Indigenous rice out-performs commercial varieties in nutrition value and tolerance to drought, flood, extreme weather

“The number one key to achieve food sustainability and security is diversity. Resilience is a direct outcome of ecological diversity and complexity” — Debal Deb

Kolkata, India — A growing body of scientists, researchers and farmers are demonstrating that Indigenous varieties of crops are not only more nutritious but more climate-resilient and equitable for farmers growing them, by leaps and bounds over commercial agribusiness seeds.
Debal Deb, founder of Basudha, a rice conservation farm in India, has published the micronutrient profiles of 550 Indigenous species of rice which contain between 20 ppm to 152 ppm of iron.

This contrasts with the genetically-modified iron fortified rice variety IR68144-2B-2-2-3 developed by IRRI, containing only 8.9 ppm of iron. Basudha farm conserves 1,485 varieties of rice on a modest 1.7 acre plot; these include varieties with climate-resilient properties including 18 salt-tolerant varieties; 16 drought-tolerant varieties; 20 flood-tolerant varieties, including 3 submergent-tolerant varieties and more.

Commercial hybrid seeds are dependent on patented inputs that result in farmer debt, and have been found to fall behind in the category of climate tolerance. Deb has also documented medicinal rice varieties, like West Bengal’s Garib-sal rice containing nanoparticles of silver. In 2022 alone, he has shared his saved indigenous seed varieties with 1,300 small farmers.

This knowledge becomes vital in light of the government of India’s recent mandate that all rice supplies in India must be fortified with iron (among other supplements) by 2024. It involves rice being milled into a powder form, fortified with supplements, and reshaped into rice grains. TheMandatory Food Fortification Program is now in effect across 4 states (Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand) and all rice supply in India must be fortified by 2024; local news reports children in Bolangir district of Orissa falling sick after consuming fortified rice. Also, 19 samples of fortified rice out of 22 collected from Punjab failed the quality tests performed by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) labs.

Crises like COVID and the war on Ukraine have revealed the gross cracks in the current global model of centralized food systems.

Cultivating and protecting indigenous seeds offers an equitable path towards health security and climate-resilient agriculture. But recent agricultural policy has been analyzed to benefit corporate initiatives and their profit instead of protecting and encouraging Indigenous crop varieties and agroecological practices. Devinder Sharma, an Indian food policy expert, highlights that global food systems must transition to agroecology in order to truly build resilience in the food systems. While the Green Revolution was lauded for averting food shortages during the 60s in India through the introduction of high-yielding crop varieties, it has steadily resulted in environmental degradation and increasing farmer debt through expensive inputs. Solutions like those at Basudha farm exist but are under-resourced and not widespread. As another example, Deccan Development Society, an organization representing over 5000 women farmers in the state of Telangana, have documented superior drought-tolerance of their Indigenous varieties of millets and rice. Many of the small-scale women farmers proudly explain that their system doens’t trap them in debt; subsequently, their society is free from common phenomena of agrarian suicides.

QUOTES

“Our emphasis and advice to every farmer in the world would be: to foster and nurture diversity on all levels. On a species level, on crop genetic level, and on ecosystem level.” — Debal Deb

 

“Experts are spending billions of dollars to fine-tune genetic engineering, while these resilient varieties already exist… In the name of smarter agriculture we are losing these climate-smart varieties, and the farmers are trained to become puppets of agro-industry.” — Debal Deb

“Our soil is something almost equivalent to Gold. The beauty of this soil is that it can hold and store water. For instance there has been no rains for almost four months now but it acts as sufficient support to the Indigenous crop (Sorghum). This type of crop is called Satyam Panta, it grows because of the air and nothing else. Rain has never been a necessity for this crop. There are no external input pressures, and we have not witnessed any farmers suicides in our society.” — Chandramma, farmer with Deccan Development Society, Telangana, India

RESOURCES

For resources on nutrition value and climate-resilience of Indigenous crops:

For more on Basudha Farm and Debal Deb:

For more on Deccan Development Society:

 

Reviving Jordan’s community, resilience and food sovereignty through urban wheat cultivation

“Whenever you grow wheat, after you harvest you need to re-introduce nitrogen back into the soil. You do this by growing chickpeas, fava beans or lentils. So, we do this agricultural cycle. We do not grow wheat in the same piece of land two years in a row. In rain-fed agriculture, that means you will not be using fertilizers or any kind of chemicals.” — Lama Khatieb,Co-Founder of Zikra Collective & Al-Barakeh (The Blessing) Wheat Project

 

Amman, Jordan—A growing collective of urban families in Amman are reclaiming their food sovereignty by cultivating native wheat varieties in empty urban plots. This heralds a potential solution to counter Jordan’s current import dependency for 97% of its food grains. With the title ‘Zikra for Popular Learning’, the collective was founded in 2019 by Jordanians Lama Khatieb and Rabee Zureikat, and has grown to include 165 families & 3 schools. Today they cultivate native wheat varieties over 70 dunams (17.3 acres) of Amman. Through this
collective, veteran wheat growers share their knowledge with local families; they learn how to plant, harvest and make their own bread from local wholewheat, reviving a rich tradition of communal farming.

