Movement to protect desi rice

Bangalore-based NGOs efforts gaining popularity

Even as scientists are coming out with ‘super hybrid rice’  luring farmers to cultivate it, the local farmer groups like Sahaja Samrudha are keen to conserve paddy diversity spreading awareness about the threat associated with laboratory crops. The movement has already collected over 150 varieties of rare and endangered rice varieties.

“Every year new varieties of paddy are being ushered in, assuring high yield. The farmers are tempted to go for it. This has resulted in mono cropping and indigenous varieties disappearing,” said Krishna Prasad, Convenor, Sahaja Samrudha.

Pointing out that the high yielding varieties require excess pesticide and chemicals, contaminating the water resources and the soil, he said the local varieties are soil-friendly, cultivated organically and can grow with less water and are even drought resistant.

The NGO, which began borrowing from several rice collectors has segregated the crop as per its qualities, geographical region, water consumption, size, shape and colour. “ We have very rare paddy like scented paddy, very common and even those with unique characters which have been imported and adapted from neighbouring states, “ said C Shantakumar, Campaign Co-ordinator, SRC. “A paddy known as Salem Sanna, though originally from Tamil Nadu, is extinct over there and the farmers from TN rely upon Karnataka for seeds,” he added. “We have medicinal paddy like Akalasaali, Kaagi Saalo, Ambe More, Kari Gajavli, Navara and Neelum Sambar from Belgaum and Dharwad,” Krishna Prasad said.

He said over ten saline resistant paddy have been identified in the region of Tumkur, Sira, Madhugiri and other places around Pavagada. “Paddy varieties like Bilithopu vadlu, Kasanella are unique as they are saline tolerant, these grow in places where salinity problem occur due to erratic rainfall,” said Shantkumar. Apart from this several scented paddy like Gandhasaale, Basmathi and Gamgadle have been collected from places like Dakshina Kannada, Chamrajnagar and Tumkur region. “ We have over a 15 varieties of drought resistant paddy in our seed bank, which can be cultivated and harvested within a period of five months,” said Shantkumar.

Farmers from 20 district are now part of this movement. “They collect and send it across to us, we will hand it over to the farmers with whom we work, if a farmer collects one kilo of seeds from us, we give them free of cost on condition that he should return two kilos of the same,” said Krishna Prasad. 

Over a thousand farmers have now borrowed paddy from the gene bank of the organisation, while many more are contributing new varieties from various parts of the country.

DH News Service

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