National Honour for Seed Savers


724 farmers to get national award of Rs 10 lakh for reviving superior local crop varieties

In an event held in New Delhi on Wednesday, the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Sharad Pawar handed the Plant Genome Saviour Community Award for the year 2011-12 to Seed Savers, a group of 724 farmers from 11 villages in Jawahar taluka, in Thane district.
The group will get a collective prize of Rs 10 lakh. Aided by two Pune-based NGOs, Baif Development Research Foundation (BDRF) and Maitri, these farmers have developed their own seed banks by preserving, reviving and producing traditional strains of rice and millet.
Their efforts have helped revive around 170 local varities of rice, 27 races of finger (raagi) millets, 10 races of proso (common) millets and various other wild vegetables. A lot of farmers had switched to hybrid seed varieties, making the local varieties nearly extinct.
Rajashree Joshi, programme co-ordinator of city-based NGO BDRF, said, “The climate is not conducive for such hybrid seeds, causing pest attacks and wilting. It also affects the crop yield.”

The native varieties have nutritional and medicinal value. “It makes the farmers self sufficient as they have their own seed banks consisting of the highest quality seeds, thus increasing the productivity,” said Sanjay Patil Program co-ordinator of Seed Saver’s group.
“Apart from various nutritive and medicinal values, these varieties of crops are also important in order to promote a vast bio-diversity,” said Joshi. Apart from the group award, two farmers from the group have also received individual awards for their contribution to this bio-diversity.

Sunil Kamadi and Mavanji Pawar have received awards in the Plant Genome Saviour Farmer’s category. Sunil Kamadi has developed Ashwini variety of paddy, which he selected from his produce and successfully sowed, while Mavanji Pawar was given recognition for conserving 41 native paddy varieties and 10 different types of millets and vegetable crops.
Pawar and Kamadi were presented with respective mementoes and certificates. Kamadi mentioned that the Ashwini variety gets him high-yield from limited seeds. “The rice that I have grown tastes much better than other.
These saplings stand better even if water comes with high force from the adjoining hills. These crops grow even in low rainfall,” said Kamadi, who chose to name the variety after his daughter, instead of his taluka Jawahar.
“The types of paddy that I grow the most are Halvi and Nimgarvi. I also grow 15 different types of varai (white millet), nachni (finger millet) and a rice variety called dangi,” said Mavanji Pawar. He further informed that dangi is extremely nutritious for lactating mothers as it improves the quality of milk.

Davaji Gavanda, who grows Halwi rice, nachni and varai and is among the awarded 724, said “The Halwi variety is extremely useful in fighting malnourishment. It also heals fractures, if applied on the injured area in apaste form,” he said. Congratulating the farmers on this remarkable feat, Ramkrishna Muley, former director of agriculture, Government of Maharashtra said, “Every farmer should have their own seed bank of local varieties.

They have better nutritional value and greater agriculture productivity.” Plant Genome Saviour Community Recognition was set up in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act.