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Indigenous Seeds - Key to end Agrarian Crisis

Bhopal, Sat, 31 Dec 2011 ANI

Bhopal, Dec 31 (ANI): India, for several years remained synonymous to agriculture whose reflections are still visible with more than 60 percent of its population being dependent upon it.


Earlier, our farmers were proud owners of manifolds of indigenous seeds, which besides being visually attractive possessed significant features, high nutrient value and diversity in taste.


Farmers used to rely on traditional methods of farming. Kathia, Jalalia, Mundi Pissi, Red Pissi, White Pissi, Bansi, Bangesia and Soharia were the available local (Desi) wheat seeds, while Kardhana, Jheena, Bagh Moonch, Kali Moonch, Batro, Kshatri, Lalai, Bhadel etc. were the local paddy seeds.


Similarly, there were different types of Sorghum, Chana, Lentils, Green Lentils and Corn Seeds available in the market.


With the advent of Green revolution, India adapted new advanced methods to become self sufficient in food production after suffering a lot during world's worst recorded food disaster - Bengal Famine. High-yielding varieties of seeds and the increased use of fertilizers and irrigation were introduced to several districts of India with Hoshangabad of Madhya Pradesh being one of them.


Tawa project was launched and along with that, novel hybrid varieties took over the indigenous seeds. For many years, these hybrid varieties produced great yield but now the situation has completely altered. Unfortunately, despite of nurturing the land with high quantity of fertilisers, the production rate is suffering a huge downfall. Farmers, disappointed, have started committing suicides recent being the case where three farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad District within four days.


This, in a way, is an upheaval of green revolution. This also sets the limit for miraculous GM seeds (Genetically Modified Seeds), which are being produced as an alternative to the Green Revolution. These seeds, if sowed, will produce more disastrous consequences.


Recently, excess rain destroyed the entire crop of Soybean in various parts of the district.


The average production of this crop was twenty kg to two quintal. Farmers fraught under debt committed suicides. Two farmers committed suicides in Hoshangabad's Dolaria Tahseel and one in Siwni Malwa Tahseel.


But I believe, the government has become used to the "figures" of farmer suicides. In spite of taking grave steps about this unprecedented matter, government is trying hard to bring in the GM seeds produced by methodology based on biotechnology.


Recently in Bhopal, ABLE-AG (Agricultural Group of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) organised a meeting in which GM seeds for Soybean were proposed.


In the past, a combined farming of chana and wheat was quite popular. Elders of the house loved the chapatis of this mixture. Combined farming like Utera or Satgajra had a stronghold in the region wherein 4-5 crops are sowed in the same field. Such practices still breathe in the forest belt of the country. The benefit of this sort of farming is that if one crop fails, the other would compensate for it unlike the Cash Crops.


In case of an attack of insects and mites or a natural disaster takes place, the entire crop gets ruined as was the case of Soybean crop this year. The loss in the such type of mixed farming is because post the Tawa Dam irrigation facility, wheat and soybean are the only crops which are sowed in the Rabi and Kharif period, respectively.


According to Jeevan Singh Patel of Jamada Village - "Earlier, farmers used to sow Desi or local seeds. They used to save some grains from the crop to be used as seeds the next sowing season or borrowed some from the neighbouring farmers. Women used to play a vital role in storing and preserving the seeds. As compared to the indigenous seeds, which were available for free, farmers have to pay for the crossbred seeds. The farmers on whom the entire Nation was dependant became critically dependant on the companies and the government agencies."


Desi seeds had the capacity to fight against disease and famine. Dung fertilisers used to be the only supplement added to the soil with no need of irrigation. Complete damage to the crops was never the case. But now, continuous spraying of the insecticides and tonics along with supply of water has become the tradition, which has adversely affected the fertility of the soil.


The water level besides getting lowered is also getting affected which in turn is adversely affecting the vegetation, human and animal life. Many regions have reported the death of birds like peacock, which died after eating chemically affected grains.


The world famous doctor R.H. Richaria, from Nandwada, Hoshangabad collected 17,000 indigenous paddy seeds with features like good smell, high yielding capacity and great taste. The threat to the wealth of local Indian seeds is evident from the fact that many of these collected seeds have already crossed the borders, silently.


The first case of seed-theft came to light in the year 2002 when Syngenta- a MNC and Raipur Agricultural University signed a secret agreement wherein the latter would hand over the entire wealth of indigenous seeds collected by Dr. Richaria to the former. After stiff opposition the agreement, fortunately, was given up.


Can one "create" seeds in laboratories? No. Countries like India characterized by warm climate, were the target of western countries, which took the seeds from such fertile lands and crossbred them to produce hybrid varieties. Later, they sold these hybrid seeds to us at higher rates. After registering their patent over the seeds, national as well as international companies have set a monopoly wherein the only person paying them huge amounts is the farmer, who won't mind getting his fertile seed back at cost of his life.


In the beginning, the government promoted the chemical farming by providing subsidy, but now it has taken a back step. The cost of farming has increased and companies are making huge profits. Jacob Nellithanam, who preserves and transforms seeds, is of the opinion that the local soil and water set the perfect tone for indigenous seeds.ccording to Suresh Kumar Sahu, who recently returned home after studying abroad, "The Indian farmer forcibly sells his crop on a relatively cheaper rate, and later purchases grain for himself on a higher price. It will be good if farmers sow crops according to their local need and consume it locally."


The experience of genetically modified (GM) seeds has been distasteful. The trend of suicides started with the farmers of BT Cotton ending their lives. Economist Sunil, a writer with extensive focus on agriculture says, "Mostly the cotton farmers are committing suicide. Genetically modified seeds can increase the production of a crop, but along with that it also increases the risk factor and cost." Demand for banning GM Seeds has gained momentum in several countries. Recently in India, BT Brinjal was banned after facing intense opposition from the farmers and the public.


This is the time to take steps towards sustainable development of agriculture by adopting farm activities with local seeds and dung fertilisers. It is the pressing need of the hour as the lifeline of the country, the farmers, are ending their lives. Indigenous seeds will add fertility not only to the land but will nurture lives as well.


The Charkha Development Communication network feels that such steps would make agricultural actions safe, eco-friendly while increasing the production rate. Like paddy, production of wheat can also be increased through Madagascar System. It was then and it is now, we are still fighting, writing and debating on the same issue - Food security. We need to secure our farmers first; everything else will automatically fall in place. By Baba Mayaram (ANI)


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