It was a celebration with a difference on Saturday when hundreds of students and teachers from 22 schools began harvesting of organic rice at Tarumitra (friends of trees) farm in the capital of Bihar.

With traditional sickles in their hands, students assisted by their teachers spent hours at the organic farm and harvested organic rice like millions of farmers across the state.

"It was a rare experience for us as students, thanks to the initiative by Tarumitra," Nandini, one of the students who joined others to harvest organic rice, said.

Another student said it was his first experience of harvesting in a farm. "Really, it was something different. I will not forget it and will spread the message of organic farming."

Most of the students in their respective colourful school uniforms gathered at Tarumitra, a student movement to protect and promote a healthy environment on earth, and joined harvesting of organic rice in the adjacent field.

Father Robert Athickal, the man behind Tarumitra, said students were involved and motivated to join us in harvesting of organic rice to make them understand agriculture, environment and impact of climate change.

"These students are future of the country. If they develop interest in organic farming, it will pave the way for a sustainable agriculture growth.

"Tarumitra has been promoting organic rice by cultivating in its organic farm and creating awareness for organic rice by engaging students, teachers and farmers in rural areas," he said.

Tarumitra got into organic farming seven years back to bring health back to the dining table, he added.

Athickal told IANS that Tarumitra had been cultivating organic rice varieties of Mirchaiya, Manipuri and Jhilli, and also near-extinct varieties of paddy were being cultivated through organic methods.

"We are not using any type of chemical fertilisers at all. Our cultivation of organic rice is real. It is fully based on organic substances prepared by the members of Tarumitra."

He said in a bid to avoid any use of pesticides, the Tarumitra members got dry branches of trees planted all over the field to attract Drongo birds which ate up many of the insects and thus controlled the pests.

"It is an old practice that we have been reviving for cultivation without pesticides."

Devopriya, one of the officials of Tarumitra, said students gathered for harvesting organic rice were upbeat and expressed happiness over learning many things related to agriculture and organic farming for the first time.

She said: "Excited to get an opportunity, nearly 250 students, including locals and from Delhi and abroad, participated in the Organic Rice Plantation Festival last July. They got into wet, slushy and muddy field and actually planted rice seedlings."

Three rare varieties of paddy were sown this year, namely BaunaMansuri, Kunjunju and Kakshan.

Veteran organic farmer trained in Japan, Margaret Molomoo, who supervises the entire organic farming, said it was time to take a break from the pesticide-laden rice cultivation which was further enervated by the heavily expensive chemical fertilisers.

"Poison is flowing out of our farms. It is high time we shifted our focus to organic farming -- the only available option," she said.

 (Courtesy:  Business Standard. First Published: Sat, November 18 2017. 21:02 IST