Bangladesh: Local, Resilient Rice Sees Resurgence

Bangladesh: Local, Resilient Rice Sees Resurgence

Indigenous varieties of rice are making a comeback in Bangladesh as farmers abandon high-yielding hybrid rice in favor of more resilient varieties that can cope with extreme climate conditions, researchers say.

About 20 percent of the rice fields planted in the low-lying South Asian nation now contain indigenous varieties that can stand up to drought, flooding or other stresses, said Jiban Krishna, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.

At its peak, high-yielding varieties of rice accounted for 90 percent of the total rice grown in Bangladesh.

“In places where newly invented varieties fail to cope with stresses, farmers cultivate local varieties,” Krishna said.

Bangladesh’s government first introduced high-yielding rice in the 1960s in an effort to promote food security and meet rising demand, Krishna said. Over time, most farmers adopted the new varieties, which brought in higher revenues.

But in recent years, as climate change has brought more irregular rainfall — including worsening floods and droughts — farmers have had more difficulty producing consistent crops of high-yielding varieties.

The switch back to traditional varieties has happened with the help of nongovernmental organizations that have reintroduced the varieties to protect “heritage” species and help farmers cope with adverse weather conditions, Krishna said.  Reuters