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     Volume 5 Issue 93 | May 5, 2006 |

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Haridhan's Miracle starts a rice revolution?

Rizwana Akhter

According to an article in last year's 11th August's issue of 'Nature', a journal, International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRSGP) reported that they had come up with the latest sequencing of a rice genome, which is the most detailed, complete sequence yet ever to have been obtained and therefore, could be considered as the final sequence of the rice genome. This huge scientific breakthrough, if not immediate, has major implications for rice production and food security in a global context as rice is the staple food for almost half the planet's population. But we have to wait several years before we can witness any tangible benefits in improving food and livelihood security of poor farmers through increased rice production. International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRSGP) is presently busy in deciphering the codes revealed from the latest sequencing of the rice genome to come up with rice varieties that are high yielding, disease, pest and draught-resistant.

Haridhan - discoverer of the 'miracle rice'

While rice researchers all around the world are struggling hard to decode the genome sequence of rice to come up with such desirable rice varieties, Haripad Kapali (70), a small farmer of Asannagar village of Sadar Upazila of Jhinaidah district in Bangladesh has made a miraculous an unknown High Yield Variety (HYV) of rice with all these attributes (high yielding and resistant to disease, pests and draughts) eight years ago with much less pain and effort. The story about how he discovered his miracle rice is perhaps already known to many through newspapers since his award receiving news areas flashed in most major national dailies. The story goes like this. One fine morning, eight years ago, while he was busy pulling out weeds from his small plot, Haripad Kapali's sharp and experienced eye caught sight of some healthy seedlings. He simply liked their strong and healthy looking stalks and stems and the green long leaves that were constantly fluttering by the breeze. They were just too precious to pull out. So Haripad decided to keep them. When it was time to reap, to his amazement, Haripad found out that the grain and stalk of that unknown rice variety was much better in quantity and quality than the BRRI 11, the variety that he had cultivated in his small plot of land that year. Haripad saved the grains of that unknown rice variety as seeds to use it in the next Amon season.

In next Amon season, he sowed that unknown rice variety in a small fragment of his land. Even though he sowed it in a small piece of land the yield was comparatively very high. That year he also cooked and tasted the miracle rice variety. It tasted really good even though the grains were not that fine. The next year Haripad sowed this variety on a 10 katha plot. He received a bumper production. He was overwhelmed with the joy of his miracle discovery and success of the harvest.

Soon the popularity and demand of this unknown rice variety discovered by Haripad Kapali spread across neighbouring villages. In the last six Amon seasons the cultivation of this unknown variety has been spread out from .04 ha land to 4000 hector land of all over Jhinaidah district, a south-western district of Bangladesh. According to farmers there are several reasons behind the unbeaten popularity and demand of this unknown rice variety.

The HYV variety that Haridhan discovered is resistant to pests, disease and draught

The per bigha yield (18 to 20 Maund per Bigha) for one thing is higher than any other known and existing rice varieties that are cultivated in that area. The rice from this grain is tastier than any other known varieties. It makes stronger stalks and hay and is resistant to insect and bug attacks as it has a strong stem and stalk. Further more, it needs comparatively less fertilizer and irrigation and no insecticide, therefore, highly cost effective. It is draught resistant. According to a Prothom Alo report, in the last Amon season (2005) farmers of Jhinaidah faced draught, but they received bumper yield from the unknown rice variety of Haripad.

The grateful farmers of Jhinaidah rightly named this unknown variety of high yielding rice after its discoverer Haripad Kapali. It is now known as Haripad dhan across the nation. This is how a short story of discovering a new variety of rice by a small farmer becomes an epic of continuous success for many farmers. Channel-i, a Bangla satellite TV channel awarded Haripad Kapali, "Channel i Krishi Padak 2006" on March 25, 2006 for his discovery and spread of this particular variety among the farmers of Jenidah district on his own initiative.

But is this HYV rice meant only for a handful of farmers of Jenidah or can its benefits be spread across the country? The farmers of draught prone areas of Bangladesh i.e. North-Western part of Bangladesh and especially the Barind Tracts will find Haridhan a good choice for its draught resistant capability since water is scarce in those areas even in the wet season.

