Mahan Chandra Borah, a history graduate turned farmer, has undertaken a task of setting up Northeast India’s first indigenous seed saving library.
Due to the volatile climate sensitivity in the region, low adaptability to ambient temperatures, water logging, erratic floods, emergence of new pathogens and degradation in soil health and reduction in the number of rainy days has prompted the near extinction of certain unique species of rice.
To cope with the problem of rice productivity in the region and to stock up on rare indigenous rice varieties, the unique seed library called ‘Annapurna Library’ has been set up which would help secure the genetic diversity of rice cultivation to withstand climate changes and preserve the rice varieties for later generations.
Speaking about the idea behind setting up the library, Borah said, “Farmers come to me to deposit the seeds, I sow the seeds in a plot of land and then sometime later other people can come borrow the resulting seeds.”
The seed bank was started by Borah 12 years ago in Meleng in upper Assam‘s Jorhat district. Backed by traditional knowledge on rice cultivation and wisdom of the elderly in his village, Borah scoured the Northeastern states in search of unique varieties of rice.
Many variants of aromatic rice, black rice, sticky rice, flood-tolerant rice and hill rice can be found in the Annapurna Library.
“I started the initiative with about 3 varieties of rice, but now I have over 250 varieties mostly from the Northeastern states. The traditional rice varieties can withstand extreme climatic variabilities such as floods and droughts but due to the preference for hybrid varieties, they are not cultivated extensively,” Borah told reporters.
Annapurna Seed Library is a sister library of California based Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library.
Borah has also expressed his endeavour to open up such libraries in other parts of the state such as Sadiya, Balipara, Kaziranga etc.