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Arup Shandilya
Date of Publish: 2016-04-22

Assam’s bowl of success

Cultivation of the Early Ahu varieties of rice is helping many farmers in Assam to make better earnings


In these times of drought and scarcity in many parts of the country, improved rice varieties are bringing hope to farmers in the Nalbari district of Assam. What makes it so special is the short duration that it takes to harvest.

In the villages of Sungarbari, Galdighla, Adabari in Nalbari district, farmers are reaping the benefits of growing Early Ahu rice varieties like Luit,  Disang, Kamal and Nabin. All it takes is between 90 and 130 days to grow these varieties as against five to six months for the traditional types of Ahu rice ( Autumn rice; Feb/March to June/July), which means quick income for farmers.  

In Khalihamari-Andhupara, Kuriha-Sungarbari and Adabari-Balabari alone, more than 1600 acres of land is under cultivation of this fast-growing rice, thanks to the efforts of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Nalbari, and the Regional Agriculture Research Station, Titabor. 

While Early Ahu rice cultivation began in Sungarbari village of Nalbari in 2000, its popularity has increased only in the last four years. The advantage is that while it comes in the early summer category, its harvesting time is before the traditional variety. Besides, cultivating Luit, Kamal, Nabin and Disang is cost effective in the lowland areas ravaged by floods by the Brahmaputra and the Pagladiya, Puthimari and Koila river during the summer and winter rice seasons.

Farmers in Nalbari district have replaced the traditional summer rice varieties like Joya. The cultivation of Early Ahu is quickly spreading. Farmers in Khalihamari, Barni, Da Barni villages of Kamrup district have also got inspired.

Sahjahan Ali, a farmer in Sungarbari, is a pioneer of sorts, cultivating it first in 2000. "Our farmland is in a low lying area. So we can’t harvest long term summer rice variety like the Joya or winter rice. Our farmland gets flooded in the month of May. Joya is ready for harvesting only in June. So we started Early Ahu rice variety which can be harvested in April-end or beginning of May." Similarly, winter rice season for the Early Ahu is Feb-March while traditional rice is grown in December-January.

Farmer like Abdus Subbur, Abdul Khalek, Atikur Rahman, Khurseed Ali,Samsuddin, Ganesh Boro, Bani Deka, Madhu Kalita are among those who have benefitted from cultivating Luit, Nabin and Disang. Sashya Bigyan (sees science) expert Ranjita Bezbarua of KVK, Nalbari, explains why, “The Early Ahu rice variety is risk free cultivation with lesser irrigation demand, but good yield.”

Dr. Mridul Deka, coordinator of KVK, Nalbari, says there are plans now to spread cultivation of Early Ahu variety to newer areas. And there is good reason. Take the case of Abdul Latif. In 2015, Latif got nearly 3000 kgs of rice from just two acres of land. "Some years ago we were very poor, didn’t have rice to eat three times a day. Today, the scenario has changed,” says Latif. 

Latif is not the only one to feel happy.  Atikur Rahman, another farmer, got 1500 kgs of rice from less than an acre of land, planting the Kamal and Luit varieties. Sahjahan Ali says cultivating traditional summer rice variety costs more than Early Ahu. To cultivate Ahu in less than an acre of land, it costs him Rs 1500 whereas he needs to spend Rs 2500 to grow traditional rice.  

But the going is not always good for Early Ahu farmers. Climate change is the new problem.  Abdul Latif says for the last five years, monsoon has been very erratic. "We planted seedlings in March in the hope that we will get rains in the last part of the month or early April. But that's not been happening. Rains in April-end or May affect harvesting. That hits our production," says Latif. He and other farmers took advice from agriculture experts to combat that. One way out, says National Food Security Mission State Consultant Dr. Arunima Devchoudhury, “is to go in for System of Rice Intensification.” SRI needs less water and results in higher production. In this method instead of planting the seedlings in a clump of two, three of more, they are planted singly which ensures wider gap between individual plants for healthy growth. After experiencing success in cultivation of early ahu rice varieties these farmers too are highly enthusiastic about new ideas and experiments.

Arup Shandilya

( Arup Shandilya is a staff reporter of the oldest Assamese Daily Dainik Asam, and a recipient of journalism awards -- RN Barooah and Prativa Barooah memorial awards and Ladli Media award at the Eastern regional level.  He is also a recipient of NFI Media fellowship. He can be reached at shandilyaarup@gmail.com)


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