Keystone Foundation and The Nilgiris Natural History Society (NNHS) joined hands to underscore the role of seeds in keeping agriculture healthy.

‘As you sow, so you reap’. By way of emphasising the literal meaning of this phrase the Kotagiri based non governmental organisation Keystone Foundation and its offspring, The Nilgiris Natural History Society (NNHS) joined hands on Friday to underscore the role of seeds in keeping agriculture healthy.

They organised a programme at the Bee Museum to highlight the need to keep alive traditional methods of producing seeds and also cultivate traditional crops. Farmers including tribal people from Hassanur, Sigur, Piloor, Kotagiri and Coonoor benefited.

Pointing out that the objective of the exercise was to sing the glory of seeds and also raise awareness about the different ways they are being exploited for short term gains, NNHS Coordinator Sangeetha Ramakrishnan told The Hindu that seeds should not only be saved to prevent food shortage but also exchanged within and between communities so that their amazing diversity is maintained and they are multiplied and distributed.

Lamentably the time honoured tradition of seeds being passed down from one generation to another is almost a thing of the past.

“We live in times when genetically modified and hybrid seeds have led to the loss of close to 75% of crop genetic diversity,” she said and added that people should have control and freedom over what they wish to grow.

The need of the hour is community seed banks and a system of exchanging seeds. Stating that there was a time when the Badagas, the largest indigenous social group in The Nilgiris, used to cultivate about 69 varieties of avarai (beans), she said that now only about seven are found.

Old methods of farming — like multi-cropping — are hard to come by.

Deputy Director, Keystone Foundation, Robert Leo said that many farmers now do not even know how to store seeds. They are ‘choking’ them by stuffing them into plastic bags.

To a question, he said that old seeds are good for the soil and leaf and herbal extracts can deal with pests and diseases.

N. Mari, a septuagenarian farmer of Thadasalhatty in Hassanur said that apart from brinjal, chilli and tomato, he regularly cultivated traditional crops like ragi and saamai. He hoped that such interactive sessions for farmers would be organised periodically.

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