The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India will confer the Plant Genome Savior Farmers award to Mahan Chandra Borah of Meleng in Assam’s Jorhat district during the Krishna Unnati Mela to be held at Indian Agriculture Research Institute, Pusa campus, in New Delhi from March 5 to 7.
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh has consented to confer the award on Mahan Borah, a farmer, whose mission is to preserve indigenous paddy species from becoming extinct.
Mahan has collected seeds of nearly 100 odd indigenous paddy species which he plants in small plots in his fields on a rotational basis to preserve the germplasm.
” I would not like to see hybrid paddy varieties though high yielding replace the indigenous ones each of which contain some unique characteristic, ” he said.
Mahan further said that he would like to propagate and help in conservation of all the seeds that he had collected from different places in Assam.
“Many of these seeds are no longer cultivated extensively but they have properties that allow them to withstand floods, drought and other climatic vagaries. We should not lose the germplasm of these seeds,” he said.
A one man’s avowed aim has turned into a movement of sorts with this progressive farmer being able to inspire students in several schools to collect seeds of indigenous varieties of paddy as well as chillies, brinjals and other vegetables and make seed banks.
Mahan’s own seed bank which he had named Annapurna has also been transformed into a seed lending library.
Mahan has unending tales of from.where he has collected his seeds and the beliefs which surround each variety viz medicinal and health.
Bora, a graduate, narrates a tale of how Medelaguri paddy was brought about 100 years ago to Meleng by Nethia Bharali after buying the seed for Re 1 from his in-laws, since rice seeds are never given as dowry.
These seeds have been preserved by his sons over the years.
Another local farmer cultivated harphoni in preference to the high-yielding varieties, as its weight was one-and-a-half times more for 82 bags of rice, which usually weighs a quintal.
The organizers also propose to put on display the samples of the seeds which have been conserved by Mahan and other farmers of his ilk from different parts of the country at an exhibition to be held on the occasion.
This was let known by Ravi Prakash, Registrar, Plant Protection Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, government of India through a letter.