Anowar Hossein, Chapainawabgonj::
This article was publised in daily Prothom Alo, a Bengali newspaper on 16 March, 2013. Silvanus Lamin translates it for our online readers with a slight change of the main article
It was because of his deep love that has led him conserving the diverse rice varieties for a long time! He has been conserving about 60 types of diverse rice varieties farming them in small plots of lands for the last 30 years. These rice varieties although have been almost to get extinct from the Barind Tract and new generations seldom know and see them in the fields but they are still seen in the house and fields of Yousuf Molla, a small and poor farmer! Most of the rice varieties in his collection and conservation are drought tolerant and not susceptible to pest. They do not require chemical fertilizers and pesticides for growth. These varieties have their unique taste, smell and shape. Farmer Yousfuf has been conserving these varieties for his own use. Recently farmers of the area collected the seed of “Radhuni Pagol” rice variety from him and cultivated in their field. Radhuni Pagol is aromatic rice and when the rice is cooked, its sweet scent amazes people around and it tastes well as well. This rice could become one of the expensive rice in the market said famer Yousuf Molla. He conserves the seed of this rice farming it in various plots managed either by sharecropping or lease.
Farmer Yousuf Molla lives at Duboil village in Tonor sub-district of Rajshahi. This village is 8 kilometers away from Mondumala municipal city. Most of the houses of the village are made of mud walls and the one that Yousuf Molla owns is also made of mud wall as well. Yousuf Molla had a big family and many members. Thus he could carry his study up to class eight and later on joined his father in the agriculture fields. Over the years, he had been observing his father’s works in the field. His father would collect local variety aromatic rice varieties and farm them for consumption and to entertain guests. His father passed away 25 years ago but the habit, tradition and practice of his father remained with him. He still practices to collect aromatic and tasty rice varieties for consumption and guest’s entertainment. On the other hand, seeing the rate of extinction of these varieties in the area has also inspired him to conserve them.
Farmer Yousuf Molla so far, has been conserving 60 types of local and almost extinct varieties through cultivation. The varieties which are in his collection and conservation include: Radhuni Pagol, Modhu Madhob, Chinishangkor, Dadkhani, Raghushail, Jhingashail, Sonashail, Indrashail, Lotashail, Mugi Malsera, Soni aus, Hida, Neelkantha, Kailarai, Jota Bashful, Digha, Kalshoni Elai, Topa boro, Sonakathi, Khailjhuri, Kalivajra, Gangashuli, Sathiya, Vozna, Kakuri, Mulashail, Urissa, Kalikhuji, Bashmoti etc. Among the varieties, Radhuni Pagol, Modhu Madhob, Chinishangkor and Dadkhani are aromatic rice and they have skinny and small grain shape. The Panta rice of Soni Aus is very sweet during the month of Vadra. Digha is deep water rice variety, its rice color is red and taste sweet, sticky. The grain shape of Hida rice is big and it is well used to make chira while fry rice is made from the rice of Neelkantha. Yousuf Molla conserved the seeds of diverse rice varieties in two houses made of brick and corrugate roof. Most of the seeds that he conserved in these houses have been extinct from the area 30-40 years ago. Thus while showing us the conserved seeds, farmer Yousuf Molla also described the characteristics and quality of those seeds. There are many pots in his house in which he conserved seeds of various rice varieties and other crops.
However, Yousuf Molla also did not forget the name of the organization which inspired and in some cases assisted him with various seeds. He said, “Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK) has inspired me much. The organization encourages farmers using and conserving local varieties of rice”. BARCIK, recognizing the contribution of farmer Yousuf Molla now is making effort to spread and disseminates the information about the seed store of Yousuf Molla so that other farmers can collect the seeds from him and farm. While sharing the experience of BARCIK in facilitating farmers conserving local varieties of crops’ seeds Pavel Partha, staff of BARCIK said, “It is really ironic that the thing that a state should do is done by poor farmer in remote village.” “Climate change induced disasters have increased and the water table in the Barind Tract has gone more underward. Therefore, some days, we must call upon Yousuf Molla to collect the rice varieties he has been conserving throughout his life for crop production because those varieties are drought tolerant” he added. Additional director of Agriculture extension department in Rajshahi Rabindra Kumar Mojumder said, “Personally I know Yousuf Molla and have visited his village many times. He has done a great job by conserving the varieties”. Upazilla agriculture official of Tanore Hasnaul Kabir appreciating the initiative of Yousuf Molla said, “Yousuf Molla has done a great job by conserving the extinct and almost extinct rice varieties with his own initiative. There were ten thousands of rice varieties in Bangladesh and now is has shrunk to only one thousand”.