Nilachala Kamakhya

About Rajib Sarma

Mailing Address: House No. 652, Maligaon Chariali, Near Overbridge, P.O. Pandu, Guwahati- 781 012, Assam; Mobile: +91-7002309884 & +91-9435555418; e-mails: rajibsarma.assam@gmail.com & rajib.kamakhya.org@gmail.com

“No species wants to perish. Life loves life; … take a proper care of this beautiful planet which has been so gloriously created by the divine forces of the cosmos…”

Introduction

He is a practicing hereditary Chandipathak Priest of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex located on the Nilachala Hills, Guwahati, Assam. He is also a Purnabhisheka Sadhaka (full adept) in the Kulacara Tantra Marga (Tantric tradition) of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex.

He has been awarded the prestigious “KRISHI VISHARAD SAMMAN” by organizations / institutions under the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India on December 23, 2002 for his contribution towards conservation and sustainable management & utilization of Agro-biodiversity and Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) of the North-Eastern Region of India.

He is providing research assistance and guidance to international PhD scholars and Post Graduate students since 2005. Two (02) research scholars have been already awarded PhD and at present one (01) Post Graduate (PG) student is working on her dissertations / theses under his guidance and assistance. The PhD scholars are from- California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), San Francisco, USA & University of Rome, Italy and the PG student is from- Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, USA.

He has established “Foundation for History and Heritage Studies” as a non-profit making research organization, reference library and archive with his solitary effort in 2007 and on May 11, 2017 organization has been registered as a charitable trust under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 at Guwahati, Assam (India) for the welfare of the society. Though he established Foundation for History and Heritage Studies as an organization in 2007 as a reference library and archive, he started the initiative of collecting rare / valuable books, journals, documents, handwritten manuscripts (both ancient & modern), maps, etc. since 1996.

He has conceptualized and established Foundation for Development Integration (FDI) in March 1998 involving 6 other executive members and a group of general members under the Societies Registration Act. XXI of 1860 as a non-profit making organization. Presently, Foundation for Development Integration has been amalgamated as an independent organization with Foundation for History and Heritage Studies (a non-profit making charitable organization registered under the Indian Trusts Act 1882) by executing collaborative amalgamation MoU / Treaty between the two organizations which has enhanced and enlarged the scope and ambit of both organizations. Now the organization is operating as a Collaborating Amalgamated Independent Subsidiary Organization of Foundation for History and Heritage Studies (an organization registered under the Indian Trusts Act 1882).

Affiliations

  • Founder Executive Member and Chairman (Honorary), Foundation for Development Integration (FD), a Collaborating Amalgamated Independent Subsidiary Organization of Foundation for History and Heritage Studies (a non-profit making organization registered under the Indian Trusts Act 1882)
  • Founder Trustee and Director (Honorary) of Foundation for History and Heritage Studies (A Research Organization, Reference Library and Archive), registered as a non-profit making charitable trust under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 at Guwahati, Assam (India)
  • Life Member of North East India History Association (NEIHA) [Permanent Office: Department of History, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, Meghalaya, India]
  • Life Member of Institute of Historical Studies, Louden Street, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Website: www.ihskolkata.org
  • Life Member of Pachimbanga Itihas Samsad, Woodburn Park, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Website: www.paschimbangaitihassamsad.edu.in

Research Initiatives

  • Involved as the PI on behalf of Foundation for Development Integration (FDI) in the project titled “MAINSTREAMING AGROBIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION AND UTILIZATION IN AGRICULTURAL SECTOR TO ENSURE ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND REDUCE VULNERABILITY”, a UN Environment (formerly UNEP) Implemented GEF funded project jointly executed in Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT, Rome, Italy and Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Min. of Agri. Govt. of India through National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi.

