Only looks matter!
Ms Rice India: Long, thin and shiny
We thank Gobar Times readers for the overwhelming response we received to our Rice issue (January 2004). So many rice reporters out there! Here are some excerpts of the entries we received. All participating teams should look out for their surprise gifts.
Appearances must impress
Today the demand is for thin long and white grains of rice, even if they have less nutritional value. That is why the traditional varieties of rice grown in Nagpur’s Ramtek, Moudha and Kamptee are no longer cultivated.
Popular varieties like HMT and BPT have been around for only 15 years. They require plenty of water and therefore are cultivated only once a year during the rainy season.
A traditional rice variety called patelteen was brought from Gujarat by local farmers. The name “Patel” was used since it’s a Gujarati surname. The HMT variety comes from this.
A variety which lost out because it wasn’t good-looking was the swarna. It was fattish and yellow in colour. This and the “1001” lost out, because they couldn’t be “polished”. (Polished rice means the removal of not only the bran, but also two layers of rice in the mill to make it thinner, bringing the nutritional value to “zero”).
Jacinthia Mascarenhas, Nagpur, Maharashtra
Convincing organic economics
Students of the Ecology and Natural Resources Education network in West Bengal compared the economics behind growing high yielding (HY) and traditional varieties. They were surprised to find that though HY varities were more productive and generated more income than the traditional varieties, the profit from both was more or less the same!
That’s because HY cultivation costs more in terms of chemical fertiliser usage. So, the children managed to convince 12 farmers to use cow dung compost instead of chemical fertiliser in order to maximise their profits.
Cheap, best and... unpopular!
Gujarat’s “kada” is the “cheap and best” rice variety and very popular with workers. It’s nutritious, easily digestible and is sweet in taste and smells good after cooking. It is grown by tribal farmers and can be grown under drought conditions and in saline water. There is a local saying “Kada sabse bada” (kada is the best). However, it’s sad that most farmers don’t grow it because it doesn’t fetch a good price.
Rajubhai Jantrania, Surat, Gujarat
GT Rice Reporters
Class 4-10 students and teachers of the Ecology and Natural Resources Education network have been conducting several rice surveys in West Bengal.
Class 8-9 students from the Cardnal Pimenta Adivasi High School in Thane and Gnanmata Sadan Society surveyed 50 varieties of rice.
Class 11 students of Don Bosco Higher Secondary School Panaji, Goa studied basmati rice, hybrid rice and other local varieties of rice in their area.
>> To read these and other full reports, please go to our website www.gobartimes.org
From birth to death
Rice is an intrinsic part of the culture of the Warli people of Maharashtra. A handful of rice is thrown into the joli into which the new born child is laid. This rice is supposed to be the source of growth and strength of the child and the tribe. On death, when a person is laid in the earth, he is fed a morsel of boiled rice by his immediate family. A serving of rice is then wrapped up in sag leaves and placed by his side, food for the journey.
Even the bull that ploughed the rice field over the years is fed cooked rice at its death, a token gesture of gratitude, paying back afor years of life-giving service.
“This has been a most fruitful experience, and a great learning experience for our children. ‘Rice’ couldn’t have been a more relevant topic for our adivasi children.”
Gnanmata Sadan Society, Thane, Maharashtra
Lord, I am going to my parental home,
Wait, dear! Wait, dear!
Just let me tie this rice into sheaves,
Then you go to your parental home.
(Free translation of a song that the Warli women sing as they transplant rice in the fields.)
Nobody cares for the old
We are deeply concerned about vanishing varieties of rice, but there is no ready demand for them. Farmers are falling for high yield varieties. To create a demand, we thought of appealing to religious heads, to encourage use of classical varieties of rice along with other cereals and vegetables. (For example, “Elaichi”, a small variety of banana, also called “Deva Bale” in South Canara is the preferred one for pujas).
But when we tried to collect data involving students, merchants and farmers preserving old varieties of rice and other food crops, not even one person responded.
Dr Ashok Kundapur
Udupi Parisarasaktara Okkuta, Karnataka
The eco-friendly Yerra Sannalu
The traditional variety of rice known as Yerra Sannalu is grown in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam and Vijaynagaram by the Savara tribe. The rice requires mimimum tillage and is grown in uplands, requiring no supplemental irrigation. No fertilisers are required. It is highly drought resistant. It’s straw is used as cattle feed.
Society for Modernisation of Agriculture and
Rural Technology, Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh