Friday, July 12, 2024




A new seed library in Assam is one with a difference. Instead of books, it stores seeds of traditional rice varieties.

An initiative of Strathcona Sunrise Rotary launched in early 2021 helped the small community of Meleng Gaon located in Assam, northeast India, construct a much-needed seed storage building, classroom, and library.  

Unpredictable and severe weather conditions are threatening local food security throughout the world. As these concerns grow, so is awareness of the need to protect and distribute locally-adapted and traditional seed varieties.

According to Mahan Borah, an organic farmer, and director of the centre, many of the traditional varieties of seeds are more nutritious than hybrid varieties, which are now sold widely in local markets. Borah adds, “Assam is prone to various climatic changes, and many of the hybrid varieties perish in such conditions. Apart from being resistant to various climatic changes, these crops also have important medicinal and cultural values.”

Construction of the building was made possible with support from members of Strathcona Sunrise Rotary, the non-profit Fertile Ground, and contributions from Cumberland Centennial Club and the Mid-Island World Community Service Group, a group of 21 clubs located on Vancouver Island. These donations were matched by funds from the District’s Community Grants program.

Financial oversight of the project was carried out by North-East Affected Area Development Society, a registered NGO based in Jorhat, Assam.  

The Annapurna Seed Centre will provide safe storage of endangered varieties of rice and vegetable seed, and will also offer hands-on training and educational outreach to farmers and students.

For more than a decade, Strathcona Sunrise Rotary has supported the work of Fertile Ground: East/West Sustainability Network, a Canadian non-profit based on Vancouver Island that has been working to promote organic and traditional farming practices and tea cultivation in northeast India for the past 18 years. 

In 2006, after connecting with Rotary members in the state of Assam, Fertile Ground helped design and develop a training centre and demonstration garden for organic farming in the town of Digboi, located in the northeast corner of India. Rotary Club of Digboi members were able to secure a 2-acre plot of land owned by the Indian Oil Corporation, a nearby oil refinery, and the east/west partnership led to the development of the Ideal Green Project known locally as Adarsh Seuj Prakalpa.

Beginning in May of 2021, with support from their local community and medical staff, the Rotary Club of Digboi used the training centre’s facilities to set up a Covid vaccination site. It provided first and second vaccinations to several thousand people from the surrounding area.

While current travel restrictions have postponed in-person visits, internet, social media, and occasional club updates are helping communities, project partners, and participating Rotary Clubs members in District 5020 and District 3240 stay connected – and ready to explore ways to work together again when needs and opportunities arise!
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