Jordan is nestled in the historical Fertile Crescent, known to be the region where wheat was first domesticated. Until the late 1960s, the country was 200% self-sufficient in wheat. Amman was once Jordan’s most suitable landscape for rainfed agriculture, but is now a
dense concrete jungle. Over the last 50 years, Jordan lost most of their local wheat cultivation when foreign aid, urban development and cheap American wheat flooded their markets. This was compounded with international financial institutions (namely World Bank &
IMF) restricting the Jordanian government from subsidizing their own wheat over the decades.

Loaves of bread made from local wheat cost more than imported-wheat bread, due to lack of local subsidies for this sector. But the project reshapes the economic model for local grains, by connecting small scale local farmers directly with bakeries and restaurants. Not only do
farmers receive better prices through the project, local wheat is grown without using any chemical inputs, making it a less-toxic choice. American wheat is commonly desiccated with glyphosate-based pesticides to ensure a faster harvesting cycle; glyphosate residues in
wheat and other food have been linked to Gluten-sensitivity and Celiac disease in peer-reviewed journals. Jordan’s potential to feed its own population is high. Jordan has 52 million Dunams that are suitable for agriculture, according to Jordan’s ministry of agriculture—and to meet the national demand, the country would need to cultivate an estimated 6 million Dunams.

QUOTES

“[Our project] aspires to bring local wheat to the fore, as food & economy, and restoring the “Bakarah” as a compass for thinking, building and working, to liberate food and rebuild the relationship with the land and society,” — Lama Khatieb

“Even if it costs more, the initiative has a lot of value, it’s reshaping people’s relation with their land and with their food, and it’s bringing people from different backgrounds together.” -Rabee Zureikat, Co-Founder of Zikra Collective & Al-Barakeh (The Blessing) Wheat Project

RESOURCES

More on Al-Barakeh:

 Al-Jazeera article: on Zikra’s Al-Barakeh / “Wheat Blessing” project

Context on history of Jordan’s wheat/bread production, policies:

Wheat in industrial agriculture, and its related health impacts:

An organic farming revolution in Thailand

“Experts are spending billions of dollars to fine-tune genetic engineering, while these resilient varieties already exist… In the name of smarter agriculture we are losing these climate-smart varieties, and the farmers are trained to become puppets of agro-industry.” — Debal Deb, Scientist and founder of Basudha Farm & Vrihi Seed Bank in India


Chiang Mai, Thailand —

Farmers in Thailand and the world over are contending with fertilizer costs that have more than doubled since 2020—however a growing movement of over 15,000 farmers, shareholders and consumers in Thailand are heralding self-reliant organic agriculture as a way out of the myriad problems of centralized food systems. Guiding the movement is the enterprise Thamturakit (translating to “fair business” in Thai) which, since its inception in 2004, has trained more than 100,000 producers and consumers on how to transition to a more resilient food system. To join, farmers must cultivate a diverse variety of crops, first and foremost for their own self-sufficiency. Through Thamturakit’s network, farmers can sell their surplus harvest to registered consumers and entrepreneurs. By eliminating conventional dependencies on both agri-businesses and brokers, participating farmers can avoid hefty “middleman” fees and costly inputs. Through this direct market
approach, Thamturakit can buy farmers’ produce at a rate higher than the market, and then sell the produce at a rate lower than the regular consumer market.

Contract farming, favored by large conglomerates, is the predominant agriculture model in Thailand, where farmers receive huge quotas they must meet by the end of a season in order to be paid a set rate. Two thirds of Thailand’s agricultural households grow monoculture cash
crops, and depend on market-bought seeds and chemical inputs for food production. Input prices have soared in recent years, but the output prices that farmers receive have not—this results in growing debt cycles for farmers year over year. To combat this reality, Thamturakit
was co-founded by the combined efforts of Ajaan Yak, an expert in Sufficiency Economies, as well as the Pun Pun Center for Self-Reliance, an organic farm plus teaching center in the North of Thailand. The organization trains farmers to remove dependencies on harmful inputs, and instead increase the natural resilience of their crops using diverse organic practices.

“We trained the mindset of people to believe that if you have no machine, no fertilizer, no chemicals, you have no farming. That is really limited thinking. That is why we have a crisis now.” — Jo Jandai, Co-Founder of Thamturakit

At climate conferences such as COP26, to address the nexus between climate change and food systems, countries US and UAE jointly announced 4 Billion USD towards the new Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) featuring multilateral partners, the private
sector, and nonprofits including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and PepsiCo.

However, since many proposed hi-tech solutions have not yet been proven successful nor equitable for farmers, grassroots groups are taking the matter into their own hands towards self-sufficiency. In times of rising fuel prices and a widespread dependency on corporate
agricultural inputs, models like Thamturakit can improve economic livelihoods and national food security, while simultaneously tackling climate change, environmental destruction and public health.

