#GoodNews: Farmer-Poet From MP Preserves 110 Varieties of Rice

“Words and seeds have a long history; when they are lost, all knowledge they coded is also lost,” Babulal says.

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A 72-year-old farmer and Bagheli poet in Madhya Pradesh has been cultivating over 110 varieties of rice that date back a thousand years to preserve and protect them, Hindustan Times reported.

Babulal Dahiya, from Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district, has taken it upon himself to preserve the local varieties of crop, which frequently feature in folklore in his two-acre land. He began cultivating in 2005 after realising that folk songs on agriculture alone would not keep the crops from going extinct.

Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh together have 23,000 varieties of rice, of which only 110 were recorded to exist by the 2000s.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, the Dahiya said: “ Words and seeds have a long history; when they are lost, all knowledge they coded is also lost. There are rice varieties that need less water, varieties that are disease resistance, varieties that are comparatively drought resistant. But for larger yield and more profit, we started sowing hybrid and dwarf rice varieties, which need more pesticides and fertilisers.”

For Babulal, the turning point was when through a folksong, he learnt of a variety of rice which has spikes and therefore, is not eaten by wild bears.

His collection has been getting deposited in a seed bank developed with the help of the MP State Biodiversity Board.

Inspired by Babulal’s work, the Biodiversity Board has started a Beej yatra to collect indigenous varieties of vegetables and medicinal plants. So far, they have collected over 1600 varieties from 24 districts, R Sreenivasa Murthy, Member Secretary of the Board told Hindustan Times.

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