The Silapathar Science College has so far documented and preserved 251 indigenous varieties through its rice bank
A college in Assam has walked the extra mile by not only setting up a rice bank to preserve seeds of indigenous varieties that are losing out to new high-yielding varieties but also encouraging farmers to grow them so that they do not become extinct.
The Silapathar Science College, located in Dhemaji district along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, has so far documented and preserved 251 indigenous varieties through its rice bank. Set up in 1996, the college started to work closely with farmers in the district since 2015 and organised a “Rice Mela” to showcase the indigenous varieties grown in the district.
“That was the beginning. We have encouraged our students to visit the whole of the district and collect the samples of rice grown by the farmers. Dhemaji used to produce a large variety of rice, but most of these are not available now due to various reasons,” said Ranjit Saikia, principal of the Silapathar Science College.
“High-yielding varieties of rice are affecting the indigenous varieties. People have lost interest in growing indigenous varieties as production is less. However, the indigenous varieties are better suited to the local climate and there must be a sustained effort to improve production of the indigenous varieties,” Saikia explained.
“This year, we have encouraged some farmers to grow ‘Meleki Bao’, an indigenous variety of red rice. At least 40 farmers have assured they would do so this year. We are working on a plan so that we can buy back the rice from the farmers at a standard price compared to the market,” said Dr Jitu Gogoi, a professor of the college’s botany department.
Rice is the staple diet for most of the tribes and communities in Assam and the state produces a huge quantity of it. According to government statistics, Assam produced over 70 lakh tonnes of rice in 2017, compared to 52 lakh tonnes the previous year. Besides the normal rice, Assam also produces different varieties of aromatic rice, locally known as “Joha”; some varieties of soft rice, locally known as “Komal Saul” that needs no cooking; and a huge variety of sticky rice, commonly known as “Bora”.
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