Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seed Sovereignty Campaign - the Story of Adivasi farmers

The discussion over the crisis of seed and food availability in the households the farmer’s realized that all of them have somehow or the other have exchanged local seeds. However, the advent of improved seeds from the government department and hybrid seeds availability in the market had encouraged many farmers to depend on external supply of seeds. The farmers also realized in these discussions that the traditional varieties of seeds had almost matching characters compared to the external seeds. From this point the farmer groups, the village committees and their grampanchayat sangathan’s proposed for institutionalizing the Seed Exchange Process through promotion of traditional model of food production. The continuous reflection over the issue of farmer’s sovereignty have resolved to revive the traditional cultivation models of Sabuja Padar, Gharabari to encourage households to bring in farming systems based crop diversity cherished by their forefathers. To facilitate this adivasi farmer groups worked on the approach of Seed Mapping at the cluster and village level and shared it at the Grampanchayat Sangathans. This process had opened up a watershed for crop enrichment in the area as exchange of seeds become a tool to increase food production rather than a personal choice of adopting local seeds at personal will. The farmers organisation designed the following activities to pursue the cause of small & marginal farm households.

Seed Mapping: At village and cluster level farmers under the banner of farmer groups/village development committees/women self help groups analyzed the local seeds available in the village, chalked out the need of each participating farmer households through the seed mapping programme. Based on the outcome plans for seed exchange among the farmers are done inside the village and requests are made with the Lok Sagathan or the Farmer Organization of the area.

Mix Cropping: Traditionally known as the shifting cultivation practice wherein the adivasi grow more than 15 varieties of crop lately shifted to the uplands owned by the families near the forest or above the green fields. With the advent of cash crops this diversity was losing its ground. Many had stopped growing crops on these up-land patches. Now the adivasi’s have re-invented the old trend to bring in diversity (pulses, millets, cereal, vegetable ) and ensure regular harvest of foods round the year. This process had enabled the traditional way of harvesting guided by the adivasi elders. The young adivasi farmers realized that the process of this cultivation is very simple, immune to the hazards of heavy rain in a short time.

Gharbadi: Female members of each farm household playing a vital role to grow different types of vegetable, spices, greens, fruits bearing tree and herbal in their backyard garden. It helps them to meet day to day food needs of the family. To enrich this the women groups are raising village level vegetable nursery and organize seed and plant exchange programme.

Krushi Vigyan Kheta: To multiply the identified rare variety of seed among the farmers of operational area selected farmers are practicing Krushi Vigyan Kheta (KVK). They cultivate the rare seed and share the harvest through seed exchange programme.

Bihan Maa: Adivasi women play a key role in nurturing the local seeds through selection, treatment and conservation. Recognising this the Lok Sangathans decided to bring dignity to their role and identified resourceful women in the villages to sphere head the seed knowledge in the area. The selected Bihana Maa in the villages play the link role between farmers to provide vital information on different seed, their character and quality of seed, process and knowledge of cultivation and sourcing them.

Food festival: The adivasi farm families had started to believe that the millet based foods are no gentlemen food. When the government fair price shops only supply rice this belief gets more strengthened and young farmers don’t want to grow these crops. The community level food festivals aimed at addressing this and bring in legitimacy to the approach of cultivating local agricultural systems based agriculture. This programme helps to revive the traditional food practices and try to assimilate the old with the modern approach of preparing millet based food, spherehead the nutrition value of the local crops. The adivasi women actively participate in this programme. The issues related to food diversity, sensitization about the loss of abundance of locally available foods are addressed through these. The next step of this programme would address to the mainstream society about the richness & diversity of the adivasi crops and their value based receipes.

Seed Fair: seed fair encourages all farmers to involve in the seed exchange programme through celebration. Initiated during the year 2007 this programme attracted thousands at the grampanchayat level. This fair shares knowledge and encourages all farmers for their good work. Both the leaders and farmers feel enjoying their dignity and built self confidence in this platform.