The return of indigenous rice

Krishna Prasad and Anitha Reddy from Sahaja Samrudha tell us about the decline of rice diversity and how their seed bank is fighting to bring it back.

Rice is Asia’s most deeply revered treasure. Rice is life for thousands of millions of people. It is deeply embedded in the cultural heritage, spiritual, traditions and norms of Asians.

Rice over the centuries has sculpted the culture and traditions of India. We find information on rice culture covering the last 5000 years in Ayurveda, Buddhist and Jain literature.

Many in the present generation are not aware of the diversity of rice that we have. Farmers of many succeeding generations have innovated, developed, and adopted practices and technologies that have increased diversity.

Each variety of rice is characterised by distinct textures and flavours, and India has a diversity of rice cuisines based on regional specialities and the traditional dishes associated with each variety. 

But unfortunately, most of the diversity is going extinct. India had 200,000 varieties of rice before the Green Revolution. Now only a few hundred are cultivated. 
 

Sahaja Samruda 

Sahaja Samrudha is an organic farmers' association in Karnataka, South India, that has identified and documented the rice diversity of the whole state and also of different states in India. 

The organisation’s on-farm conservation initiative now involves more than 7000 organic farmers from 20 districts of Karnataka. It has strived to conserve a repository of more than 800 varieties of rice, 120 millets, 23 Indian cotton, 32 wheat, 56 eggplant, 52 pulses, 182 vegetables and many traditional fruit varieties on farmers' fields, and also in community seed banks that have been established.

Its Save Our Rice Campaign now includes over 2000 rice farmers and farmer-breeders conserving more than 400 aromatic, medicinal, flood tolerant, salt water and dryland rice varieties.  

Seed mapping and the characterisation of varieties has been done by developing rice diversity blocks and a few rice museums. There has been an exchange of traditional paddy varieties between states, increasing the number of varieties on the field.

Resurrecting good practices among farmers 

Sahaja Samrudha encourages the saving of seeds, a customary practice of indigenous and local communities which guarantees access to vital foodstuffs. Seeds have been faithfully reproduced and handed down from generation to generation conserving flavour, nutrition, and resistance to pest and diseases. 

To increase local awareness and improve the flow of seed within and between communities, the organisation has run big events like Diversity Fair, Seed Festival, Red Rice Fair, Organic Fair and Millet Mela.  On average, such events attract around 3000-5000 people. They provide direct market access to farmers and this plays a crucial role in their economic development. 

Farmers markets are an integral part of the rural-urban linkage and have continued to rise in popularity. 

Sahaja Samrudha has also developed a connectivity network of consumers and producers for the procurement and marketing of indigenous rice under the brand name Sahaja Organics.

Contact Sahaja Samrudha for more details:

Sahaja Samrudha Organic Producers Company Ltd

No.11, 12th Cross, Near HP Gas Godown, Vasantha Vallabha Nagar,

Vasanthapura, Bengaluru,-560061, Karnataka, India

Phone: +91(0) 9880862058 / 74830 88144

Email: sahajaindia@gmail.com

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