One day, about twenty-five years ago, Natabar Sarangi, a 65 year old retired village school teacher, decided to search for and plant different varieties of traditional indigenous rice in his village Niali, around thirty-five kilometres from Bhubaneswar in Odisha. Upon searching he found a wide variety of indigenous rice, some good for breakfast, some to make kheer and some that tasted good with mutton. Over time, and with the help of others, he collected more varieties of rice. Some rice grew well even through droughts and floods. Some could withstand saline soil, others grew best in red, black or sandy soil. Some preferred being planted in lowlands, some in highlands.
Each rice was compatible with a unique soil and climatic condition. A young farmer, Yubraj Swain helped him. They planted rice in small patches, nurtured and looked after the rice, and harvested it every single year. Again and again, year after year, and now they have almost 500 varieties of local, indigenous rice.
Listen to the story of how the collection of seeds began and of the making of the Rajendra Desi Chasa Gabasena Kendra here: