Namma Nellu

An effort to save Traditional Rice Varieties

India is endowed with a very exceptionally rich biodiversity in rice.  Rice plays a central role in the sociocultural life of our people.  People across different parts of  the country prefer different rice varieties.  Several varieties are unique to a state and also ethnic groups. 

Farmers have deep knowledge of their own rice varieties, their environmental and nutritional requirements and their properties and peculiarities. Indigenous varieties are still conserved for a variety of reasons.  Some of them are pest and disease resistant (Sigappu Kuruvikar).  They provide fodder and roofing material (Kullakar).  They are suited for specific food preparations (Kallimadiyan for Manapparai Murukku).  They provide energy and stamina (Mappillai Samba).  They are flood and drought resistant (Samba Mosanam and Vadan Samba).  They have specific medicinal properties (Pitchavari for curing diarrhea).  Some varieties are useful for pregnant mothers and lactating mothers (Navara and Neelan Samba).  Some are suitable for saline soil (Kalarpalai). 

Besides all this it is very important to conserve a large genetic pool to draw upon in times of disaster like tsunami. Lands affected by tsunami in December 2004 could only accommodate certain traditional varieties which came to the rescue of farmers. 

During the course of its work for the last 20 years on indigenous seed conservation, Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS) has collected more than 100 indigenous varieties of rice suitable for cultivation in Tamil Nadu.  All these varieties have to be planted out year after year for conservation. They also need to be conserved in more than one region so that they are not destroyed due to the vagaries of climate.  Besides this the Centre experiments with any new variety that it gets and cultivates it at least for a few seasons before passing it on to the farmers.  Sometimes the Centre also gets access to rare varieties and the amount it gets may be a handful (say a few grains). These have to be cultivated with great care and propagated.   

CIKS is currently conserving these indigenous varieties in its experimental farm in Sukkankollai in the Kancheepuram district and also in Agani, Sirkazhi in the Nagapattinam district.  In public interest CIKS feels that this large genetic diversity needs to be conserved and we appeal to well wishers to support this activity. 

Indigenous varieties cannot be accessed from the cold storage seed banks maintained by research institutes and agricultural universities.  These are only available in limited quantity and not accessible by farmers.  It is only meant for researchers and scientists.  By providing support to this effort rare indigenous varieties can be multiplied and made available to the needy farmers and in turn to the needy public. 

The seed industry focusses more on profit rather than public health or food security.  Indigenous varieties take a back seat from this view point.  We need sources which can supply seeds which are generally not made available by the mainstream seed supply system.   To evolve such sources money is required and public support is sought.

What are the steps we will take ............

The immediate first step would be to ensure that indigenous varieties that are still in existence in a scattered manner in small pockets are rescued from possible extinction – this will be done in a – “Fire Fighting Mode”. 

Shortlisted varieties would be made available to a larger number of farmers to ensure that it is cultivated in multiple locations assuring its survival.

To complete the cycle rice from several of these varieties would start reaching the consumers – to begin with this would be a small trickle but in due course in greater volumes.

Educational campaigns and awareness would be built around the fact that several indigenous paddy varieties have a low Glycemic Index (GI) and this is of crucial importance in population with a high and increasing incidence of diabetes. 

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Namma Nellu Rice Gift Box 

This gift box is aimed at introducing and educating consumers about traditional rice varieties and highlight their value including their nutritional and therapeutic properties.  For more information regarding these gift boxes and other Nammanellu products – click here