Basmati means ‘fragrant’ in Sanskrit, which you immediately understand when a bag or bowl of the rice is standing in front of you. Very much is known about this type of rice, but what exactly is the story behind our organic basmati rice? We tell you all about it in 'The story behind'.

Basmati rice from India

Our organic basmati rice comes from the Uttar Pradesh region, at the foot of the Himalayas, a region in northern India adjacent to Nepal. The climate of the region is warm and humid, with temperatures ranging between 5 and 44 degrees celsius. The majority of the water that is used in cultivating the rice comes from adjacent rivers and lakes, making the region a perfect ground for growing rice.

From conventional to organic basmati

Years ago, farmers in the region cultivated traditional crops. They were faced with exploitation by traders who were able to continue their business undisturbed due to the lack of market information and transparency. With the help of projects set up by local organizations, in which sharing knowledge about organic farming, introducing technical innovations at the fields and improving living conditions of farmers were a key factor, many farmers have now switched to cultivating organic basmati rice.

Harvest by hand

An apparently simple, but thoughtful harvesting method is used. If it has something to do with the technical innovations? Not exacly. Machines can be used for getting the rice out of the plant, but this makes the risk of breaking the grains much higher. Therefore, the vast majority of the basmati rice is still harvested by hand. Harvesting by hand means cutting the plant from the field, and leaving the lower part of the plant – the stubble – on the field. The plants are put on the stubbles to dry, to prevent contamination when the plants touch the soil. A good example of the sharing-knowledge-is-caring we talked about earlier. It is a great way of making use of the field and what remains after the harvest!

After drying, the plants are beaten on tables or steel drums, to shake the rice out of the grain. Large mats or rugs are placed on the floor to collect the rice that comes out. After that, the rice is transported to the corporation or to the distribution center or how it is organized.

Innovations at the fields ...

Thanks to the local projects, multiple agricultural innovations have been applied to further increase the yield. For example, the farmers are assisted in adjusting their rice fields with laser leveling to prevent the water from running over the fields, and by transferring knowledge about other ways of cultivation, such as using SRI (System of Rice Intensification).

By participating in these projects, farmers not only improved their production. Nowadays, most of them are connected to the internet via their mobile phones, even in the most remote places. They know what the market price is at every given moment, so they know what prices they should ask.

Recently the corporation started a project to investigate the possibilities of biodynamic agriculture, which means involving your entire environment in agriculture. From soil to water to waste.

… and at home!

The innovations are not limited to the fields, but are also applied at home! The first LED lighting with solar panels have been installed and several households cook on a biogas installation. A powerful tool, consisting of a tank in which the manure of only 2 or 3 cows are mixed with water. The methane that is produced in the tank is led to the stove inside the house and can directly be used for cooking. There is no need to chop or gather wood anymore, which saves the farmers a lot of time and energy.

During our last visit in 2018, we met these two farmer families harvesting the basmati crops. Since men usually work in the village or town, the vast majority of the workers on the land are women. Most of the time there are a few families farming together, gathering women, nieces and aunts. 

Making the world a little better, together!

With our basmati rice supplier we are engaged in a long term relationship with a mutual goal: more organic farming. The biogas installations are a great example of how we take steps to conquer this goal. In addition to raising the living environment of the farmers, the biogas installations also have a stimulating effect on farmers in the area who do not farm organically. Whenever they see a farmer who is busy improving his land and living conditions with the help of the biogas installation, the non-organic farmers are curious and start asking questions. "How did you start organic farming, and what are the benefits?". This contributes to the mission that we have with DO-IT to broaden organic farming and to be active throughout the world to make people even more enthusiastic about it.

Update from the field, October, 2018

To accelerate organic agriculture, DO-IT offered 25 biogas installations to the farmers to further improve living conditions, and hopefully make the (positive!) contamination happen!"


More stories?

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Last update: 26-09-2019