Rice diversity mapping has helped document over 300 varieties
A unique volunteer-driven effort to map the rice diversity of Karnataka has resulted in the documentation of more than 300 rice varieties.
The project, an ongoing process, does not entail government help and is born out of the deep-rooted desire of organic activists to celebrate the diversity of rice in the State and create a seed bank for posterity.
“The concept of documenting rice varieties in the State began almost 10 years ago. It coincided with the emergence of the ‘Save Our Rice Campaign’, a movement that spread across the country among farmer groups who rooted for indigenous rice varieties as they were suited for the local climate and soil conditions,” said Seema G. Prasad, State coordinator, Save Our Rice Campaign.
She told The Hindu that the emergence of the high-breed variety, promoted by the government, saw a large many farmers opting for it and this has led to mono-culture in the present times. “Hardly any farmer cultivates the high-yielding indigenous rice variety. As a result most rice varieties will be lost to posterity,” she said.
The mapping of rice varieties began when engineer-turned farmer Krishna Prasad, co-founder of Sahaja Samruddha, was determined to conserve as many rice varieties as possible and began networking with farmers. “We found that in each village there were a few farmers who were interested in the conservation of old rice varieties. Rice is not merely a crop but part of the cultural heritage of the land and its people. Some varieties have aromatic and medicinal properties and many proverbs and folk culture have evolved around them,” Mr. Prasad said.
Through a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique, volunteers and farmers collected information on various rice varieties in each village. They obtained information from farmers belonging to the older generation on the yield and adaptability to local soil and climate.
“Thus began the concept of seed mapping. The Bangarkovi variety, mainly grown in Mysore, is now rare and difficult to come by,” Mr. Prasad explained.
The painstaking effort of rice mapping has led to the documentation of over 300 indigenous varieties of rice unique to the State.
These varieties are available to farmers for cultivation through Sahaja Samruddha, a network comprising nearly 2,000 farmers, including rice breeders, and 30 organisations which are part of the rice conservation programme.