M3 Features

Sunderbans model for growing salt-tolerant rice

November 6, 2013

Natural calamities like cyclones not only wreak havoc the moment it lashes the coastal areas, the aftermath can be devastating too for the economy of the place. This is what happened due to the havoc caused by the cyclonic storm Aila when it struck the Sunderbans in the year 2009.

As sea water entered the agricultural lands, the fertility of the soil in the region was affected immensely. Sea water increased the salt content in the soil manifold thus making the land futile for use. At this difficult moment the organization Energising Development (Endev) came to the rescue of people and ensured their survival.

“Crop failure and heavy borrowing at high rates resulted in forced sales of livestock, large scale malnutrition and even trafficking of young girls. This demanded a solution. We decided to revive the traditional varieties of rice that were saline tolerant,” said the president of Endev, A.K. Ghosh.

The saviour

Debal Deb, a member of Endev, after a thorough search through the database came up with names of six salt tolerant rice varieties earlier grown by the farmers in Sunderbans, those that were popular until a century ago. They are - Matla, Hamilton, Nona Bokra, Talmugur, Lal Getu and Sada-Getu.

After more than a year of extensive search, they acquired the of seeds of these rice varieties in very small quantities from places like National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources and remote villages of Mathurapur and Mousami Islands in Namkhana Block of the Sunderbans.

“It was at this point a project was drawn up to use micro-planning for sustainable agriculture with support from the National Council for Rural Institute, Hyderabad. Endev successfully linked five community-based organizations (CBOs) that worked with 5 lakh people in seven of the 19 blocks of the Sunderbans,” said Ghosh.

Deb also conducted experiments to find the limits of salt tolerance of these varieties. A daylong training workshop at Dhamakhali was then organized by Endev in May 2011 to provide the methods to be adopted after assessing level of soil salinity, without any chemical fertilizer or pesticides. In the monsoon of 2011, the CBOs started seed bed preparation, transplanted saplings and the crop was harvested at the end of monsoon. Endev estimated a success rate of 75-80%.

Well deserved rewards

Good deeds are never overlooked. This great endeavour has also earned accolades globally from an eminent jury comprising leading climate change scientists.

The executive secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the chairperson of Global Environment Facility, the VP of Convention on Biological Diversity Bureau and the Ambassador for Small Island Nation on Climate Change were among the Nature Conservancy jurors who picked the climate change adaption programme from 87 applications for the Judges’ Mr. Ghosh received the citation and $20,000 award at a glittering function in Washington DC.

Parting Thought

Encouraged by the honour, Endev has now decided to extend their project to other parts of Bengal as well. Surely, this initiative will be a great boost to the agricultural production of the state.

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Comments (4)
Ivy Ghoshal Reply
November 07, 2013
We can overcome every difficult situation in life. There is always a solution for a problem. We need to keep on searching.
Sounak Reply
November 07, 2013
Great achievement!
Ishan Reply
November 06, 2013
Good effort.
Pinaki Shekhar Reply
November 06, 2013
One can't always prevent damages caused by environmental disasters. But adapting to the changes can win the battle for us. And Endev has done just that. Kudos to Endev!
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