a decade ago, due to incurring losses.
The students took over the land after the college leased the 4 acres from two farmers, who were promised a share of the crop and the paddy straw. An additional bonus was that at the end of the three year lease period, the land would be fertile.
The students got to work almost immediately and starting last August 15, 2017, made more than a dozen trips to Konaje, to level the field, plant seedlings, remove weeds, and finally, last month, harvest their produce. Impressed by their efforts, some villagers, and Manohar Shetty—a farmer leader—joined the students.
The NSS officer of the college is Dr Naveen Konaje, a lecturer, who said that the idea for this initiative was jointly broached by Prof Rajashekar Hebbar, the college principal, and lecturers-cum-NSS officers, Prof Jeffry Rodrigues, Dr Nagaveni and himself. They all believe that agricultural scenario is becoming less attractive every day, and an initiative like this will help to rekindle an interest towards farming, among students.
Out of the 14 quintals, one quintal will be given to the two farmers, who had leased out the land. The remaining 13 quintals, will feed the students till the end of the current academic session, which is less than two months. Donors and college lecturers have contributed by providing vessels and taking care of other cooking needs.
Dr Konaje reveals the college’s plans to increase the numbers gradually. There are over a 100 acres of neglected paddy fields available in Konaje and Belma GP limits.
This isn’t the first time students in Mangaluru are taking advantage of the region’s crop-growing capabilities. As early as 2014, around 300 students, under the guidance of elders, cultivated paddy on 1 acre of land, in Marakalabettu, in Konaje. Once again, this was done by the NSS students of Mangaluru University, as part of a 4-day camp.
Farming activities for students are great, because:-
It exposes them to the long and tough process of bringing food from the field to the plate.
It helps break certain perceptions or misgivings that any student might have had, with regards to farming.
It helps students empathise with farmers, and acknowledge the hardships they face.
It encourages students not to waste food, given the effort taken to grow it.
Most importantly, it is an activity that students can indulge in, without a laptop, a mobile phone and the internet—a true rarity nowadays!