On India’s seed savers Life & Style

In seeds we trust: Meet the people saving our precious grains and giving us lessons in self-sufficiency

A snapshot from Yarroway Farm in Bengaluru

A snapshot from Yarroway Farm in Bengaluru   | Photo Credit: Anjali Rudraraju

Among other lessons, the lockdown has taught us why we need to be self-sufficient with food

Move over organic pop-ups and farmers’ markets, it is now time for the seed to shine. Before Covid-19, we saw more and more workshops on setting up seed farms, seed swapping and saving heirloom varieties. Not just in India, but world over, farmers, millet seed savers, collectives and organisations are working to protect traditional seed varieties. While Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya Biodiversity Farm in Uttarakhand is a pioneer in the field, and Noida’s cow-centric farm Beejom is known for its heirloom seeds, here are a few other prominent players that can inspire.

The seed savers of India
 

Pebble Garden in Auroville

This quarter-acre seed conservation garden was single-handedly created in 1994 by Deepika Kundaji and Bernard Declercq on severely eroded land filled with pebbles and laterite. In addition to the seed garden, the duo has also restored eight acres into a forest that now boasts of over 200 native forest species. Known for conserving okra varieties such as elephant tusk, red and Assam tree, and 26 varieties of brinjal, among over a 100 other vegetable varieties, they are now working on saving seeds from long-winged beans, Manipuri lima beans, purple tomatillo, chillies including the Ramnad rainfed chilli, pumpkin variants, corn, leafy vegetables, etc. If you’d like to visit, email vegetablediversity@gmail.com

Seed saving at Aranya Agricultural Alternatives in Telengana

Seed saving at Aranya Agricultural Alternatives in Telengana   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Aranya Agricultural Alternatives in Zaheerabad, Telangana

At this family-run permaculture farm, seed saving has been a year-round activity since 1999. This season, co-founder Padma Koppula is busy preserving protein-rich seeds such as green gram (3 varieties), red gram (20 varieties); rabbi harvest crops including chickpea, jowar, flaxseed and safflower.

 

Bamboo baskets are lined with cow dung and left to dry, the dried seeds are mixed with foxtail millet (to ensure they are spaced well) and placed inside, a layer of wood ash is added, followed by dried neem leaves and the basket is then sealed with a cow dung and mud mixture. The seeds are being preserved until the next harvest season (June 2020) and will be shared with fellow farmers. Details on permacultureindia.org

Krishna Prasad Govindaiah in Karnataka

The founder of Sahaja Seeds, a farmer-owned organic seed company, also runs his own three-acre farm near Mysore. This season, he is harvesting and saving the seeds (using the fermentation method) of the flying saucer chilli, black beauty tomato, kidney beans, blue-green tomato, an okra variant from Sri Lanka and multi-coloured maize. Details on sahajaseeds.in

(left) Prabhakar Rao of Hariyalee Seeds and (right) Sangita Sharma of Annadana

(left) Prabhakar Rao of Hariyalee Seeds and (right) Sangita Sharma of Annadana   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Hariyalee Seeds in Bengaluru

Over the last seven years, Prabhakar Rao has successfully managed to multiply over 142 varieties of indigenous vegetables. This season, he is collecting seeds of the white egg brinjal, green egg brinjal, blood red corn, apple pumpkin and Japanese white cucumber. Known for collecting seeds from remote regions across the globe, Rao, a geneticist, tests them for various factors before preserving them. Among his collection, the Bangladeshi brinjal, Poona kakadi, Magadi tomato, Moldavian balm and white okra top the list of endangered heirloom seeds. Retailed by hariyaleeseeds.com

Annadana in Bengaluru

Sangita Sharma firmly believes that if a country is seed secure, it will be food secure. For the last 19 years, her seed bank has conserved over a 1,000 crop varieties. At present, the team is busy saving vegetable seeds from brinjals and beans to groundnuts, tomatoes, and various fruits. Sharma’s food forest model — integrating herbs, medicinal plants and vegetables with other crops like corn, etc. — is now being adopted by farmers across the country to help them earn a monthly income. Farmers and horticulture experts from Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are also interning here to learn how to set up seed production farms in their States. To know more, visit annadana-india.org

(left) Black carrot harvest and (right) an Assamese giant okra tree at Annadana

(left) Black carrot harvest and (right) an Assamese giant okra tree at Annadana   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Yarroway Farm in Karnataka

Having started their seed saving efforts in 2012, Anjali Rudraraju and Kabir Cariappa have worked towards building an open-pollinated organic seed bank. Since December 2018, they have been selling close to 100 varieties of certified organic seeds online. “We procure food crop seeds from local tribal farmers and seed banks and have been saving them every season. For the dry land rice, we looked for seed savers in local tribal villages three years ago and managed to find a lone seed saver there who was kind enough to share a few seeds with us. We have had many people approach us for them and we pass them on only on the condition that they double them and share it among the community. It is something close to our hearts, and instances like these have proved that someone has to save seeds or else they will be lost over time,” says Rudraraju, adding that apart from the 50 varieties of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, they are also saving field crops such as wheat, red rice, millets, and root crops like turmeric and ginger this season.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 9:54:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/on-indias-seed-savers-and-why-we-need-to-be-self-sufficient-with-food/article31249734.ece

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