Sharjah: “Does rice come from a plant? Isn’t it something that we buy from the supermarket?”
Queries like these from school students in the UAE inspired Indian expatriate Sudheesh Guruvayoor, a passionate farmer, to grow paddy in the backyard of his villa in Sharjah.
It took him almost four months to turn the desert soil into a patch of rice paddy. Last week, he hosted groups of students from three schools in Sharjah to get hands-on experience of cultivating rice.
As they lined up barefoot in his backyard after leaving behind their shoes in the school bus, Sudheesh, an electrical engineer-turned-farm supervisor, explained to them the different stages of rice cultivation right from germinating the seeds and transplanting the seedlings in the real field to the stages of harvesting and threshing.
Some of the students from Emirates National School, who were in the first batch to take part in the cultivation, were excited to know the crop will be ready for harvesting in just 120 days. “That is cool,” one of the boys reacted.
Up next was their chance to experience the most exciting part of the cultivation — transplanting the seedlings, which had been kept ready for them, in the murky water-filled paddy.
“It’s OK. You will get used to it,” Vaishnav Nair, who was the first student to stride into the pool of muddy water, told his friends following him.
A bit of hesitance and confusion was evident on some faces while the rest seemed to be enjoying their date with nature. As per the instructions given by Sudheesh, the children plucked a few bunches of seedlings and started planting them in rows marked with the help of a rope tied across the field.
For the first time in their lives, they made small holes in the muddy field with their fingers and planted the seedlings. Once they got the hang of it, some kids were seen planting the seedlings effortlessly.
Students from Sharjah Indian School and India International School also got the chance to take part in the paddy cultivation process.
Speaking to Gulf News, the students said they learnt two great lessons from their experience — one about the value of the great efforts taken by farmers in helping to feed the world and another one about the need to stop food wastage.
“When we realised that we are going to plant rice seedlings, we were in total confusion,” said Zainab Khan, a grade eight student.
“We didn’t know exactly how we were going to do it. But it turned out to be a great experience and an excellent initiative to show how to grow [the crop] and how much effort is taken [by farmers]. We don’t realise this … We just take the food and whatever we don’t want, we just throw it like that,” she said, pledging with her friends not to waste food any more.
Susan Benoy, their biology teacher, said the children received first-hand experience of what they are learning in their text book. “I am very sure that they will not waste food any more because they have understood the efforts taken by agriculturalists.”
Sudheesh, who has five world records to his credit in the field of farming in the UAE, said it was an unforgettable day in his life. “I am very happy that I could teach the process of cultivation to the children. They are going back happy and they have promised to return to see the next stages of the cultivation and to join me for the harvest. Some have also promised to do farming in future,” he said.