Eight years after the devastation of Cyclone Aila, Satkhira's Syamnagar upazila is still struggling to escape water-logging and salinity. The farmers can cultivate only a few selective rice varieties in the frugal plots of land that have survived being converted into shrimp enclosures.
An unlikely hero emerged in this scenario. Dileep Tarafdar, a 43-year-old farmer from Mitha Chondipur village, has bred a flood and salinity-resistant rice variety, with his indigenous knowledge of cross-breeding.
The rice variety is named after his foster mother – Charulota.
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About seven years ago, Dileep learned the basics of cross-breeding rice from the Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (Barcik). Since then, he has attempted to develop several cross-breeds from the indigenous rice varieties, but Charulota is his finest work.
Dileep used his attuned senses to select the parent varieties. He noticed that some indigenous varieties used by local farmers in the past grew naturally among the BR-22 plants in the low-lying lands. The local varieties stood apart in their comparatively robust features.
Asaduzzaman |Dhaka Tribune
He selected some plants of two local varieties – Khejurchhari and Kutey Patnai – and cross-bred them manually to develop Charulota.
Charulota is suitable for cultivation in Aman season (July-November). The innovator says he has cultivated the variety for six consecutive seasons with satisfactory yields.
The grain is almost identical to BR-22 (a modern rice variety), except for a black spot on the tip of it, but yield is slightly higher, ranging between 18 and 22 maunds.
Local farmers have already appreciated its flood resistance. After Aila, only a handful of rice varieties can give a yield over 20 to 22 maunds per bigha in the rice fields of Mitha Chandipur village.
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Moreover, Dileep tried to assess the salinity tolerance of Charulota by transplanting 10 bundles of seedlings in a shrimp farm.
“The plants are now in very good health and full of grains. The neighbouring farmers are also appreciative. I have shared some of my seeds with them. They are also getting better yields compared to the usual strains,” said Dileep.
Another advantage of Charulota over the modern rice varieties is, it consumes less fertiliser and require very low dosages of pesticides, he added.
The upazila administration has already awarded Dileep with the Swadhinota Sommanona in 2016 in recognition of his innovation.