The Struggle to Save #Heirloom Rice in India
Long-forgotten varieties of the staple crop can survive flood, drought and other calamities. The challenge is bringing them back
“...the long-term #sustainability of #rice farming depends crucially on the restoration of traditional #farming practices based on #biodiversity and use of the full diversity of crop varieties that have survived the onslaught of industrial farming.”
Why India’s farmers want to conserve indigenous heirloom rice
India was once home to 100,000 rice varieties, but high-yield, less hardy hybrids have taken over encouraging farmers to safeguard more resistant strains.
India is rice country: the cereal provides daily sustenance for more than 60% of the population. Half a century ago, it was home to more than 100,000 rice varieties, encompassing a stunning diversity in taste, nutrition, pest-resistance and, crucially in this age of climate change and natural disasters, adaptability to a range of conditions.
Today, much of this biodiversity is irretrievably lost, forced out by the quest for high-yield hybrids and varieties encouraged by government agencies. Such “superior” varieties now cover more than 80% of India’s rice acreage.
The Koraput region in the state of Odisha in India’s east was historically among the world’s leading areas of rice diversification. In the 1950s, an official survey found farmers here growing more than 1,700 different rice varieties. Now, more than 1,400 farmers in the region are at the heart of a movement to safeguard what remains of this genetic wealth.
The effort is anchored by a small conservation team led by ecologist Dr Debal Deb. Almost 200 of the 1,200 varieties in Deb’s collection have been sourced from Koraput’s farmers, indicating that villagers have not abandoned their native seeds for modern varieties. Anxious that his collection not end up as the last repository of endangered local varieties, Deb asked some farmers to grow them and circulate their seeds to help safeguard them from extinction.
Several farmers outlined economic reasons for not abandoning indigenous heirloom varieties, which they refer to as “desi dhaan”, as opposed to modern hybrids, “sarkari dhaan”, quite literally, “government rice”. “With hybrids, we have to keep spending money on buying them,” one farmer said. “With desi, we store our seeds carefully and use them the following season.”
Other farmers wanted to get off the pesticide treadmill to reduce costs and stem the visible ill-effects of chemicals on soil quality and biodiversity. “Hybrids demand ever-increasing pesticide applications and our costs go up in an unsustainable way,” said farmer Duryodhan Gheuria.
Gheuria cultivated four desi varieties – Kolamali, Sonaseri, Tikkichuri, Kosikamon – “just like generations of my family”. After encountering Deb’s team, Gheuria began growing three more endangered heirlooms: Samudrabaali, Raji and Governmentchuri.
Heirloom varieties, adapted over centuries to local ecologies, also proved hardier in the face of problems such as pests and drought, the farmers said. In contrast, modern varieties bred in faraway labs were designed for the neat routines of intensive agriculture. They were tailored for mechanised farming, intended to absorb large doses of chemical fertilisers and predictable supplies of water. But farmers reported that such varieties were unsuited for the variable conditions they cultivated in, from undulating land to increasingly unpredictable weather.
The nephew and uncle farming team Laxminath and Sadan Gouda said that on flood-prone land along a riverbank like theirs, modern varieties fared poorly. “They barely grow, pests attack them … we face a world of trouble. But desi dhaan grow well, which is why we will never abandon them.”
Many farmers reported that some heirloom varieties were able to withstand cyclones better than the modern ones, while others could cope better in conditions of drought or low rainfall.
Farmers had other reasons to prefer desi varieties. Their taller paddy stalks yielded valuable byproducts: fodder for cattle, mulch for the soil, and hay for thatching the roofs of their homes, unlike the short-statured modern varieties.
And then there is the universal motivation of taste. Scented varieties like Kolaajeera and Kolakrushna has a sweet aroma, making cooking and eatingthe rice a pleasurable experience.
“With sarkaari rice, even if you have three vegetables accompanying it, it does not taste that good,” laughed farmer Gomati Raut. “Our desi rice, you can eat it by itself.”
Deb has said that having a huge number of rice varieties is not an end in itself. “Rice conservation is a handle to ask ourselves, how do we build sustainability in our societies?” he said.
It is a question India must increasingly confront, with increasingly depleted water tables, infertile soils, greenhouse emissions and debt that pushes farmers to suicide.
Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers in Koraput embody an alternative model of agricultural development. Drawing on centuries of knowledge and skills, these farmers sustain 200 rice varieties. In the process, they are reducing their dependence on external agencies, from the seed company and the pesticide seller to the government subsidy and bank loan.
By reviving seeds, they are also reviving food, taste, ritual, nutrition, and sustainability – attributes often forgotten as a result of the obsession with yield. Attributes that make rice more than just a bundle of calories and starch.
#bitcoin’s inescapable, inconvenient truth
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VCU Imagineers Use Spore Stickers to Recycle Cardboard
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Sustainability Transitions Research Network
#STRN is an international network of more than 1’500 scholars interested in #sustainability_transitions. Sustainability transitions are long-term transformation processes of established industries, socio-technical systems and societies to more sustainable modes of production and consumption.
STRN is an entirely independent, research-driven network. Membership is open to anyone who is interested and involved in research on sustainability transitions.
Our mission is to deepen the scientific understanding of sustainability transitions through a program of networking, research coordination, education and synthesis activities. Towards this end we want to provide a meeting place and a platform, where researchers can engage in a vibrant intellectual exchange on the challenges of sustainability transitions.
We also want to be a hub for practitioners in policy making, civil society, and business who are working to advance societies into more sustainable directions.
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Elon Musk’s Next Logical Move — Electric Airplanes — Modular Strategies for Sustainable Global…
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Green chemistry and material #science
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An important aspect of the conceptual transformations is that the term sustainability has gradually changed from being a goal (durability) to acquiring connotations that serve as a selection criterion for development aid. Using sustainability as a selection criterion risks privileging recipients who have the capacity to gain control over health and living conditions and exclude others as unworthy needy.
Le retour du malthusianisme, de l’hygiénisme et des thèses alarmistes sur le futur qu’on ne pourrait contrôler car la nature de l’homme (surtout celui pas éduqué) est mauvaise ?
Beaucoup des menaces annoncées sur un ton très savants (IA, post humanisme, nécessité d’aller sur mars) sont des arnaques.
Discours dominant de l’Europe du XIXé siècle afin d’apeurer l’ouvrier qui se rebellait.
Discours de Platon qui est la thèse de la République.
J’ai pour l’instant une combine simple pour trouver les pseudos savants.
Tout ce qui requiert du financement ou de la régulation publique afin de financer des intérêts privés pour des menaces futures à tendance à être plus souvent une grosse arnaque qui faites sur le dos de vrais problèmes.
FUD. FUD parasitant des vrais problèmes.
Global Fishing Watch
Global #Fishing Watch is the product of a technology partnership between #SkyTruth, #Oceana, and #Google that is designed to show all of the trackable fishing activity in the ocean. This interactive web tool – currently in prototype stage – is being built to enable anyone to visualize the global fishing fleet in space and time. Global Fishing Watch will reveal the intensity of fishing effort around the world, one of the stressors contributing to the precipitous decline of our fisheries.
With hundreds of millions of people around the world depending on our ocean for their livelihoods, and many more relying on the ocean for food, ensuring the long-term #sustainability of our #ocean is a critical global priority. We need a tool that harnesses the power of citizen engagement to hold our leaders accountable for maintaining an abundant ocean. .....
The CEO of #Unilever receives a mega bonus for his contribution to “sustainable development”
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