Guardians of crop diversity

Seed production in Haveri district is not synonymous with hybrid varieties anymore. Indigenous seeds have created ripples in the epicentre of hybrid seed production. The change is visible when one visits some farms in Chinnikatte village in the district. The odour of chemical materials has given way to the scent of organic inputs even as hybrid crops are replaced by traditional ones. Shrenikaraju, a farmer in the village, provides the background, A couple of decades ago, all the fields in our village were occupied by crops that required heavy chemicals. Later, we became aware of organic farming and with it came the knowledge of indigenous seeds and the concept of community seed banks.

The concept of community seed banks was introduced in Karnataka in the 1990s. The prime objective was to preserve and revive heritage seeds with stress on local varieties. The factors and circumstances that led to the formation of each seed bank vary considerably from natural calamities to awareness about the importance of saving seeds. The objectives included collection, production, distribution and exchange of indigenous seeds, promotion of eco-friendly farming methods and the initiation of farm-centric village-level enterprises. Reviving local varieties and making them accessible to farmers also helped achieve nutrition and food security in the villages.