Primary objectives undertaken in N.E. India under the project: Exploration, identification and collection of native varieties of Rice, Pigeon Pea, Black Gram, Green Gram, Sesame, Mustard, Rice Bean, Kidney Bean and Finger Millet for: in-situ (on-farm) & ex-situ (off-farm) conservation; field trial & seed multiplication; identification and selection of heirloom varieties of native crops and its processed products; value chain development, market linkages & market promotion of the conserved varieties and its processed products. Capacity building and awareness generation initiatives at the grassroots level to propagate & promote the objectives of the project, conservation of Agro-biodiversity & PGR and create & strengthen the grassroots level organizations like FPOs, SHGs, FMCs, entrepreneurs to enhance community participation and to enlarge their livelihood opportunities by its sustainable utilization. Conducting crowdsourcing field trial of selected native varieties of identified crops involving large group of champion farmers to enhance their capacity of variety selection. Nutritional analysis of the native varieties of the identified crops which are under conservation & field trial. Profiling and documentation of nutritional diversity of the households of the project sites. Systematic documentation and database development of Agro-biodiversity & PGR and associated ITK / TK. Deposit Germplasm of native varieties in the ICAR-NBPGR National Gene Bank after conducting Field Trial. Systematic documentation and database development of cultivated crops, vegetables & edible fruits; wild / semi-wild edible plants (including fruits); agroforestry plants / trees; domesticated animal (livestock) species; wild edible fauna (i.e. Insects, Ants, Bees & Wasps, Worms, Crabs, Snails, Fish, Frogs), cooked dishes & processed products and associated ITK / TK.

Achievements under the UN Environment-GEF Project in N.E. India (till date): 318 varieties of 6 field crops (Rice- 236, Pigeon Pea- 2, Black Gram- 20, Green Gram- 10, Sesame- 19 and Mustard- 31) have been brought under in-situ (on-farm) conservation by conducting field trial & seed multiplication; Conducted crowdsourcing field trial of 30 native rice varieties involving 100 farmers; Identification and selection of 24 native rice varieties and 9 processed products for value chain development and market linkage; Created 3 FPOs by FDI under the project and 15 Women & 1 Male SHGs, 1 Agro-producers Society, 1 Farmers’ Group, 3 FMCs and 300 champion farmers have been involved for implementing the objectives & activities of the project and primarily in the activities related to field trial and value chain development & market linkage initiatives for the native crops varieties; Nutritional Profiling of 173 native rice varieties have been completed; Organized 31 Capacity Building cum Awareness Generation Programme, 6 Farmers’ Field Day and 1 PPV&FRA sponsored Awareness Generation programme organized till date;  3 Community Seed Banks are in its final desired functional stage and will be operational from January 2021; Under the value chain development & market linkage initiatives 12 heirloom native rice varieties and 4 processed products of native rice have been selected and proposed to be launched in the market through the 3 FPOs under a brand within 2021 and 4 of these 24 heirloom native rice varieties are ready for launching in the market on December 30, 2020 under the brand name “NATIVE BASKET”; Around 2000 farm families have been identified as beneficiaries under the value chain development & market linkage initiatives; 318 Germplasms of the 6 selected native crops under the project have been deposited to the ICAR-NBPGR National Gene Bank and for Nutritional Profiling.

  • Involved as Resource Person and Team Member in the project related to Industrial Biotechnology (Industrial Products, Process and Secondary Agriculture) under the Biotechnology Ignition Grant Scheme (BIG) of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Deptt. Of Biotechnology, Govt. of India.
  • Conceptualized and initiated the endeavour of establishing a “Field Gene Bank” of native crop varieties and Plant Genetic Resources. Presently, 390 native varieties of crops (mostly Rice) have been under conservation and field trial.
  • Conceptualized and initiated the endeavour “Conserve Gene Campaign” for spreading awareness on conservation of Agro-biodiversity & Plant Genetic Resources and other related core issues.
  • Involved as one of the Project Lead in a project titled “In Search of the Bauls in their Homeland” jointly launched and executed by Foundation for History and Heritage Studies in collaboration with Dr. Vikram Sampath (Sahitya Academy Award winner Author / Historian and musician), Founder-Director of Archive of Indian Music (AIM) and Mr. Ricky Kej (Grammy-Award winning internationally acclaimed musician, a RoundGlass Ambassador and National Youth Icon Award winner).

