A Keralite has done the impossible – harvest paddy in the desert sands of UAE.
When his countrymen shun farming and leave hectors of farm land uncultivated citing lame excuses and outlandish reasons, Sudheesh Guruvayoor, an Indian, has done the impossible. He, along with more than 100 school students, harvested a bumper crop of paddy in the bone-dry lands of UAE.
He cultivated paddy in three plots in his villa compound in Sharjah, UAE. The farmers of India cannot even imagine that it is possible to cultivate paddy in the desert sands and that too with organic manure.
It all started like a dream. First it was vegetables in balcony and gradually he moved it to his compound, and then to the land next to his work place.
“Everything happened as if ordained by god. I read lot of articles about the use of pesticides in farms and the health hazards caused by it etc. After marriage I happened to move more frequently to kitchen to give a helping hand to my wife. Then we discussed about the vegetables we use. All of a sudden a thought arose in me – is it possible to cultivate vegetables here in UAE.
With full support from my wife Raji, I started cultivating vegetables like tomato, ladies finger etc in different pots in my balcony. The first results were disappointing, but we didn’t give up. We took it seriously, tried several times and finally success was ours. After that lot of people got interested and we helped them in cultivating vegetables in balconies” explained Sudheesh.
When vegetables were harvested in abundance, he dared for a life changing experiment – cultivating paddy in desert. Despite discouragement from all around, he went on with the experiment in 2012. Getting the land ready for paddy cultivation was a daunting task. He first excavated the plot, and then concreted the ground by himself using cement and granular rocks to save water from leaking to the ground. He then refilled the area with regular soil and mixed it with cow dung, sheep droppings and water. He left the field for three weeks to settle and did the cultivation after consulting with some experts back home.
His successful experiments won him the attention of Dubai authorities and they offered him the job of farm manager which he happily accepted in 2015. He was also offered similar jobs from other Gulf countries like Qatar, but he preferred to stay with UAE.
“Besides wife, my son Shreyas (9th standard student) and 10 year old daughter Shredha support me in all my endeavours. They now know how to cultivate vegetables and paddy. They are the future and so I approached four schools with an offer to share the knowledge. The response was overwhelming and the management encouraged the students to go to the field. It is a good sign that our new generation is ready to take up the challenge”, said Sudheesh.
His efforts came to limelight when he won the Kerala State award for best expatriate farmer in 2012. He also featured five times in the Limca book of world records. First it was for producing the longest lady’s finger (17 inch long) and then for harvesting it from the smallest lady’s finger plant (1.5 inches). He then made a 7.5 feet long model of Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) using used milk container tins. Then he prepared the map of India using 5000 golf balls and that of UAE using 500 variety golf balls.
For almost two years Sudheesh has been working as farm manager in the farm that belongs to Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Sudheesh an electrical engineer by academics, was working with SEWA (Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority) from 1997 to 2015. His mother, who was a teacher, and father, driver at SEWA, never did anything special to “cultivate the culture” of agriculture in him.
“I wanted to prove that if we work hard with dedication we can win against all odds, not only in agriculture but also in any task. The main thing is that you should not give up on initial failures, keep on trying”. “In my state of Kerala, people are turning away from paddy cultivation. Because of that we are forced to buy rice from other states. Same is the case with vegetables and fruits. It is reported that they (farmers of other states) are using harmful pesticides”, said Sudheesh. “I choose children for cultivation and harvesting because I want to make them understand how labourious but interesting and fulfilling the task is. They should understand what agriculture is”, added Sudheesh.
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