Seed of the Hour: Preserving India’s precious farming heirloom

Did you know that India’s farming community had over 2 lakh varieties of Indian rice, 4 varieties of rajma, many millets and seed varieties, many of which has vanished? The need of the hour is to save the seed.


Did you know that we had over 2 lakh varieties of Indian rice, 4 varieties of rajma, many millets and seed varieties, many of which has vanished? The need of the hour is to save the seed.

Hundreds of grains, millets and rice varieties were laid out at the Bangalore Seed Festival.

Bangloreans were all set to buy seeds, saplings and organic goodies on the last weekend of September and were caught by surprise at the display of hundreds of grains, millets and rice varieties laid out for them at the Bangalore Seed Festival. Held at the Veterinary College organised by Sahaja Samrudha and Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) the festival comes to the city each year to create awareness about traditional seed, a rich yet dying culture and the need for people to know their rice, millets and appreciate tribal Indian farming methods.

The event saw over 40 stalls displaying seeds, saplings, millets, vegetables and various rice, wheat, lentils etc. All grown by farmers, NGOs and individuals many had travelled from far parts of the country such as Jharkhand and West Bengal, others were closer like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Artwork of women sowing seeds

The ‘Save the Rice campaign’ a folk rice conservation work in West Bengal saw over 100 rice varieties grown by indigenous farmers of the Sundarbands. “These rice are grown by the tribal’s in flood conditions in Sundarband region of West Bengal, we are trying to get the public attention on awareness and support of the indigenous varieties of rice” said an active campaigner. Awestruck visitors looked at the rice varieties with big eyes, well it was indeed a literal eye opener of the many varieties of rice that actually exist.

Dhan Foundation were doing a Millet Drive on the awareness of millets and their diversity, Totally there are 7 millets in India and they used to be very important until wheat stepped in and took over. Millets are coming back because they are far healthier nutritious and can be grown in drought/ climate constrained environment” said an activist. Dhan’s goal is to enhance the status of small millets in mainstream diets and get the masses to get back to their millet consumption.

“There were more than 2 lakh varieties of rice in India before the green revolution took over, now just 30,000 are in seed banks!”

What was amazing were some of the messages which rang out at the seed festival which farmers were talking about.Organic farming and seed sharing were part of the Indian norm before and got affected post the green revolution. One farmer, Deepika, who preserves traditional seeds and heirloom varieties, see’s a non commercial value in sharing these varieties said, “There were more than 2 lakh varieties of rice in India before the green revolution took over, now just 30,000 are in seed banks!”

Sanjeevini, an organic farming organisation based in Andhra Pradesh, promote natural farming in Andhra Pradesh growing millets, corn, lentils, paddy, rice. “There are more than 3 to 4 varieties of rajma! People only know one kind but there are different varieties within this species”. These efforts only go to show that there is a lot more to learnt and tapped through indigenous varieties.

Millets

Sahaja Organics were selling mouth watering chutney powders like garlic and ground nut  which turned out to be tangy, sweet-spicy simply delicious for Rs. 60 for half a kilo this was a great buy! They also had a large variety of other products such as spices, jams, pickles etc available for sale.

Ekdavaka Gram Panchayat located in Kerala had 35 kinds of tubers and root vegetables displayed for the public varying from the humungous elephant foot, tapioca, sweet potato and turmeric varieties. “These tubers are grown by the tribals in arid land and they depend on these vegetables for their food consumption”.

The many varieties of seeds on display

Beautiful and colourful types of maize were on display by Jharkhand agricultural tribal folk, in red, yellow, white and one was a standout known as ‘tiger maize’ for its similar yellow and black colouring. “The women of the Pahari and Santhals tribes do all the farming and migrated to Jharkhand from Karnataka 300 years ago” said a student.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more

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