Along the Varada's course...

Along the Varada's course...

Agriculture

Banavasi, the ancient capital of the Kadambas, has always been known for its rich heritage and has found an important place on the map. But, the erstwhile capital is also known for its rice heritage. Banavasi’s paddy varieties are well-known across the country.

The village, 24 kms away from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district, is situated on the banks of the river Varada and agriculture is the life breath of the people in the region. The river Varada is a volatile one, and has been both a boon and a bane at different points in time to agriculturists of the region. Farmers here are always on tenterhooks, unable to comprehend the course of the river. This has resulted in a style of agriculture unique to the region. In the rainy season, the river Varada is in spate. Come summer, the river metamorphosises into a heap of sand. So the very lifestyle, folk culture and food habits of the people on the banks are knitted with the flow of the river during rains and the scanty trickle that it is during summer.

Paddy has been the pre-dominant crop grown on the banks of the Varada since time immemorial. It is an inevitability for farmers to grow paddy because Varada flows to the brim during rain. The solution for farmers is to cultivate the variety of paddy that withstands the flood.  Pineapple, ginger, banana and arecanut are the commercial crops grown on the banks of Varada, but Banavasi is a storehouse of paddy diversity. The Banavasi region safeguards the rich rice heritage that we have. Around 60 varieties of traditional paddy even when there is a clamour to raise modern, high-yielding varieties and around 35 other varieties are grown in the region.

Bilejaddu, a traditional variety has sustenance in deep water for about 30-40 days, Karejeddu seedlings survive 25-30 days in water. Even Edikuni, Somasala, Mattalaga, Mattiga, Halaga, Siddhasale, Nyare Minda, Sannavalya, Karekanthaka, Honnekattu, Jenugoodu, Budda Bhatta, Hejje and Mullu Bhatta have the capacity to fight flood situations. When the Varada is in spate, 11,002 acres of paddy land are inundated in Soraba, Sirsi and Sagar taluk. There have been times when the spate continues for longer intervals, and farmers who relied on modern varieties have had to go back to desi paddy varieties. Farmers in the region conserve seeds of traditional varieties and don’t have to run from pillar to post to get these varieties from elsewhere.

Importance of desi varieties

The paddy seeds supplied by the Agriculture Department are not deep-water varieties. During sowing time, an overall 3850 quintals of paddy are used in the villages on the banks of Varada in Sirsi, Soraba and Sagar taluks, but the paddy procured from the Department is only 800-900 quintals. This is because the many farmers who opt for desi varieties share the seeds as they have realised the worth of indigenous rice varieties. The speciality of these varieties is that they sustain themselves even in times of a flood.

In fact, after the water recedes, the paddy grows profusely because the soil is enriched after the flood recedes.

“Desi varieties are free from diseases and pest attacks,” say local farmers. Sahaja Samrudha, an NGO, has established a seed bank at Banavasi with the cooperation of the local Gram Panchayat so as to revive and conserve traditional rice varieties in  fields here.  The Western Ghats Task Force had arranged a paddy conservation workshop in association with different associations, to stress the need to conserve these varieties recently.

Desi paddy, medicinal, deep water, and scented varieties were exhibited at the workshop. Participants at the workshop have urged the government to declare the Banavasi region an agriculture bio-diversity heritage centre so as to conserve the rice heritage of the region. Rare paddy diversity should be conserved and a special conservation fund should be set up, as part of which an honorarium Rs 5000 should be given for every acre of paddy that a farmer owns, the participants sought.

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