The project has been conceptualized and formulated to extensively explore and document the Baul tradition mostly in the Biubhum distict and also in the Burdwan and Bankura West Bengal. The field work done under the project in has resulted in making of “WHO IS BAUL”, an epic documentary feature film on the mystical and unique Baul tradition of West Bengal which has been released worldwide and screened (as premiere) at Nandan (Rabindra Sadan), Kolkata, West Bengal on March 16, 2021 and will be screened in New Delhi and Europe or USA or Australia shortly. After these two proposed screening, the documentary feature film “WHO IS BAUL” will be screened in the Documentary Film Festivals and documentary film section of Film Festivals across the globe. Initiatives has been also undertaken to compile a research-based monograph on the Baul tradition of West Bengal and the same is in its final stages. The trailer of the documentary feature film “WHO IS BAUL” can be watched by tapping the link: https://youtu.be/Z-I0ZwRG3MQ (Producers: Vikram Sampath, Ricky Kej, Rajib Sarma; Research & Script: Rajib Sarma supported by Vikram Sampath, Sairam Sagiraju; Knowledge partners: Archive of Indian Music, Foundation for History and Heritage Studies and so on).

  • Involved as one of the “Project Lead” in a project titled “Creation of a Digital Ethnographich Archive of the indigenous communities of North Eastern India” jointly initiated by Foundation for History and Heritage Studies in collaboration with Dr. Vikram Sampath (Sahitya Academy Award winner Author / Historian and musician), Founder-Director of Archive of Indian Music (AIM). The ground work or base-lining phase of the project is in progress.
  • Research and compilation of a 03 volumes series on History, Heritage, Religious Tradition, Socio-cultural tradition; Landscape & Habitat and Tantric / Esoteric Tradition of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex and other religious & sacred sites / temples’ complex of erstwhile Kamarupa. Volume 01 has been already published.
  • Was involved as a Co-PI on behalf of Foundation for Development Integration (FDI) in the DST sponsored National Seminar on “Sustainable Conservation Strategies for Bio-resources of North East India” organized by Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati.
  • Was involved as Co-operating Centre Principal Investigator (CCPI) in “NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY PROJECT (NATP) on Sustainable Management of Plant Biodiversity and Conservation of Agro-biodiversity (Plant Genetic Resources)” [in short NATP(PB) project] implemented by Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India and executed as the Lead Institute by National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Pusa Campus, New Delhi.

Primary objectives and activities undertaken in the project: To undertake survey, exploration, collection, documentations of Agro-biodiversity (Crop Germplasm) & Plant Genetic Resources (PGR), associated ITK / TK and community initiatives; deposit Crop Germplasm & PGR in the ICAR-NBPGR National Gene Bank; organize Awareness Generation Programme at the Grassroots Level to promote the concept & enhance community involvement in the conservation of Agro-biodiversity & PGR and its related aspects.

Achievements under the Project in N.E. India: Germplasm Accessions Collected and deposited in the ICAR-NBPGR National Gene Bank: 2609 nos.; Herbarium Specimen of useful PGR Collected: 601 nos.; ITK / Traditional Knowledge Documented: 172 nos.; Organized Grassroot Level Awareness Generation Programmes for Conservation of Agrobiodiversity, PGR and allied subjects: 16 nos. (In 06 states of North East India); Special Mission Exploration / Expedition Conducted: 03 nos. (mentioned bellow in Unique Endeavoure)

  • Was involved as Co-investigator in the project titled “Studies on Plant Species Usage of the Tai-Ahom Community of Assam for their Bioactive Properties: A Bioinformatics Approach” executed Collaborator with Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati. Project sponsored by: University Grants Commission (UGC).

Primary objectives and activities undertaken in project: Exploration in 23 villages covering Jorhat, Sibsagar and Dibrugarh districts of Assam to document and collect plant species used by the Tai-Ahom community as food and medicine (along with the associated ITK / TK) and conducted laboratory analysis as per the scope of the project.

