Cheruvayal K. Raman, a septuagenarian tribal farmer from Wayanad district, has had no knowledge of conventional sciences like botany or agriculture science, yet he is credited with having conserved over 55 rice varieties on his small farm at Kammana in the district.
Mr. Raman, known locally as ‘Vithachan’ (father of seeds), won the prestigious National Plant Genome Saviour Award instituted by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right Authority, five years ago. And on Wednesday, he was selected for Padma Shri.
Herbs and spices too
Mr. Raman has been conserving 55 rice varieties of the district, different species of trees, herbs, and spices on his 3-acre plot for the past many years.
“I had conserved 60 varieties until 2021, but my old age and health-related issues forced me to reduce the variety of seeds,” Mr. Raman told The Hindu.
Mr. Raman said the first news report on his conservation efforts in The Hindu in February 2013 made him known to the outside world.
Being a member of the Kurichya tribe, agriculture is part of his life. While many of the Kurichya joint families are abandoning cultivation of traditional rice varieties due to various reasons, Mr. Raman and his family have been conserving the seeds as a treasure for the next generation. He has established a network of farmers through an informal seed distribution mechanism by which the farmer gives seeds to anybody on condition that the same quantity is returned next year. “Seeds cannot be sold because it is love and care rather than a commodity,” Mr. Raman said.
Message of conservation
Mr. Raman said the award was the nation’s recognition of a farmer like him and it would help him spread the message of conservation among others.
He welcomes visitors, including students, farmers, and researchers, who come from various parts of the country to his traditional house to learn about his natural way of farming.