- Many indigenous varieties are rice are known to increase the energy of the eater. In folklore, a bridegroom once had to display his strength by lifting a heavy stone called the Mapillai Kallu (The Bridegroom’s Stone). Eating the Mapillai Samba rice gave him enough energy to lift the stone and presumably win the fair maiden.
Why is it important to increase our base of rice consumption and support indigenous varieties of rice?
1. Indigenous rice is naturally hardy and pest resistant reducing the dependence on pesticides
- A case in point: In the 1970s, a virus called the Grassy Stunt virus decimated rice cultivation from Indonesia to India. The rice cultivation at that time in Asia, had been sparked off by the Green revolution, supported by the efforts of the International Rice research Institute. The IRRI bred and developed the paddy varieties used across Asia during the Green revolution to give high yields.These paddy varieties were then called ‘miracle rice’.
- None of these miracle rices could withstand the attack of the virus. After a 4 year search, researchers found one indigenous variety of Oryza nivara, growing near Gonda, in Uttar Pradesh that could resist the virus’ attack. Today rice hybrids have been bred that contain this wild Indian gene; these hybrids are grown across Asia. Bred rice is vulnerable to pests; indigenous rice is not.
3. Growing Indigenous rice adds to our food security as a nation. If we used only commercial High yield Hybrids, we are vulnerable to a single pest wiping out our entire rice production.
- A case in point: The Irish potato famine was a period of mass starvation and immigration from 1842 – 1845. This was caused by a potato disease called the potato blight.
- Potato blight is caused by Phytopthora infestans which probably arrived in Ireland from the Andes through guano carried in ships. Guano was in demand as a fertilizer in Europe.
- Nearly 1 million people died as a result of the famine, wiping out 25% of Ireland’s population, changing the course of Ireland for ever.
5. Indigenous varieties of rice are naturally suited for organic farming, as they need fewer inputs in the form of fertilizers or support in the form of pesticides and herbicides.
6. They are valuable in the agriculture eco system, as they yield straw that is valuable to farmers as cattle feed as well as roofing material.
7. They are inexpensive to cultivate and promote self sufficiency in the farming community
8.There is no need to buy seeds or inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) from anyone. The farmer saves seeds from every year’s crop and uses it in the next season. Seeds are also swapped between farmers, giving everyone access to a larger gene pool.