Publications, Visual Documentation and Presentations

  • Books: 04
  • Research Papers: 03
  • Reports: 45
  • General Articles: 12
  • Audio-Visual Work: 1 Documentary Feature Film on the Baul Tradition of West Bengal, a 2 episode Documentary Film on Tantra, 1 Documentary Film on the Tradition of Kamakhya Temples’ Complex (Guwahati, Assam) and 15 short documentary films on Agrobiodiversity, PGR Conservation & its Associated ITK / TK.
  • Research Paper Presentation:
  • (1)   “The Need and Role of Digital Humanities in the Conservation and Sustainability of Indigenous Communities and their Cultures: The North East of India as a Case Study” in the South Asia Regional Conference of International Society for Music Education (ISME, an UNESCO organization) held in Bangalore, India;(2)   “Kamakhya Temples’ Complex of Nilachala Hills: Exploring the Historical and Religio-social Perspective” in a Lecture Series organized by the Assam State Museum, Guwahati, Assam in collaboration with India Foundation for The Arts (IFA), Bangalore;(3)   “Indigenous Technical Knowledge and Traditional Knowledge” held at Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Guwahati, Assam (India);

    (4)        Was a member of the 2 discussion panels of Kolkata edition and 1 discussion panel of New Delhi edition of “Arth- A Cultural Fest, 2019

  • Other Seminar / Workshop Presentations: 34
  • Participated in “National Workshop for High Valued Medicinal Plants” organized by State Medicinal Plants Board (N/C), Assam held at National Institute of Rural Development, Guwahati, Assam (India).

Unique Endeavour

  • Expedition in the River Brahmaputra and its Tributaries covering the River Islands, Char Areas, Forest Areas and Areas along the River Banks for undertaking extensive Survey, Exploration, Collection, Awareness Generation for Conservation and Documentation of Agrobiodiversity & Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) and Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) / Traditional Knowledge. The expedition was conducted by an engine powered boat having all minimum required facilities.
  • The Expedition Route: Upstream Journey from Guwahati to Sadiya; Downstream Journey from Sadiya to Bangladesh Border; Upstream Journey from Bangladesh Border to Guwahati
  • Distance Covered: Around 1800 km in 58 days
  • Extensive Explorations in the Majuli River Island (World’s largest River Island) of the River Brahmaputra for undertaking extensive Survey, Collection, Awareness Generation for Conservation and Documentation of Agrobiodiversity, Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) and Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) / Traditional Knowledge.
  • Expedition in Mount Saramati and its adjoining areas (Patkai-Borail Range of the Eastern Himalayas) in the Indo-Myanmar border of Nagaland in collaboration with Botanical Survey of India (Eastern Circle, Shillong, Meghalaya) for undertaking extensive Survey, Exploration, Collection, Awareness Generation for Conservation and Documentation of Agrobiodiversity, Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) and Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) / Traditional Knowledge.
  • Conceptualized and initiated the “Kameswari Rhythm and Dance Festival” (annually organized at the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex) in 2007.A lost tradition of dance and music of the Kamakhya Group of Temples was revived through systematic study and to continue the tradition as an annual festival titled “Kameswari Rhythm and Dance Festival” was started in the Kamakhya Temple premises since year 2007 inviting renowned artists from all over the world to perform in the premises of Sri Sri Kamakhya Temple.[A brief note on the lost tradition of dance and music of the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex: From a period which could not be confirmed yet the tradition of dance and music is closely associated with the worship of Sri Sri Kamakhya. Though the tradition continued till the first quarter of the 20th Century, for reasons unknown the same gradually got de-linked living no trace at all.

    The Kings who patronized Sri Sri Kamakhya Temple brought families from various parts of the country to perform the dance and music and they are called Gayan and Bayan. As per the available information on the tradition, the Gayan-Bayan used to perform dance and recite devotional songs during the “Aarti” (evening prayer) at the temple and there was a calendar of specific dates and festivals when the Gayan-Bayan used to give public performances. Moreover whenever the King or distinguished Guests from outside Kamrupa visited the temple, the Gayan-Bayan used to perform in their honour.]

