‘Farming below sea level’ transforms Kerala’s agriculture.


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MS Swaminathan, a respected scientist in the Kuttanad region of Kerala, devised a famous agricultural package. Although it gained international fame, its implementation frustrated local farmers. Nevertheless, this led to the wetland agriculture system of Kuttanad receiving the status of an FAO World Agricultural Heritage System.

It was due to Swaminathan's tireless efforts that Kuttanad's wetland agriculture system received the Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Agricultural Heritage System status in 2013.  (Image Courtesy – Twitter)
It was due to Swaminathan’s tireless efforts that Kuttanad’s wetland agriculture system received the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Agricultural Heritage System status in 2013. (Image Courtesy – Twitter)

MS Swaminathan, a distinguished scientist with a deep understanding of agriculture and friendly attitude, was a source of pride for the people of the Kuttanad region of Kerala.

He devoted his efforts to reviving local agricultural practices and gaining global recognition for them.

However, when the devastating floods hit Kuttanad, the state and its residents remembered Swaminathan’s invaluable contribution – the ‘Kuttanad Package’.

The objective of this comprehensive initiative is to protect and restore the fragile ecology of the area below sea level. He not only addressed the livelihood concerns but also proposed the construction of elevated roads to facilitate the flow of water from canals during floods and monsoons.

Despite the meticulous planning and hard work put into the ‘Kuttanad Package’, experts criticized the state for its inadequate implementation.

For Kuttanad farmers, this is known as the ‘Swaminathan Package’, and they believe that no one else understands Kerala’s unique agro-ecosystem as he does.

Due to Swaminathan’s unwavering dedication, the wetland agriculture system of Kuttanad was recognized as a World Agricultural Heritage System by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2013. When the state government sought his help in preparing a plan for Kuttanad, Swaminathan personally visited the region with farmers, gaining a deeper understanding of their needs and challenges. KG Padma Kumar, director of the International Research and Training Center for Subsea Farming in Kuttanad, fondly recalls spending days with Swaminathan as they traveled and planned the package together.

Swaminathan recognized the interplay between climate change and agriculture, food production and security. He had a personal connection to Kutnad, as his ancestors had contributed to the development of this unique farming system. His work on the ‘Kuttanad Package’ was comprehensive, focusing on the complexities of nature, crop cultivation, and farming economics.

Unfortunately, despite allocating funds to various departments and institutions, the initiative has not yielded the expected results, a fact lamented by agroclimatologist CS Gopakumar, who calls Swaminathan the “father of the Green Revolution”. said

In summary, MS Swaminathan’s dedication and expertise left an indelible mark on Kuttanad agriculture, bringing him global recognition, but the full realization of his vision faced obstacles.

First Published: 29 Sep 2023, 10:00 IST

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