Shaji .N.M., fondly called as ‘Tuber Man’ of Kerala has been awarded the India Biodiversity Award 2021 in the individual category of ‘Conservation of domesticated species’.
Mr. Shaji, who conserves a wide array of around 200 tuber crops including greater yam, lesser yam, elephant foot yam, arrow root, colocasia, sweet potato, cassava and Chinese potato in his farm has received State awards seven times for his efforts. He has also received the Plant Genome Savior Reward 2015, instituted by PPV&FR Authority, New Delhi.
He makes efforts to travel even to interior forests to get new types of tubers, which are known and used only by the tribal community, and even such special tubers are conserved in his field including six wild species. His farm has 40-odd varieties of turmeric and 30 varieties of ginger. He is also conserving many paddy varieties, which are on the verge of extinction.
IPR Cell of the Kerala Agricultural University facilitated Mr. Shaji in the application submission process for the India Biodiversity Award 2021. Many of his varieties are documented in the Peoples’ biodiversity register of Edavaka Grama Panchayath. His efforts are very useful to conserve and increase the tuber cultivation in the State, and is significant in terms of food security.
The award, carrying ₹2 lakh cash prize and citation, was declared on May 22, 2021 during the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) 2021.