Muria tribes’ own eco-friendly, foolproof seed preservation method

The internally displaced tribal families in Godavari Valley continue to practice the ‘deda’ method to preserve seeds of pulses and food crops which were handed over to them by their ancestors in Chhattisgarh

Published - May 15, 2024 08:09 pm IST - CHUKKALAPADU (ASR DISTRICT)

Muria tribal farmer Madakam Unga displays a leaf basket in which pulse seeds are preserved at Chukkalapadu of Chintoor Agency in Alluri Sitharama Raju district.

Muria tribal farmer Madakam Unga displays a leaf basket in which pulse seeds are preserved at Chukkalapadu of Chintoor Agency in Alluri Sitharama Raju district. | Photo Credit: G.N. Rao

In his 50s, Madakam Unga, a Muria tribal farmer who migrated from Chhattisgarh and settled in the dense forests of the Godavari Valley, is still practising ‘deda’, a traditional method of preserving seeds that his ancestors handed over to his family. 

All the 70 families in Chukkalapadu habitation in Chintoor Agency in Alluri Sitharama Raju district continue to practice the deda method, wherein the seeds are preserved in leaves and packed almost airtight to look like boulders from a distance. The packaged seeds are, in turn, woven with Siali leaf (Bauhinia vahlii), which is locally known as ‘addakulu’ to make the deda. 

Multi-layer protection

“A deda has three layers. In the first layer, wood ash is spread inside the Siali leaves. Later, the ash is covered with lemon leaves to form a casing, and, lastly, the seeds are preserved inside the casing and sealed,” explains Mr. Unga. Each deda is crafted to support at least 5kg of seeds, he says.

“The deda method guarantees protection of seed from pests and worms. In this method, the stored seeds can be used for cultivation for up to five years. However, we prefer to preserve them for up to three years. In our village, we have been preserving the seeds of pulses like the green gram, red gram, black gram and beans,” Mr. Unga told The Hindu.

Migrants from Chhattisgarh

Mr. Unga is a native of the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh who settled in the Godavari valley in Andhra Pradesh. The Murias have claimed that they will also adopt the same method to store the yield of the pulses meant for their family’s consumption. 

Prior to 2012, scores of Murias migrated from Chhattisgarh during the conflict between the banned left-wing extremists and the Central forces. The Murias settled along the banks of the Godavari and Sabari rivers in the Godavari valley in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The habitations that were formed with the migrant Murias are known as habitations of the Internal Displaced People (IDP).

Ravva Jogaiah, the ‘patel’ or the village elder of Chukkalapadu, told The Hindu: “The deda method is one of the practices handed over to our tribe by our ancestors in the forests of Chhattisgarh. We have been able to continue the method despite our displacement from our native regions, given its benefits and ample opportunities to continue it.” 

Pulses cultivation

“Our Muria families grow pulses in small holdings that have been developed by us over the years in our settlements. We continue to grow on a small scale only for our food security”, added Mr. Jagaiah. The Murias would rarely sell their farm produce in the weekly shandies as they did not shift to commercial cultivation of any crop till date.  

In the habitations of the IDP, the Murias are engaged in small-scale farming as expansion or development of cultivable land is strictly prohibited in the reserve forest covers. 

“The Murias would mostly go for mixed crops on small-scale holdings which are below half-acre. Maize and pulses are the major crops, and dependence on paddy is very low. However, paddy is grown through the direct-sowing method,” said Venkatesh Jatvati, secretary of Jana Vikas Society, an NGO.

In January, Mr. Venkatesh curated the first Murias food festival in Chintoor Agency, in which they showcased 51 authentic delicacies.

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