The Story of Pokkali

Pokkali is an heritage heirloom rice crop cultivated in the coastal regions of Kerala, including Ezhikkara, Ernakulam, and supported by Palliyakal Cooperative Service Bank (PCSB). Pokkali is an ancient farming practice where one season of rice farming is alternated with another season of prawn culture. The prawn seedlings, which swim in from the sea and the backwaters after the rice harvest, feed on the leftovers of the harvested crop. The rice crop, which gets no other fertiliser or manure, draws nutrients from the prawns’ excrement and other remnants. Rice farming and prawn farming are mutually complementary

Farmers have reported that the Pokkali fields in Kadamakkudy and Varapuzha were relatively unaffected by the floods of 2018 that wreaked havoc on paddy cultivation of short rice varieties. M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, the world renowned ethno-botanical and agricultural research foundation has recommended in Current Science the need for conserving critical and indigenous rice varieties, specifically because of their climate- resilient agriculture. ‘Pokkali has an excellent gene pool which is very useful for salinity tolerance’, said Professor Ashwani Pareek of JNU, co-author of the study published in Scientific Reports, who has been studying the genetic basis of pokkali’s impressive salinity tolerance for the past two decades.





The Origin of Pokkali

The story of Pokkali begins with a great flood that washed the seeds of this prolific grain from the Western Ghats to the low lying saline plains. There she evolved as a strong contender against the ravages of nature, to nurture the communities that lived harmoniously with the farming of Pokkali. Pokkali is the oldest variety of rice in Kerala which has a tradition of at least 3000 years in rice cultivation. It is also among the oldest known crops cultivated by organic farming methodologies in the world.

Read more