- Yusuf Mollah, 60, a farmer from Rajshahi has collected 300 varieties of critically endangered native paddy seeds
- he has been collecting paddy seeds for 50 years
- he has established "Paddy Seed Bank" and "Paddy Seed Library"
- farmers, universities, paddy research institute collect and research on paddy seeds collected by him
- Haji Danesh University of Science and Technology announced to set up a museum with 300 varieties
- 140 varieties of paddy seeds are persevered for exhibition at Bangabandhu Bridge Regional Museum
- instead of considering production only, we should try to preserve these varieties as a part of our heritage
Islam Mohammad, a farmer from Chattogram, has planted 60 varieties of critically endangered paddy seeds collected from Yusuf Mollah of Rajshahi and preserved original seeds to continue their cultivation. In exchange, he has provided him with 10/12 of original local paddy seeds.
Like Islam Mohammad, thousands of farmers from different districts including Cox's Bazar, Satkhira, Narsingdi, Dinajpur, Syedpur, Nilphamari, Bogura, Tangail, Gazipur and Naogaon are cultivating paddy with seeds collected from Yusuf Mollah provided that they will return twice the amount of paddy seeds. The purpose is to keep the paddy seeds in the field.
Yusuf Mollah, 60, himself cultivates 96 varieties of paddy every year on over 49 decimals of land to sustain the collected paddy seeds, considering it a movement so that the original seeds of our soil do not go extinct. With about 300 varieties of critically endangered native paddy seeds, he has established the maiden "Paddy Seed Bank" and "Paddy Seed Library" in the country.
Asked how he has collected so many rare varieties of paddy seeds, Yusuf Ali Mollah said, "Over the last 50 years, I have gradually been collecting these paddy seeds."
Nur Mohammad, a National Agriculture Medal-winning farmer from Tanore, Rajshahi, who is cultivating paddy after collecting seeds from him, said the sole passion of Yusuf Mollah is to collect paddy seeds. He rushes to anywhere in the country when he finds one.
Apart from farmers, various universities and paddy research institute research on the paddy seeds collected by Yusuf Mollah. The paddy seeds collected by him are kept in many museums of the country.
Over the last 50 years, I have gradually been collecting these paddy seeds
From the seeds collected by Yusuf Mollah, Rajshahi University is researching on 100 varieties, the Rice Research Institute in Gazipur on 140, the Bangladesh Atomic Agriculture Research Institute Ishwardi on 29, Haji Danesh University of Science and Technology in Dinajpur on eight and Rajshahi Rice Research Institute is researching on 40 varieties.
Haji Danesh University of Science and Technology has announced that it will set up a separate museum with 300 varieties of paddy seeds collected from Yusuf. Besides, 140 varieties of paddy seeds taken from him are persevered for exhibition at the Bangabandhu Bridge Regional Museum in Tangail.
Professor Nurul Matin of the Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Rajshahi University said, "I have brought about 100 varieties of paddy seeds from Yusuf Mollah and researching on how these can benefit us. Work is being done on how to find drought-tolerant varieties by hybridising.
In addition to this exceptional initiative, he has distributed those seeds among farmers. Also, in December every year, he celebrates "Nabanna Utsav" (the harvest of new paddy) where more than 250 farmers participate. He also gives awards to the farmers to inspire them. In recognition of these works, he has received the National Environment Medal.
In Barind Paddy Seed Bank, the only paddy seed bank of the country, paddy seeds are kept inside glass jars with the name of different varieties – Satin, Jhingasail, Dat Khani, Randhuni Pagla, Badsha Bhog, Chini Shankar, Sib Jata, Ban Kalam, Jhagra Sail, Runar Sail, Ahona.
"I had to go through hardship to collect a variety of seeds. I have paddy seeds that are over 100 years old for example, there is a paddy seed called Sonakathi which was found in 1972's. At present, I have 300 paddy seeds of this variety, of which germination capacity of 150 varieties have lost. The remaining 150 varieties are still germinating," said Yusuf.
In the 1970s, Yusuf Mollah saw new paddy being discovered and farmers became interested in cultivating those hoping for higher yields instead of cultivating traditional native paddy. Then the fear arose in his mind that if it continued like this, such traditional paddy seeds might extinct.
"I went to Rangpur and got paddy seeds called 'Kalo Bakri' (Black Goat) and 'Sada Bakri' (White Goat). I also have paddy seeds whose paddy and rice is black," he said.
"As I will not live forever I am trying to train farmers who will look after the paddy seed bank in my absence and can ensure the supply of these seeds across the country. Despite the difficult times, I am in constant touch with the farmers in different parts of the country regarding the collection and supply of paddy seeds and I am working to meet them," said Yusuf Mollah.
As I will not live forever I am trying to train farmers who will look after the paddy seed bank in my absence and can ensure the supply of these seeds across the country. Despite the difficult times, I am in constant touch with the farmers in different parts of the country regarding the collection and supply of paddy seeds and I am working to meet them
Till 2012, he was able to collect only 60 varieties of critically endangered paddy seeds due to financial crisis and various obstacles. Since then, the Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (Barcik), an environmental research organisation, has been cooperating with him. When endangered varieties of paddy seeds are found somewhere, they cooperate with all the money to collect those seeds.
With their help, Barind Seed Bank was established in Duboil in 2015 and Paddy Seed Library at Taland Anandamohan High School. The Barcik and Yusuf Mollah claim that this paddy seed bank and library is the first in the country.
Shahidul Islam, the regional coordinator of the Barind region of the Barcik, said, "The government should also come forward to protect the local paddy varieties which are climate-friendly and environmentally tolerant because these varieties maintain the balance and diversity of our environment. Instead of considering the production only, we should try to preserve these varieties as a part of our heritage."