Barom nu: The traditional practice of rice-breeding in shifting agriculture by the Inpui tribe of Manipur, North-East India

Khumbah, A Lozaanba

Abstract

Paddy is one of the most important crops in shifting agriculture in North-East India where rice is the staple food. The rich collection of traditional paddy seeds enables farmers to cultivate paddy across a range of soil and climatic conditions as fields shift from one place to another. In the present study, as many as 40 different varieties of paddy were found to be in use in two villages belonging to the Inpui tribe. This paper details the process by which farmers have come to develop such a highly diverse collection of seeds. It focusses on a traditional process, locally known as ‗barom nu’ by which new breeds of paddy are identified, bred and propagated. As paddy is a self-pollinating plant there is little scope for hybrid varieties to emerge from cross pollination. New variants arise due to genetic mutation in the plant triggered by the environment. Farmers are able to identify new variants due to their in-depth knowledge of paddy. The new variant is harvested and sown separately for a few years to ensure purity of seed after which it is introduced to the village. The study is based on an intensive fieldwork carried out in two Inpui villages of Tamenglong district, Manipur in 2014-15.

Keyword(s)

Crop diversity, Jhuming, North East India, Paddy seed-bank, Rice-breeding, Shifting agriculture


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