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20 model fruit villages to come up across NE

Different types of rice and other seeds on display at the National Indigenous Seeds Festival. – Photo: Sobhapati Samom
 IMPHAL, Oct 13 - The Central Agricultural University (CAU) will develop 20 model fruit villages in the entire North East to enhance the economy of underprivileged farmers, according to CAU Vice Chancellor Dr M Premjit Singh.

Stating that the idea to develop the model villages to enhance the income of farmers and also showcase the production of different fruit varieties of the region, Premjit Singh said that the university has already adopted 20 villages in the Northeastern states.

CAU, which has its headquarters in Imphal, is the largest agricultural university in the country, having 13 colleges and six Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the North East, excluding Assam, under its jurisdiction.

Addressing the inaugural function of three-day National Indigenous Seeds Festival 2019 at the university campus, Premjit Singh said Meghalaya will have the maximum model villages while Manipur will have two. “The plantation of around 400 litchi plants has already started in Kwatha village. In Yumnam Khunou village, we are planting tree bean (yongchak), papaya and jackfruit,” he said.

The National Indigenous Seeds Festival is being attended by farmers and NGO members from 15 states of the country.

In the last two and a half years, the university has planted more than one lakh fruit-bearing trees to generate income for farmers, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s initiative to double farmers’ income by 2022, he said.

The CAU Vice Chancellor said his university has collected and evaluated 279 traditional rice varieties in Manipur alone. “But it is very difficult to maintain all the traditional rice varieties. So we need a proper government policy for it,” he suggested.

Potshangbam Devkanta, president of the All Manipur Trained Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Promoters’ Consortium, the main organiser of the seeds festival, said the North East being a biodiversity hotspot, contributes 43 per cent (7,000 species) of India’s total flora of 17,000 species. The region has more than 9,650 rice varieties. But surprisingly, indigenous rice varieties numbering more than a dozen have vanished from Manipur in the last 15 years due to various factors.

He said the All Manipur Trained Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Promoters’ Consortium currently maintains more than 100 traditional rice varieties in the state.

Sharing similar sentiments, Jacob Nellithanam, president of Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch, a partner organiser, also expressed the need to conserve native indigenous seeds of different types of crops which were cultivated earlier before modernisation of agriculture, so that the genes can be used as instruments to combat or mitigate the failure of crops by climate change.

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