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‘Bank’ to save the life of domestic rice

The bank’s name evokes thoughts of money, but in Tanore, Rajshahi, there is a unique bank where there is no currency, only rice. The bank collects 261 varieties of rice, nearly extinct, from all over the country. In the district of Tanore, its activities are conducted in a half-baked house in the village of Dublia. The names of the rice varieties are written on glass bottles stored here: Rupkatha, Mahipal, Sobharaj, Dui Satin, Malati, Narikelbadha, Tal Mugur, Jaldoba, and many more.

This bank, known as the Seed Bank, works on the conservation of indigenous rice seeds and engages farmers in seed exchange during the annual Nabanno festival. For this purpose, they organize events when new rice varieties are harvested in the Agrahayan month. People from all over the country, including farmers, university professors, researchers, scientists, poets, and writers, participate in these events. The main purpose of this festival is to revive the life force of lost rice varieties.

What is this Seed Bank?
Entering Dublia, you’ll find a half-baked house with two rooms by the roadside. The house is filled with rice, arranged carefully in glass bottles. The names of each variety are written on the bottles. The Seed Bank was established in 2015 by farmer Yusuf Molla, with support from the Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK). Yusuf Molla passed away two years ago, but the Seed Bank continues its operations. The activities are managed by a committee of seven members. Yusuf Molla’s younger brother Jahidur Rahman and his son Golum Molla are also part of the committee. They hold monthly meetings to discuss matters such as which rice varieties were obtained, where their rice was planted, and the overall progress of their work.

In addition to seed exchange, the bank also creates plots for cultivating rice to preserve the embryo of the seeds. This year, they cultivated rice from 110 varieties on 33% of the land. Out of these, 86 varieties were used to cook traditional rice dishes served to guests during the Nabanno festival. Uncommon rice dishes such as rice pudding, pithe (traditional Bengali sweets), and payesh (rice pudding) were also served. Around 300 guests attended the groundbreaking festival on December 9.

The bank has a committee called the “Seed Selection and Quality Control Committee.” Three women are part of this committee, and its chairperson is Abeda Begum, aged 52. She says, “By planting rice, we can understand what kind of seed it will become.”

Since its establishment, the bank has distributed and exchanged seeds among 5,180 farmers. Seed exchange also takes place among farmers who attend the Nabanno festival. According to the rules, if someone takes one kilogram of seed from the festival, they must return at least five kilograms of rice the following year.

Seed Exchange without Monetary Transactions
Barind Agricultural Seed Bank currently preserves seeds from 261 rice varieties. Among them, 166 varieties are still viable. These include 152 varieties for Aman rice, 8 for Aus rice, and 6 for Boro rice cultivation. Seeds from 95 varieties are lifeless, kept only for display.

The organizers state that many varieties of rice, nearly extinct, have been recovered through the Seed Bank. Despite losing the mainstream position, these rice varieties might still withstand various environmental conditions. The Seed Bank is actively involved in researching the rice obtained through seed exchange.

Farmers Who Took Seeds
Khurshed Alam, a farmer from Rajamehar village in Debiddwar Upazila, Comilla, obtained seeds from the bank. Last year, he took seeds of two varieties named ‘Rupkatha’ and ‘Randhunipagol.’

Researchers’ Perspectives
Professor M. Munirul Rashid, Head of the Department of Plant Pathology at Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, is researching seeds from 11 varieties obtained from the Seed Bank. These include the Juvaraj for Boro-Aman seasons, Shani (black) and Tulsi for Aman seasons, and Ancient Aus for the Aus and Boro seasons.

In a recent interview, Professor Munirul Rashid mentioned that he is conducting research on these seeds in three generations: F1, F2, and F3.

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