Normally HYV rice is the product of lab work where scientists work years after years before coming up with this special variety. The story does not end there but is just the beginning. In fact after successful breeding of a new HYV of any crop such as cereal, fruits and vegetables in the laboratory the real task that lies ahead is the wide acceptance of that HYV crop among the farmers and targeted consumers. Many scientists for very practical reasons and from their past experiences admit that at the experiment station new high yield varieties look great. But often they don't do as well as expected in the farmers' plots for reasons that hadn't even been considered. The rejection of new varieties by farmers would be a possible outcome of such one way research. It is quite possible that entire breeding programmes have been wasted. To avoid such a situation scientists and development workers worldwide want more and more farmers' involvement and participation in new varieties rice breeding and selection process. In the case of Haridhan, a HYV, has been discovered by a marginal farmer as a sign of divine will and it was practiced and accepted by a considerable number of farmers. Such discovery of this HYV rice by Haripad Kapali, saved a great deal of time, money related to necessary research, field test and the uncertainty regarding whether it would be accepted by the consumers and farmers. It is really a gift from Almighty through a hardworking marginal farmer, which we should take advantage of, to increase our rice production and to improve our food security.

Haridhan Rice if replicated on a more widespread level, could make a huge difference

It is not clear to the public yet what concerned agricultural departments (i.e. Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Bangladesh Rice Research are thinking about this new High Yield Variety of rice. In fact, what is the process of these agricultural agencies of government in adopting a new crop variety in this case a rice variety? We hope there are friendly policies and regulations of these agencies to accept and recognise new crop variety as well as the technology of farming and crop management from the farmer's field. We hope these agencies will put aside all hesitation and bureaucratic hurdles in the process of accepting and recognising this rice variety for its wide distribution and mass application among farmers to boost our rice production. DAE and BRRI should come forward to do necessary research and all formalities and take proactive initiatives for the wide spread of this variety. Moreover, they should make the seed and /or rice available to different rice research institutes that include but not limited to IRRI, IRGSP for better understanding of this new high yield variety of rice. Last but not the least, nationally and/or internationally whatever we do with this HYV rice we have to make sure that its discoverer, Haripad Kapali and originating country Bangladesh is getting due recognition and honour. The government and other concerned parties (private sectors, research organisations) must come forward to promote this variety at the national and international level.

Haripad's discovery may well be the catalyst to bring about a rice revolution by ignoring this HYV of rice? The bottom line is we have to increase our rice production to meet our growing demand. The high yield is possible through cultivation of HYV of rice; to get a breed of HYV rice from a laboratory is often a question of time, money and skill. Testing too is always a time consuming process. We also have limitations and constraints in rice research regarding skill, money and time. And here is Haridhan that promises us the same thing with less cost and effort. So there is no reason that supports our current reserved attitude towards Haridhan. We have to act promptly and efficiently if we want to get benefits from this great discovery. It is us who can make it a boon for our rice industry and agriculture. It might hold the potentiality to ensure food security for millions of our food insecure people and meeting our growing demand of rice in future. We make international (Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)) and national (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)) commitment to reduce poverty and hunger. Many ongoing projects on food and livelihood security, and agriculture by different government organisations and local and international NGOs, which consider increase of rice production as one of the important factors to ensure food security, are results of that international and national commitment.

Introduction of Haridhan, HYV rice to farmers can be a very rewarding input for project and project participants. There is no doubt that it is high time to recognise this new HYV, Haridhan by the concerned government agricultural departments for its widespread access, availability and cultivation among the farmers of other parts of the country. Different food security projects especially those projects that are working to increase rice yield can also consider introducing and spreading this rice variety among its beneficiaries or participant farmers. Despite our problems and limitations, at the advent of this new millennium we have promised to work for a world where hunger and poverty will be history and where people will live in peace, hope and dignity. Why not start making a difference with Haridhan?

The writer is a development worker in Food and Livelihood Security Project.

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