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Kerala’s 72-YO ‘Guardian of Native Paddy’ has Saved 54 Rice Varieties in 20 Years

Cheruvayal Raman was pained to see native rice varieties lose to hybrid seeds. So, he started cultivating native paddy and preserving their seeds. Watch his journey

Cheruvayal Raman (72), popularly known as the ‘Guardian of Native Paddy’, has managed to save 54 native varieties of rice in 20 years.

Born in the Adivasi community of Kurichiyas in Wayanad, Raman lived most of his life cultivating rice. When he saw the native paddy being replaced with hybrid seeds in the village, he decided to sow native seeds in a 1.5-acre area of his field.

“I embarked on this path sometime during the early 2000s. Wayanad has always been a region known for its paddy cultivation, but our native paddy varieties were losing out to hybrid and genetically engineered seeds,” Raman tells The Better India.

Raman started cultivating paddy at the young age of ten. But, his uncle passed away in 1969, leaving him with 40 acres of land. That’s when he threw himself into farming completely. Today, Raman can identify rice varieties just by sight.

He stores native varieties of rice like Mannu Veliyan, Chembakam, Thondi, Channalthondi, Chettuveliyan, Palveliyan, Kanali and aromatic rice varieties like Gandhakashala, Jeerakasala and Kayama in his 150-year-old mud house.

“After every harvest, I myself clean and dry all the seeds before I stash them safely at my home, which doubles up as a storeroom. I have been relentlessly doing this year after year,” he says.

Intrigued by his achievements, people from across the world come to learn his techniques. Also, the 72-year-old farmer does not sell his seeds, but lends them on one condition — the person who borrows the seeds has to return the exact same quantity of seeds from their field after harvest.

“My knowledge and learning are out there for everyone, and I will always keep my doors open for those with the heart to learn,” he says.

Raman has won various awards and recognition like the Plant Genome Saviour Award and the Kerala government’s P K Kalan Award.

Watch this video to learn more: 

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)