In the Resilience Press forum 08.02.22, Jon spoke on the loss of diversity: “In Thailand alone, when I was a kid 50 years ago, we ate more than a 100 varieties of vegetables per year. Today, most farmers have been trained to grow cash crops, one variety in a big area. If you
do that, you cannot avoid pests. You cannot avoid using fertilizer.” — Jon Jandai

On Thamturakit’s model of farming: “I think roughly we produce more than conventional farming because we have food, we have rice, we have fish, we have chicken, we have vegetables, we have fruit trees, we have herbs, we have mushrooms, we have so many things… Compare the income: when we do organic farming in this way, we will never lose our money… But when you do conventional farming, you can lose your money.” — Jon Jandai

“Anyone who joins us has no problem with hunger. Especially farmers. Normal farmers here will be hungry, because they only produce for sale. They don’t eat what they grow. But our policy is that they grow for themselves, for their own consumption first. Leftovers? That they
can sell! So this ensures they are not food insecure.” — Jo Jandai

RESOURCES
1. Rising costs of fertilizer in Thailand
2. Rise of pesticide poisoning of farmers around the world
3. Thamturakit: a new model for democratizing agriculture in Thailand
4. Case study, financial analysis on Thamturakit – by Global Alliance for Future of Food
5. Background on Self-Sufficiency Economy
6. Who Will Feed Us? the peasant food web vs. the industrial food chain – ETC Group

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Note: All of our ongoing crises are a direct result of one crisis: We are part of nature. We are not separate from nature. And in the natural world, everything is connected to everything. The roots of the trees are connected to the soil. The soil is connected to the lakes, river and the oceans. The oceans are connected to the fish and to the clouds and the sun. When we breach the universal laws of nature, we experience the consequences of failed decision making. Remember, everything is connected to everything. When we learn and understand that, we can make our decisions and policies, systems services and create the type of world we want. Otherwise, it’s more of the same crisis after crisis after crisis. Time to make a decision:

A growing culture recently held a global food forum.  What you will see is the results of the conversation.

 

00:00:0000:04:24 Introduction about the Forum and the theme: resilience in a food crisis.

00:04:2500:22:03 Speaker # 1: Jon Jandai, Thamturakit Farmers in Thailand are leading their own revolution in agriculture. Contrary to conventional agriculture, Thamturakit puts farmer self-sufficiency first, removes dependencies on harmful inputs, and creates affordable access to organic foods and meals. Learn more what this alternative, sustainable model in agriculture looks like.

00:22:3000:25:34 Question & Answer for Jon: How do the results compare between organic farming vs. conventional farming? How does Pun Pun work with students and those who come to learn? How does Jon Jandai convince people to switch to organic/sustainable agriculture?

00:30:1000:32:02 Debal Deb on monoculture vs. biodiverse farms

00:32:0300:45:34 Speaker #2: Lama Khatieb, Zikra Initiative / Al-Barakeh Lama Khatieb is a dentist by trade but a farmer by blood. She works to return her community to its ancestral roots of producing their own wheat. While Jordan has a rich history of wheat production, today, it depends on imports for 97% of its grains. Lama is leading a collective of families, farmers and businesses, to turn empty urban areas into wheat fields, restoring Jordan’s ancestral food knowledge and food sovereignty. These wheat varieties are climate resilient, rain-fed, and have adapted to grow in the arid climate.

00:45:3500:55:00 Question & Answer for Lama: What is the current status of dependency on imports? Does the farming in Al-Barakeh use chemicals? Why is community self-sufficiency crucial? How does the wheat grown in the Al-Barakeh project support families’ livelihoods? And more.

00:55:0101:13:42 Speaker #3 Debal Deb, Basudha Farm / Vrihi Known as India’s rice warrior, Debal Deb leads Vrihi Seed Bank in conserving 1,485 Indigenous varieties of rice on a modest 1.7 acre farm. These include varieties with climate resilient properties (drought, floods, up to 3 months submersion), and high nutritional value. Debal unpacks how India lost many of its 110,000 varieties of rice, why biodiversity is crucial to resilience, and much more.

01:13:4201:23:19 Question & Answer for Debal: What went wrong in Sri Lanka’s attempt to go organic, how could they have made the conversion successfully? How does Indigenous rice compare to fortified rice? Why is India’s gov moving ahead with fortified rice? How can farmers have more income security?

Another Conference is not going to save us:

Another conference will not solve our problems. A better understanding of who we are will.

Every year thousands of people march on to another high-level conference world and corporate leaders come together to strategize their latest new moves and ideas.

But every year they continue to fail the people they serve. Repeating the mistakes of the years before, it is a firm testament to Einstein wisdom:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while anticipating a different result.”

These events will continue to lead to argument clinics, protests and short term, Band-Aid solutions until we realize that all of these problems are merely the consequences of the same thing, the failure to understand the interconnectedness of all life.

“Nature is a totally efficient, self-regenerating system. IF we discover the laws that govern this system and live synergistically within them, sustainability will follow and humankind will be a success.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

One can learn much more from a flower than they ever will from a global conference.

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