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 one the oldest varieties of rice in Kerala. It is also among the oldest known crops cultivated by organic farming methods in the world.

It is said that the Konkani speaking Kudumbi community could have brought the grain with them when they moved from present day Goa to Kerala. It is also interesting to note here that Pokkali is grown in Sri Lanka. It could have reached Sri Lanka via the Buddhist missionaries or vice versa. The story of Pokkali is closely connected to the stories of communities, and migrations to and from Kerala. We can’t wait to share more stories with you as we find them.

In Malayalam Pokkali translates as the one who grows above all. As her name suggests, Pokkali grass grows upto 6 feet in height. Her towering slender beauty, belies her strength and resilience.

Today Pokkali is at the forefront of heirloom rice varieties of the world, not just because of the nutritional value and antiquity, but because the grain has withstood the onslaught of climate change and the various man made interventions. This farming system withstands and ameliorates the vagaries of climate change with efficient carbon sequestration and decreasing methane production. It is also expected that more wetlands may get inundated by sea level rise in near future.Hence management of coastal wetlands for coastal protection as well as for its continued use for livelihood support need immediate attention. Promotion of climate adaptive traditional agriculture and aquaculture systems like Pokkali are relevant in these contexts.

Here lies the story of a grain that travelled with the waters of time into the bowls of the hungry and weary, and continues her journey through time to nourish and to heal.