Patna: A Bihar farmer who set a paddy cultivation record has been hired on a five-year contract by the South African government to train farmers there in the innovative System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method for which he will be paid the equivalent of Rs.50,000 (8,800 rand/$826) a month - all thanks to Facebook.
"It is Facebook that helped me to get this rare opportunity to train farmers of South Africa to grow paddy by using the SRI method," Sumant Kumar, a farmer in Darveshpura village in Nalanda district, who had created a World record in 2011 by producing 224 quintals of paddy per hectare using the method, told IANS on the phone Tuesday.
Sumant, who has studied till class 12, said that South African officials contacted him through his Facebook page, after which they telephoned him.
"Things materialized following several rounda of discussions and representatives of the South African visited my native village for signing of a formal contract with me (on Aug 19)," he said.
"I am going to South Africa in October to start my new innings abroad. It is first time that I would be visiting a foreign country. I will receive a monthly salary (the equivalent) of Rs 50,000 and five percent of the profit generated by paddy cultivation," he added.
Sumant is the first farmer of Bihar who attracted attention outside the country for his record in paddy cultivation. Munich-based journalist Vetina Vez has said that her documentary will highlight organic farming as well as the SRI method used by Sumant and thousands of farmers in Bihar that uses less water but triples yields.
In 2013, President Parnab Mukherjee presented Sumant the Krishi Karman Award, while the Punjab government has also honoured him.
According to the SI-India website, the method "is a combination of several practices those include changes in nursery management, time of transplanting, water and weed management. Its different way of cultivating rice crop though the fundamental practices remain more or less same like in the conventional method; it just emphasizes altering of certain agronomic practices of the conventional way of rice cultivation".
"Norman Uphoff from Cornell International Institute for Food and Agriculture, Ithaca, ad brought this method to the notice of the outside world in the late 1990s. Today SRI is being adopted in many states in India and the response from farmers has been overwhelming seeing the benefits of the method," the website says.
Bihar Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh said that successful use of the SRI methof cultivation to boost production has impressed experts within and outside the country.
Initially, the farmers were reluctant to adopt this new technique despite the state government providing free seeds, fertilizers and experts to guide them. But now, more and more farmers are taking to this method.