KOCHI: Leneesh K, state coordinator-Kerala of the national Save our Rice Campaign (SoRC), was having sleepless nights, of late. Six ethnic varieties of paddy from among the 180 indigenous rice varieties native to Kerala in SoRC’s possession could not be harvested and considered lost due to the two-month delay in sowing following the last year’s floods.
Then Leneesh dialled up farmers in the ‘Seed Saviours Network’ who may have the seeds. “We conduct the seed festival every year. We maintain a directory of farmers who buy or sell seeds. When we found out that some varieties have been ‘lost’, we contacted the farmers at various places. Luckily they had the seeds. It was a big relief,” he told ‘Express’.
“Next year the SoRC will source the seeds from the farmers and return to the germplasm,” said Leneesh. For preserving rare and ethnic varieties of rice, the SoRC cultivates them through the rice diversity blocks (RDB) or on farm cultivation, which in this instance, is a ‘germplasm’.
SoRC had in its possession a total of 336 seeds, of which 180 rice varieties were from Kerala and 156 from other states and some from Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar. “We were not worried about the rice seeds lost from other states, as we could procure and preserve them again,” he said.
Initially, Leneesh said he thought over 70 varieties of rice, native to Kerala, were lost. But in the final analysis, it was found that six varieties are missing. These are ‘karimala’ (mostly cultivated in Kannur), ‘kazhama’ (Kannur), ‘palliyaral’ (Kannur and Kozhikode), ‘ovuvattanmar’ - red ovuvattan and black ovuvattan (Kannur), ‘anamodan’ (Malappuram) and ‘echiladan’ (Kozhikode).He said every year a segment of farmers and collectives cultivate these rare varieties, after they collect the seeds from the seed varieties.
What is required is to find a market for these varieties by selling their unique features such as taste and nutritional elements. “Karimala is very hard and is difficult to digest, and hence farmers are reluctant to cultivate this variety due to lack of demand.Anamodan and echiladan have to be done via upland cultivation. Only some tribals have been doing this. Most of the places of upland cultivation have been converted to rubber or cashew plantations,” said Leneesh.