Jorhat, Aug. 22: Mahan Chandra Bora, a farmer from Meleng on the eastern outskirts of Jorhat, has set up the Northeast’s first seed lending library.
Bora converted his seed bank, Annapurna, into a seed lending library and it is now a sister library of the California-based Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library.
“The basic idea is that you plant the seeds, let some germinate, then return some of these next generation seeds for others to borrow,” states the Richmond Grows website.
Annapurna is the only listed sister library from Asia.
“I was attracted to the concept of the seed lending library and an Internet search revealed that there were many seed lending libraries in the West,” said Bora, a graduate who farms for a living.
“I have also been invited by the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library to attend meetings and other discussions but it is not possible for me to go to the US,” he said.
“A lending library for seeds, or seed exchange, makes a lot of sense. Your leftover seeds can be put to use, and you can try samples of a lot of different varieties that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. It’s a great way to save money and build community,” the Richmond Grows website says.
Mahan, who has a collection of more than 90 indigenous paddy seeds, says anyone in the region can take seeds from him, provided they conserve and lend some seeds.
“I would like to propagate and help in conservation of all the seeds that I have 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.
Currently, farmers prefer hybrid or high-yielding variety seeds in order to get better harvests. As a result, many indigenous paddy varieties have become scarce and some have become extinct, Bora said, adding that he was open to exchanging seeds and helping in seed conservation in other parts of India.
Bora has collected paddy seeds from all over the country. He obtained a variety from the Green Foundation, Karnataka, a red rice variety from Manipur and two seed varieties from environmentalist Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya in Dehradun through Erin Harper, a member of Fertile Ground: East/West Sustainability Network, an NGO of Canada.
Having compiled a list of extinct and near-extinct species of crops grown in Assam and collecting as many of them as possible, Mahan now plans to rope in gram panchayat members to support him in his endeavour as well as store the various varieties of seeds.
“I am also planning a competition among schoolchildren in this area so that they can collect as many seeds as possible and write down relevant data like where it is grown, which farmer is growing them, so that the idea of the lending library spreads and is sustained,” he added.