Organic farmer Ghani Khan's project, a paddy museum, will soon be ready
Fired by zeal for conservation of genetic diversity in crops, an organic farmer from the Mysore region has embarked on a project to establish what is reckoned to be India's first paddy museum.
Ghani Khan of Kirugavulu in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district cultivates and conserves more than 300 varieties of paddy and rice, most of which do not make it to the market and may be lost to posterity.
However, Mr. Khan, who has inherited his forefathers' farmland donated by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan more than 200 years ago, has converted his 20-acre-plot to a genetic hotspot with a variety of crops, dominated by paddy and mango. His paddy project has led him to convert a portion of his house into a museum, which will be ready in a few months' time.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Khan said paddy varieties conserved by him include Jeerge Sanna, Gandasale, Bilinellu, Raskadam, Rajmudi and Pakistan Basmati, to name a few, and he has dedicated nearly 3 acres of land for their cultivation and demonstration.
Part of his house
“The first floor of my house will be converted to a paddy museum, where samples of nearly 300 varieties of paddy acquired from different places, cultivated and preserved by me, will be on display,” said Mr. Khan, who continues to acquire rare varieties of paddy and augment his collection.
He said he had invested half his income in developing the paddy museum, and a senior farmer would be invited to inaugurate it, he added. While the paddy museum was expected to draw like-minded conservationists to his farm, Mr. Khan also gets regular visitors for the rare mangoes he cultivates. At the last count, there were 120 varieties of mango in his farm including Mangmari, Jeerge Maavu, Shakkargubbi and Mosambi ka aam, none of which are commonly available.
“I have preserved these varieties of mango as an inheritance from my forefathers and maintain the orchards with utmost care, though I do not get any support from the Government for this,” he said.
Notwithstanding his efforts and drive to protect crop diversity, the going is tough for Mr. Khan owing to loss of income, as 3 acres of land is earmarked for paddy demonstration. “It is easy to introduce Alphonso and Badami in my orchard, which will increase my earnings. But if I cease to cultivate or fail to conserve these varieties, they will be lost to posterity,” Mr. Khan remarked.
Apart from a token award and a title of Krishi Pandit, which is routinely conferred on farmers every year, there is little by way of Government assistance for Mr. Khan, who was promised that his orchard and farmland would be declared a biodiversity hotspot.
Though he is under tremendous pressure from his well-wishers and a few of his family members to switch to conventional agriculture, the conservationist in him refuses to compromise.
However, Mr. Khan has support from the Bangalore-based Sahaja Samruddha, an organic farmers' association that provides him market linkage.
Not content with cultivating and conserving, Mr. Khan has tied up with the local government school, whose students visit the farm to learn about organic and natural farming “This is important, as the new generation of children even in villages are fast losing touch with the natural world and believe in chemical farming,” said Mr. Khan.
Keywords: organic farming