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An initiative to make native rice, vegetable varieties available to urban consumers

At the Jawahar centre of BDRF, regional coordinator Sandeep Kakade talked about over 350 varieties of rice and millet which have been conserved by them.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Published: December 14, 2019 8:38:58 am
BAIF Development and Research Foundation, BAIF Development and Research Foundation rice conservation, farming monk, pune city news, rice conservation, Maharashtra Gene Bank Project Some of the native varities saved at the Jawahar facility of BDRF. (Express photo)

For the last few decades, the Pune headquartered-BAIF Development and Research Foundation (BDRF) has undertaken the work of conserving and preserving various native and indigenous varieties of rice, millet and vegetables. Now, such rare but healthier varieties of rice and millet-based products will be available to urban consumers under the brand ‘Farming Monk’.

Under the Maharashtra Gene Bank Project, scientists of BDRF, in close collaboration with local communities, have undertaken the work to save various varieties of rice, pulses, vegetables and millets. which are not used much despite having numerous health benefits. Tribal communities have been at the forefront of cultivating such varieties in most parts of the state. But over the years, such varieties have become rare as improved seeds and hybrids have taken their place.

At the Jawahar centre of BDRF, regional coordinator Sandeep Kakade talked about over 350 varieties of rice and millet which have been conserved by them. These include some rare varieties like black rice and red rice. “We have finished registration of 34 varieties with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resource,” he said.

The gene bank, meticulously build by the institute, has varieties of rice which, Kakade said, can also withstand very heavy rainfall. Varieties like Kamal Vath, Ashwini, Rajgude and Surtikollam had survived the very heavy rainfall which the commonly-cultivated Pusa had failed.

As part of the project, 800 farmers in Palghar and Jawahar talukas of the region undertook seed trials with these varieties. Twenty of the preserved varieties have been accepted by local farmers and local seed banks help them conserve the seed. Such varieties have formed the base for better-yielding hybrids, but have fallen out of favour for the majority of farmers.

The Farming Monk project aims to help such farmers get better prices for their produce by making it available to the greater public. Ravi Gajraj, a Buddha Fellow working with BDRF, said currently four different varieties of rice are being marketed under the brand. “Farmers grow these rices in various parts of the state and mill it there. Quality control, branding and sales is being managed centrally,” he said.

Currently, the brand is available at select outlets in Pune as well as some online platforms. Gajraj said there are plans
to make the products available more widely in the days
to come.

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