In a first-of-its-kind initiative, IIT Kharagpur has developed a mechanized ‘Dheki’—an agricultural tool used for threshing—to separate rice grains from their outer husks, leaving the bran layer (outer brown layer) to maintain the nutritional value of the indigenous variety of rice–Bali Bhojuna.
“Farmers had discontinued the cultivation of Bali-Bhojuna rice even though it has high nutritional value as due to climate change, the seasonal rain gets delayed by at least 15-20 days, giving a low yield,” Palash Bhushan Chatterjee, the associate director of Centre for World Solidarity (CWS), working with IIT-K for the project, said.
“To make it economically viable, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IIT-K for mechanizing the traditional ‘Dheki’ production by fitting a 2HP motor with it which increased the productivity with minimum wastage retaining the natural content of the rice,” said Chatterjee. As of now, two such Dheki’s have been given to the farmer producer group who are making good money out of it, he said.
The indigenous variety can withstand even in scanty rainfall. In East Singhbhumlt, where it became almost extinct, the rice was resowed by one farmer but looking at its yield other farmers also started cultivating it. Moreover, the rice is now being marketed through proper packaging leading to getting a better price.
“After a year of hard work, some 200 farmers are currently cultivating Bali-Bhojuna rice and contributing to the strengthening of the indigenous food system. This has not only increased their income but also ensures nutritious meals for their families,” said Chatterjee. IIT Professor of Agriculture and Food Engineering, Rintu Banerjee, the rice is also helping in dealing with rampant malnutrition in the region.
“The objective behind developing it was to revive the old tradition in a new form which could make the life of women living in rural areas easier, besides retaining the nutritional value of indigenous rice,” Banerjee said.
This article has been republished from The New Indian Express