Other Research Initiatives and Activities

  • Conceptualized and initiated a project for Research Based Exploratory & Analytical GIS Mapping of the Nilachala Hill (Kamakhya Temples’ Complex). The project was undertaken in collaboration with North East Space Applications Centre (NESAC), Deptt. of Space, Govt. of India.
  • Conceptualized and initiated a project to establish a Museum Complex inside the Kamakhya Temple Campus in 2001.
  • Audio-Visual Documentation of the Musical Tradition of Kamakhya Temples’ Complex: Completed audio-visual documentation of the musical traditions, devotional songs, hymns, prayers, and rhythms of Kamakhya Temples’ Complex.
  • Was a team member for the two episode Documentary film titled “TANTRA” made for Doordarshan Kendra, Guwahati.
  • Taxonomic assessment of plant species of the Nilachal Hills (Kamakhya Temples’ Complex)– Collection of plant species for herbarium preparation along with GPS data, visual documentation, taxonomic identification and database development.
  • Documentation of plants used in religious ceremonies, rituals and festivals in the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex and other temples of erstwhile Kamarupa.
  • Creation of a Conservation Site for Plant Genetic Resources and Afforestation initiative undertaken on the Nilachala Hill (Kamakhya Temples’ Complex) in collaboration with the Kamakhya Temple Management Authority with the support of CSR fund of SBI.

Subject of Special Interest

  • Research and documentation on the biodiversity of the wetlands of Assam
  • Documentation and inventorization of wild edible flora of North East India
  • Contribute towards in-situ or on-farm conservation of agro-biodiversity and PGR in North East India
  • Contribute towards adaptive management of agrobiodiversity and PGR for resilient agriculture and improved livelihoods in North East India
  • Market studies and contribute towards the value chain and market chain / network development for the heirloom varieties of native crops and their processed products of North East India
  • Contribute towards establishment of Community Seed Banks in North East India
  • Initiate and launch “Agrobiodiversity and PGR Mapping and Documentation Campaign” including documentation of associated ITK / TK across North East India
  • Research, documentation and digitization of Traditional Music, Musical Instruments, Performing Arts and the intangible cultural heritage of North East India
  • Research, documentation and inventorization of Temple Sculptures of erstwhile Kamarupa and Assam

The Story of the Brand “NATIVE BASKET”[The Initiative has been conceptualized and implemented by Rajib Sarma through Foundation for Development Integration (FDI), Guwahati, Assam for the Value Chain Development & Market Linkages, Brand Development & Promotion and Product Launch of the Heirloom Native Crop Varieties Assam and other states of North Eastern Region of India Involving the Farmers at the Grassroots Level, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs),  Self-Help Groups (SHGs)] and also provide an opportunity to the urban population across India as well as abroad to enjoy nutritionally rich delicious native crop varieties

The initiative is part of the UN Environment (UNEP) implemented Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project: “Mainstreaming Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation and Utilization in the Agricultural Sector to Ensure Ecosystem Services and Reduce Vulnerability” (September 2017 – December 2022) jointly executed in India by the Alliance of Biodiversity International & CIAT and (HQ.- Rome, Italy. India Office- New Delhi) and ICAR through National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi

Prologue

It is said that when Chao-Lung-Chukapha the first Ahom King crossed Patkai Hills and entered Assam in 12th Century AD, he was charmed by the abundant rice, other crops, vegetables, other plant resources and called it MON-DUM-CHUNG i.e. “Land of Plenty” and the Ahom ruled Assam for 600 years till the advent of imperial British after the Indo-Burmese war of 1826 AD. During their reign of 600 years in Assam (also in parts of the neighbouring states) the heydays of agriculture, primarily the cultivation along with the diversity of rice reached its peaks. Even after Assam was taken over by the British, the trend of the traditional agriculture system using the native crop varieties somewhat continued, but sadly its gradual decline started in Independent India and by late 80’s, owing to diverse factors, the decline accelerated alarmingly and noticeable genetic erosion has occurred in the native crop varieties of Assam.

The North East India is a confluence theatre, of diverse anthropological types. More so in the state of Assam, where the dynamics of convergence and divergence are, in a continuous state of flux. There are various historical and anthropological records available that hints at linkages of the people of this region to those of East and of South East Asia and to that of India.

The North Eastern Region of India is one of the 18 hot spots of Indian Mega diversity centre. The region is endowed with various crop plants diversities together with the occurrence of their wild relatives where 43% floristic element of total Indian flora are available. Hardly 20 crops, many underutilized crops are utilized as daily food by the people of this region and rice is used as the primary staple food and to make processed products. Among the states of the region, Assam is the richest in diversity of rice and its wild relatives, but sadly due to indiscriminate introduction of improved / HYVs rice varieties have threatened the survival and thus made many or most of the invaluable genetic resources of the heirloom native rice varieties critically endangered.

