Agriculture

The following is a list of important crops cultivated in the Peninsula:

nellu or rice; varaku or kada millet; mondi or Indian millet; thinaichchamy or German/Italian millet; panichchamy or common millet; karurhachchamy (a variety of millet); putchamy or panicum colonum; kurakkan or eleusine coracana; payaru or green gram; uzhunthu or black gram; kollu or red horse gram.

Peasants of Jaffna, who have been known for qualities of thrift, prudence, patience and hard work, have wisely and carefully used the available land by the system of crop rotation and soil fertilization. One may mention three factors that prompted special forms of crop rotation:

  • to make the the best use of the land of consisting of poor soil,
  • to feed the big population of the Peninsula by cultivating food crops like paddy, dry grains and yams, and
  • to enable the people of the Peninsula to survive financially by the cultivation of cash crops like tobacco and chillies.

This is how a peasant of Jaffna makes use of every available inch of land: “Often on the borders of vegetable lots, or gardens of chillies, bean creepers are grown, providing a second crop. Where garden crops are fenced in, the fences are used as a trellis for snake gourds and other vegetables. Sometimes at the four corners of a small plot, a yard square containing a brinjal plant, one discovers four Indian corn plants and to these are trained bean creepers.”

Finally, a special feature of irrigation in Jaffna, which has today almost vanished with the introduction of modern machines, may be mentioned. Though the Peninsula is an arid region, abundance of underground water, which has been “‘the most important condition for human settlement in the Peninsula” is fully utilized by digging wells. The presence of such wells is marked usually by tulip trees (surya) and a few coconut trees. water is drawn from the well by means of a device known as thula or well-sweep. It is a balanced lever.

“A palmyrah trunk is supported horizontally On supports with the thinner end of the trunk just over the well. To this end is fixed a pole or a rope that can be dropped into the well and at the end of pole is a bucket. Two men walk up and down the palmyrah trunk and as they walk towards the thinner end, their weight dips the pole and its bucket to the mouth of the well. As they walk towards the thinner end of the beam, they bring up the thinner end and with its comes the bucket filled with water. This is emptied by a third man into the field. Thus for hours two men run up and down the palmyrah beam working it in a see-saw manner while a third man lifts the bucket and empties it into the field where the little channels carry the water all over the garden” so much for agriculture.

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