The seed festival on Saturday was buzzing with activity and filled with heterogeneous crowd consisting of scores of farmers, students, researchers who came to look at the rich heritage of traditional seed diversity. As many as 600 varieties of paddy seeds, 150 varieties of millet seeds and eight varieties of pulse seeds were on display in around 40 stalls at the seed festival organised by Sahaja Samrudha and Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).
Farmers who came to exhibit seeds from various parts of the country, including Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, had several stories to share. While Surendra N.R., a fifth generation farmer spoke to visitors of how he had exchanged more than thousand seeds with other farmers, another farmer Rechanna from Bagalkot district explained how seed saving was becoming the norm as organic vegetables were back in “trend”.
The urban Bangaloreans looked at the farmers in awe. While some visitors, including school and college students, were busy scribbling notes and making the most of the educational trip, older visitors turned nostalgic and remembered their roots.
Explaining the need to conserve seeds, Soumik Baneerjee, an agricultural researcher, who workers with Self Help Groups in Sundarparahari block in Godda district of Jharkhand, said: “There is a need to save indigenous variety of seeds which are on the brink of extinction as they were facing stiff competition from hybrid variety of seeds. The traditional seeds also yield crops that have high nutrition content. Moreover, the traditional seeds need less irrigation and fertilizer as compared to the hybrid variety of seeds.”
Another young sixth generation farmer, Surendra N.R. (26) from Ramanagar who had a stall with several varieties of paddy and vegetable seeds was busy interacting with customers who were buying organic seeds for their kitchen garden. Mr. Surendra who initially tried to explain the nitty gritties of how the seed should cultivation later gave up and said, “My number is at the back of the seed cover. Call me and tell me which colour the seed is, I will explain to you in length about how the seed can be cultivated.”
A stall that attracted several visitors was the stall of the Edavaka Gram Panchayat of Wayanad which displayed around 35 varieties of tubers that were grown by tribal people.
Meanwhile, visitors like Vijay Mahantesh C.K., an engineer said that the exhibition was “nostalgic” for him as his father was a farmer. Stating that his knowledge about the paddies and fields was limited after he moved to the city, he said that the visit to the seed festival was an “exciting” experience.
Another visitor Pushpa said, “This festival is witness to the frustration that is coming out of hybrid variety of seeds. I hope that there is a revolution and farmers shift back to traditional seeds.”
The festival is open on Sunday between 10 am and 6 pm at the Veterinary College, Hebbal.
Earlier during the inauguration, Devindra Sharma, farm policy expert threw light on the politics of seed and explained how big corporations tried to destroy and displace the traditional varieties of seeds. He urged farmers to rediscover and reinvent the traditional variety of seeds.