Seed Fairs are enhancing crop diversity in Natural Farming

Berhampur: A seed fair, a platform or event where farmers and seed producers come together to exchange or showcase various types of traditional and indigenous seeds.

The seed fair was organized by VIEWS, a non-governmental organization working in the field of agriculture and natural farming in Odisha. The fair presented the possibility of chemical-free and pesticides-free agriculture. The idea was to encourage tribal farmers to conserve indigenous seeds, and give the farmers an opportunity to celebrate the revival of biodiversity by displaying local traditional seeds and farming practices.

On 1st December 2023, farmers, especially women farmers, moved in a rally, singing and dancing. They were on their way to Krushnapur, a small remote village in Turubudi Grampanchayat of Ganjam district in Odisha.

Women farmers from 6 villages gathered in Krushanpur village to participate in seeds fair in Ganjam district. Each woman farmer carried indigenous seeds in a small decorated earthen pot, placing it on her head, which showed their respect towards seeds, farming and farmland.

38 varieties of paddy, pulses, millets, maize and vegetable seeds were displayed at the indigenous seeds fair in a village.

The intent of the seed fair in Ganjam was to spread the knowledge of seed collection, seed conservation and promote women farmers conserving seeds. “Seed fair gave us an opportunity to display the indigenous seeds that we preserve and conserve,” said Susama Sabara of Kampakumujhuri village in Ganjam district.

Saroja Kumar Satapathy, Program Manager of VIEWS said that, the farmers, even the marginalized ones, started depending upon hybrid seeds that have an adverse impact on their food habits, health, food security, income and climate.

“Ecological farming practices need to be strengthened and if farmers follow proper procedure in selecting indigenous seeds and practice natural farming, it will increase productivity and have a positive impact on soil health, biodiversity and human health,” said Kanhu Charan Maharana, Project Coordinator of VIEWS.

Seed fairs often aim to promote and conserve agricultural biodiversity by showcasing a diverse range of traditional and locally adapted seed varieties. This helps in preserving native plant species and promoting resilience in agricultural systems.

One of the key goals is to facilitate the exchange of seeds among farmers. This can be crucial for maintaining genetic diversity, improving crop resilience, and adapting to changing environmental conditions, said by Adi Narayan, Livelihood Coordinator of VIEWS.

Earlier, farmers had the knowledge of conservation and storage of seeds and this empowered them at home as well as in the community. Of late, as their husbands started using hybrid seeds, most of the seed preservation knowledge was lost said by Laxmi Sabra from Krushnapur village.

Many farmers who attended the seed fair knew the importance of indigenous seeds, but are reluctant to use them, as they feel that indigenous seeds are not resilient to climate change.

The seed fair drove home the importance of indigenous seeds among farmers, the benefits of local varieties and the need to conserve the same to revive agricultural biodiversity.

Sukanti Sabara of Krushnapur village, who brought a variety of seeds to the fair said, “I hope to get a different variety of seed (Millet) to sow in my one acre land.” She learnt conservation and preservation of seeds.

According to Mr. Duryadhana Sahu, Sarapanch of Turubudi Grampanchayat, in remote villages, seed bank concept needs to be encouraged and women farmers should be taught conservation, preservation and storage of seeds. It would help in exchange of seeds, improve nutrients in soil and have a positive impact on agricultural biodiversity.

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