The Story of the brand “NATIVE BASKET- Your Ethnic Taste” 

The endeavour has been initiated from November 1998 under the NATP-PB Project implemented by ICAR with the concept of survey, exploration, documentation (along with the documentation of the associated ITK / TK), collection of the native genetic resources of North East India, ex-situ conservation of the germplasm in the ICAR-NBPGR National Gene Bank and organizing awareness generation campaign in the grassroots level for motivating / encouraging the farmers for conserving the native crop varieties. Since the inception of NATP-PB Project in N.E. India, lot of dedicated effort has been exerted towards the conservation of the native varieties of crops and irrespective of whatever has been done, still it has been noticed that the diversity of these invaluable genetic resources has been depleting alarmingly by the invasion of HYVs. Since the farmers are getting more production from HYVs and thus value out of their produce, they are deserting the native varieties and as a result widespread genetic erosion of native varieties have occurred. Hence, it has been bitterly realized that, without creating a market prospect for the native crops varieties and assuring a lucrative financial return to the farmers, in reality, the effort of conservation of these invaluable native genetic resources is going to yield no positive result.

Though a sizable chunk of the native crop varieties got extinct, the UN Environment implemented GEF funded project which was launched in 2016 brought great hope for rescuing the precious genetic resources of the heirloom varieties of native crops as therein the “value chain development, brand creation & market linkages of the native crop varieties selected as target crops” is one of the primary & focused objectives of the project. Taking advantage of this focused objective and its guidelines under the project, a target oriented applied module has been designed and initiated the work towards in-depth market study & research, in-situ (on-farm) conservation & nutritional profiling of available genetic diversity of the targeted native crop, identification & selection of the heirloom native varieties & its processed products of the targeted crops having market prospect, seed multiplication of the heirloom varieties of the targeted native crops, creation of FPOs with business oriented mindset, identification & selection of beneficiary champion farmers, properly organized cultivation & storage, community managed seed system, appropriate processing, value addition, quality control, value chain development, market linkage, brand development, aesthetic packaging, penetrative brand promotion & propaganda planning and robust marketing strategy for the holistic conservation of the rich diversity of the native crop varieties and safeguarding the rich traditional agricultural heritage. As it has been well understood and realized that, only lucrative earning from the native crop varieties would encourage the farmers to cultivate those varieties and thus the primary objective of conservation of the invaluable native crop genetic resources could be successfully attained. The effect of this concept has already become visible in the UN Environment-GEF Project Sites of Assam and a sizable number of farmers have become interested in cultivating the native crop varieties and as a result the diversity of the native crop varieties in the farmers field has also increased significantly.

Based on the prospect, with an in-depth focus on conservation, a holistic strategy and effort has been initiated since the start of 2018 under the project towards creating a product brand for the native crop varieties of the project sites of Assam and accordingly vitalized and strengthened the newly created 3 FPOs, identified & selected farmers, existing SHGs and FMCs in consonance with current market demand, preference and dynamics.

According to the strategy the brand “NATIVE BASKET” has been created and promoted by Foundation for Development Integration (FDI) with its logo registered as a Trademark under the Bureau of Patents and Trademarks, Govt. of India, with a FSSAI licence from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India and an aesthetic design for packaging the brand has also been designed. FDI has entered into a collaboration with a firm Red River for offline marketing across India and also in the final stages for involving 2 other firms for online marketing and export of the brand.

As of now, 24 native heirloom rice varieties for wholegrain and 9 native heirloom rice varieties for processed products have been identified and selected from across the project sites of Assam based on the Field Trial & Seed Multiplication, preference of the farmers & consumers, in-depth market study & research, market prospect analysis undertaken during 2017, 2018 and 2019 and nutritional profiling of the rice varieties done at ICAR-NBPGR. This process will continue and heirloom varieties of other 5 target crops (Pigeon Pea, Black Gram, Green Gram, Sesame, Mustard) and some more rice varieties will be brought under the brand.

A network of farmers and selected SHGs have been sensitized, made aware and engaged across the project sites of Assam by FDI to cultivate the selected heirloom native rice varieties (for whole grain and processed products) in large scale for the value chain development and market linkages through the FPOs under the brand “NATIVE BASKET”.

