Adhirangam is a small village in Kattimadu block, Thiruthuraipoondi in Tiruvarur district, Tamil Nadu.
All these years the village, except for its ancient temple, was nondescript. But today the number of people visiting the village has gone up. All of them ask for one name, that of R. Jayaraman.
“It seems the person is a store house of information on native paddy seeds, their availability and cultivation methods,” says a tea shop owner on the outskirts of the village.
Till date he has trained a team of farmers and regularly update them on the current issues that are affecting farmers. In 2011, he received the State Award for best organic farmer for his contribution to organic farming and in the year 2015, he received the National Award for best Genome Savior. Currently, he is active in Tamil Nadu and also involved in advocacy work with the State to popularize traditional paddy varieties. He officiates as a Training Director of a consumer based organization called CREATE in Tamilnadu, which is a major partner in the Save our Rice Campaign. His popularity as a seed conservation man has earned him the nick name – Nel Jayaraman
And several farmers and associations around Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, and Nagappattinam vouch for the fact that Mr. Jayaraman is the best choice when it comes to seeking information on some lost and ancient paddy seeds.
Poor financial situation at home compelled him to discontinue studies and take up some odd jobs.
During his late teens he joined Fedcot (Federation of Consumer Organization) and got elevated as agriculture training director.
“I am supposed to be the only person to achieve this position without any academic qualification in agriculture,” he smiles.
Seeing his enthusiasm, an NRI donated his nine acres land for crop cultivation and for organizing training programmes for the benefit of the farming community.
“Since delta districts are predominantly paddy oriented my initial interest was on organic rice production. Later, I realized that the coastal districts are more prone to the climate variations and every year farmers face problems either with flood or cyclone, and seek compensation for their crop loss,” he explains.
He happened to get more information about the diversity of traditional paddy cultivated by coastal farmers and its potential to withstand different climate variations and characteristics of adaptability from Dr. Nammalvar, who inspired him to seek and find.
From that day, he started locating several traditional paddy varieties in the coastal districts as well as in other parts of Tamil Nadu and documenting information about them.
He identified about 15 traditional paddy varieties and started growing all of them on the donated farm.
“I wanted to increase the seed availability to others,” he says.
In 2005, he organized the first traditional paddy seed festival. That year, he distributed 2 kgs of traditional paddy seeds of 15 varieties to more than 300 farmers.
The overwhelming response motivated him to organize more such functions every year. The recently organized traditional paddy seed festival Adhirangam was the eighth, and about 64 different traditional varieties have been distributed to more than 1,000 farmers.
“I distribute these varieties to farmers with a promise that they must return double the quantity of seeds in the next season,” says Mr. Jayaraman.
He maintains records and registers of farmers who benefit ted from the seed festival.
Some of the important varieties he maintains are Kattuyanam (best suited for flood condition), Poongkar (suited for saline soil), Karunguruvai (best for making biriyani), Kuzhiyadichan (for alkaline soil), Kudavaalai, Gauvuni, Mappillai Samba(for high energy), Samba Mosanam (best suited for making flat rice), Arupatham Kuruvai (short duration variety (60 days).
All the varieties can be easily cultivated under the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method.
Since he is well known in the region, mobilizing financial support especially from banks or Nabard proves quite easy for him. In addition, he helps banks to organize debt recovery camps in villages and makes the farmers understand the importance of repaying the loans.
His association with ‘Create,’ an organization working for consumer awareness based at Thiruthuraipoondi, under the save our rice programme, has motivated him to revive the traditional rice varieties.
He has trained a team of farmers in all the above three districts and regularly updates them on the current issues that affect farmers and encourages them to participate and raise the issues at the farmer’s grievance day.
Last year, the State Government conferred the best ‘Organic farmer award’ on him.
Till now, he has visited and delivered talks in nearly 300 schools and colleges in the delta district on the importance of preserving native seeds.
Those interested in knowing more can contact Mr. R. Jayaraman at Kattimedu, Adhirangam, Thiruthuraipoondi, Tiruvarur District, Mobile: 094433 20954.