Rice is the staple food in Asian cuisine – that’s how much we in Europe know about the small white grains. If you want to learn more and are not afraid of a little dirt, you can become a rice farmer for half a day. “Rice is life” is the name of the program of the Living Land Company, an organization for the preservation of traditional ways of life and income security for the indigenous Laotian population in Luang Prabang.
In January of this year the time had finally come: A visit to a friend in Luang Prabang was on my travel plan. The charming city in northern Laos on the banks of the Nam Ou and Mekong already cast a spell on me on my first visit a few years ago. Time almost seems to stand still and you feel far away from the usual hustle and bustle of the 21st century. There are no skyscrapers, instead bicycles and scooters, which are mandatory for Asia, dominate the streetscape. The city’s sights can be easily explored on foot. However, the word city is almost an exaggeration – we would call Luang Prabang a larger village, but that’s exactly what makes it so appealing.
That is also the topic of my half-day trip to the Living Land Company. Our small group of 10 visitors from all over the world become rice farmers for half a day. We learn in a playful way how rice is grown. The first thing to do is take off your shoes and roll up your pants, because we’re about to go to the field. Mr. Lee, our guide, enumerates the 13 steps from choosing the good rice seeds to the ready-to-cook rice grain and on to rice flour. He mischievously adds to step 14, the food, because that 13 is an unlucky number for Europeans is now also known in Laos.
Work comes before fun and that’s how it starts. With the help of ice, salt and water we separate the good from the bad rice grains and start sowing. Following strict instructions, we plant the seedlings that grow from it in the previously hand-plowed field. Mr. Lee starts a Laotian peasant song and asks us to sing along – we end with “Old McDonald had a farm”. A sophisticated irrigation system in the terrace construction ensures the right amount of water at all times. When the grain is ripe, the scythe is used to harvest. After drying and bundling, the rice is knocked out of the ears – a real backbreaking job. With a kind of fan we then try to generate enough wind to separate the chaff and rice – that is quite exhausting. The grains of rice are left,
The hand-operated grinder is the most popular fitness machine in the community, Mr. Lee tells us with a laugh. After a few attempts with one hand and at the end even balancing on one leg, we agree with him – we had a lot of fun, but we are also quite knocked out.Sifting out the flour requires a lot of skill and is traditionally a woman’s business, but emancipation is also approaching in Laos and so on the men of the village are now learning it too. We look forward to step 14 and look into the kitchen. Glutinous rice, which we have grown, harvested and processed today, is steamed in a bast basket. The women bake crackers and cookies from the rice flour. Everything tastes different and should definitely be tried. My conclusion after half a day as a rice farmer: A back-breaking job that is more diverse than I imagined.
By the way, the adventure is also ideal for families. Children are very welcome and can help anywhere. There is also a herb garden and those who want to learn more about the fascinating traditions of the Laotians can, for example, take a batik course at Ock Pop Tok or take one of the numerous cooking courses offered by Tamarind which helps us to know more about paddy rice cutter machine price in india.
Laos is always worth a trip – I’m looking forward to the next time!
Arrival tip: For a few months now, Silk Air, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, has been flying several times a week from Singapore via Vientiane to Luang Prabang. This enabled the combination of the unique metropolis Singapore with the charming Laos – a fantastic travel route full of contrasts.
Conflicting goals between metropolitan areas and agriculture
The vision of a largely automated rice production is held by Prof. Dr. Sauerborn from the Institute for Plant Production and Agroecology in the Tropics and Subtropics not only for technically possible, but also for urgently required.
“The world population will grow to an estimated 9 billion people by 2070. Half of them will live in ever larger cities. Our ancestors established their settlements where the best soils are available. In the future, a conflict of objectives between building land and arable land is inevitable. ”
Climate pest rice
Of the three staple foods rice, maize and wheat, rice has been the most environmentally damaging to date. On an area of 157 million hectares worldwide, rice consumes almost a third of the fresh water available on site by the time it is harvested of around 700 million tons.
In the flooded rice fields, fermentation processes also produce the climate-affecting gas methane. It is 20 times more climate effective than carbon dioxide. “It is estimated that up to 20 percent of global methane production can be attributed to rice cultivation,” explains Prof. Dr. Sauerborn. “When growing wheat, no methane is produced at all. In the case of rice, it is almost necessary to rethink its cultivation method.