EVER SINCE his childhood, photographer Indrajit Khambe, who stays in the village Kalmath, near Kankavali, had observed his uncles working in the paddy fields. From ploughing, threshing to harvesting the crop, Khambe was fascinated by various methods involved in rice cultivation.
A few years ago, Khambe noticed that a number of farmers from various villagers, near Kankavali, had shifted to modern machines from traditional methods of paddy farming. Before all the farmers adopted modern tools of farming, Khambe decided to document the traditional methods before it becomes a thing of past. Hence two years ago, he launched a photo project – Rice and Life – which covers farmers of 15 villages around Kankavali, who still use traditional ways of rice cultivation. Each village has a population of around 600 to 1,000 people.
“With modernisation, while new methods of farming have been adopted by farmers across the country, over a decade ago, in villages around Kankavali, the farmers continued to practise traditional methods of paddy farming. There are two reasons for this – one, the farm lands owned by the villagers are small, and two, since Kankavali and the adjoining villages are situated on a relatively higher level, it’s difficult for bigger machines to reach here. However, in the last five years, some small tools have been introduced specially for small farm lands and thus, the farmers have started to adopt them,” explains Khambe. While rice is the major crop grown in Kankavali region, farmers also cultivate cashew and mangoes.
Typically, traditional methods of paddy farming include various steps such as ploughing, which involves preparing the fields plows drawn by bulls; fertilising with dung; sowing seeds with hands in seed beds; or sewage, and smoothing (by dragging a log over them). “Earlier, both men and women would do all this manually. But now, for every single step involved in rice cultivation, there is a machine. Over the last two years, I have visited around 15 villages around Kankavali including Kanedi, Janvali, Sakedi and others. Before capturing them in photos while farming, I had conversations with the farmers to understand what made them adopt new ways. The project, he says, will be valued a few years later when traditional methods will be practiced no more and machines will rule the fields,” he says.