Though there is significant diversity of native rice is available in all seasons across Assam, since around 15-20 years all the farmers have stopped cultivating the native varieties for commercial purpose and instead started cultivating improved / HYVs because of the primary facts that, the yield is low, there is no market demand and fetches low price. Only very few selected varieties are still under cultivation in a very small quantity for household consumption, socio-cultural and socio-religious purpose and hence almost all native rice varieties of Assam have become critically endangered. Now as the farmers of the project sites of Assam are getting better price and guaranteed sell for the native rice varieties selected for the brand “NATIVE BASKET” in comparison to the improved / HYVs, a sizable number of the farmers have started cultivating these varieties since 2019. With the help of FDI, the marketing firm Red River has already purchased bulk quantity of 6 native rice varieties for wholegrain and 4 native varieties for processed products from the farmers through the FPOs of the respective project sites of Assam for the brand and has planned to purchase more bulk quantities of the selected varieties of native rice for the brand from April 2021.

The members of the 3 FPOs across the project sites of Assam have been trained by FDI to develop and maintain forward & backward communication & linkages with the network of farmers and selected SHGs for keeping them interested and remain engaged in cultivation of the selected heirloom native rice varieties (for whole grain and processed products) and purchase the produce at a justified and competitive price to keep them within the network, and also to attract new farmers to the network. Most importantly, the members of the FPOs have been also sensitized and trained for proper storage, holistic processing, quality control, packaging of the selected heirloom native rice varieties (for whole grain and processed products) for the brand “NATIVE BASKET” and supply to the marketing agency, Red River which has been connected with the FPOs through Foundation for Development Integration (FDI).

All the activities revolving and evolving around and related to the brand “NATIVE BASKET” will be holistically supervised and monitored with required technical, operational and management back-stopping and further sensitization, awareness generation, capacity building of the entities actively involved vertically from the grassroots level to the consumers.

Though self-arrested immobility situations arised due to the Covid 19 pandemic from March 24, 2020, overcoming all obstacles, finally in October 2020 “NATIVE BASKET” has evolved as a brand to market the native crop varieties to rescue the invaluable crops genetic resources of the N.E. India and the brand has been launched with 4 native rice varieties of Assam and an outlet opened for the same at the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex, Guwahati, Assam on December 30, 2020. FDI has also decided to launch 12-15 heirloom native rice varieties and 4 of its processed products within the year 2021 and in the subsequent years more heirloom native rice varieties will be launched in the market under the brand.

The 4 native rice varieties of Assam launched under the brand “NATIVE BASKET” are in display and sale in the outlet opened at the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex and also effort has been made to spread in the specific locations of the Guwahati city such as reputed Grocery Stores, Shopping Malls. Process has been already started for online marketing of the brand and its products through an agency.

It has been observed that, since the launch of the 4 native rice varieties of Assam launched under the brand “NATIVE BASKET” on December 30, 2020 till date, good response and demand for these varieties have been received from public at the in display and sale in the outlet opened at the Kamakhya Temples’ Complex and therefore, it has been planned to pack the second batch of these 4 varieties and launch 2-3 more native rice varieties for wholegrain and 2 processed products made from native rice in April 2021.

In the UN Environment-GEF project sites of Assam, members of the 3 FPOs, 4 Women SHGs, 1 Male SHG would get empowered as professional business group and thus receive direct benefits and it is also expected that, around 2000 farm families would be covered as beneficiaries under the endeavour. The initiative would also provide an opportunity to the urban population to enjoy nutritionally rich delicious native crop varieties having good health benefits. On the other hand, most importantly the initiative would directly support the much needed the effort of conservation of the invaluable native crop genetic diversity of the UN Environment-GEF Project Sites of Assam. In the near future, under the value chain & market link initiative FDI would desperately attempt to continue the effort to launch a sizable number of native crop varieties in the market having noticeable nutritional & health benefits under the brand “NATIVE BASKET” through applied research, analysis and selection through the FPOs involving the farmers and SHGs.

The Trademark Registered Logo of the Brand “NATIVE BASKET”

The Display and Promotion cum Sell Outlet of the Brand “NATIVE BASKET” at Kamakhya Temples’ Complex

“I expect to pass through life, but once, if therefore, there is any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again…..”

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