Traditional indigenous seed Festival of Malkangiri
Traditional indigenous seed is our mother', these seeds have been feeding our generations from time immemorial and we shouldn't loose them by replacing it with the market seeds said Padmashree Tulasi Munda – the veteran tribal social activist and gandhian worker gracing the closing ceremony of the Community Seed Fair at Markapalli village near here on 20.2.2009. Speaking to a gathering of more than 7000 adivasi farmers Tulasi ma praised the efforts of sustaining the traditional seed traits by the farmers which also protects the local eco-system. Chairing the valedictory function of the foot march on 'Chasi Swaraj' theme initiated by the coalition of eight local farmer organizations Tulasi ma lauded the efforts of the adivasi women as she released a book on 'Adivasi Women Seed Keepers'. The Community Seed Fair at Malkangiri was at odds at it celebrated the sincere efforts of the adivasi farmers to harvest enough food using the traditional seeds. The adivasi farmers shared their wisdom of reversing the green revolution by positioning their traditional seeds to grow foods in their fields without the aid of high cost inputs.
Drawing inspiration from the methods of age old shifting cultivation practice, the elder farmers of the area realized the need of mix cropping on the uplands which are ordinarily not covered under cultivation by the younger generation farmers as they found it unsuitable for farming, said Mr. Bijaya Nayak, Convenor of the community seed fair. This was followed by village level seed mapping to access the availability of the seeds in the villages. Based on the availability of the seeds the farmer groups in the villages were encouraged to exchange seeds among them and initiate mix cropping on their lands. Around 3 years from now this process have brought in 9 types of millet seeds which had reached more than five hundred farmers from a mere 47 households. The farmers had also brought in traditional aromatic paddy varieties like Kalazeera & Machhakanta seeds and widened the collections by sourcing them from other areas. As of now Mr. Bijay claims their members have reclaimed more than 100 acres of uplands and raising mix crops on it. The community wisdom had helped the families to harvest crops when rain fails and reduced soil erosion as the crop seasons spread from three months to eleven months. He claims that this mix cropping practice is favorable for the ecosystem as the land is only tilled for a single time in a year and the lining and choice of crops help regulate the need of pest control, support to the creepers, increasing soil fertility, maintain moisture level of the land and last but not the least position crops according to their harvest timing for regular supply of food to the family.
The foot march on promotion of traditional seeds initiated on 12.2.09 from Jharapalli village moved through 55 interior adivasi villages covering a distance of 60 kilometers in 9 days ending 20.2.09 at Markapalli village. The volunteers with the foot march encouraged the ordinary adivasi farmers for their efforts of protecting the seed diversity of the area through a series of street meetings. Along the way the local farmer organizations had also organized grampanchayat level Seed Exchange fairs as women from villages joined with their seed pots and exchanged seeds among them. This process was being facilitated by 'Organisation for Rural Reconstruction & Integrated Social Service Activities' (ORRISSA) a local voluntary organization through their programme on Chasi Swaraj.
The adivasi farmers were felicitated by 'Tualsi maa' for their efforts on seed breeding, seed multiplying and increasing the food production for their families. The efforts of the local farmers received solidarity as large numbers of farmers from Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Koraput and all the blocks of Malkangiri joined them with their seeds and exchanged seeds. One team from Madhya Pradesh with the Baiga adivasi elders also joined in the fair and exchanged traditional farm knowledge among the local hosts & visitors. NGO representatives from KIRDIT in Keonjhar, Dulal in Mayurbhanj, Jan Vikas from Kandhamal, SOVA & PRAGATI from Koraput, Parivartan, Harmony, Samuha Vikas, SDS from Malkangiri also participated in the fair along with their farmers.