Save our seeds, says Bengaluru's seed guardian

Sangita Sharma at Annadana's five-acre farm in Vidyaranyapura in Bengaluru.— Photo: Sudhakara Jain  

“Everything comes from the seed,” says Sangita Sharma, looking at the expanse of green before her. The sheer diversity on the five-acre farm is mindboggling: carrots, shorgum , broccoli, cabbage, sunflower, pomegranate, wood apples, paddy and millets. Apart from rock salt, we outsource nothing, she adds with pride.

A former airhostess and corporate affairs specialist, Sangita started Annadana Soil and Seed Savers in 2001. It is a self-sustaining organic farm in Vidyaranyapura and, probably, the only one within the city, which preserves traditional or 'naati' seeds. Called 'Bheej Behen' for her efforts to preserve traditional varieties of crops, she has spearheaded a movement to empower farmers. Today, 20 farmers and five experts grow 95 varieties of crops and, thanks to proper planning, reap the harvests of three seasons each year. The seed bank has over 200 varieties of traditional vegetable seeds, from black tomatoes to multi-coloured corn, preserved at a cooler temperature.

“Traditional seeds are those that stand the test of time,” says Sangita. Initially, seeds were brought in from all over the world to start the seed bank. Every season, the seeds are tested for performance and yield. The good ones are saved for the next cycle, ensuring that only robust varieties survive. “Each year, we donate 35,000 packets of seeds to farmers in distress across the country,” she adds.

Growing traditional seeds empowers farmers because they need not be dependent on seed companies.

Raji, a farmer and a budding photographer, takes pictures of us with an old DSLR camera while we taste the farm-fresh produce. Everything on the plate has a fantastic flavour and tastes fresh. "You won't find such delicious tomatoes in any store," says Sangita.

She talks about the ‘Kalam gopis’ referred to in the Rig Vedas, whom she calls the original ‘seed guardians’. They took charge of the land and saved seeds for the next sowing cycle, she says. Perhaps, this explains why most of the farmers in her land are women. The farmers plan and conduct every operation, from collecting the seeds to packing and labelling them. The group also conducts farm trails and internship programmes to add to their revenue. In a time when farmers are facing an agricultural crisis, the self-sustaining environment at Annadana is something policy makers and officials can learn a lesson or two from.

How they work

Pheromone trap: a chemical resembling sex pheromone is kept inside a trap. It traps and kills males, thus reducing breeding

Sticky trap: A sheet with oil smeared on both sides is hung close to the crops. Flying pests get stuck

Trap cropping: Crops like Saafla attract many pests. They are grown alongside vegetables to distract pests

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 4:05:31 AM |

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