Second green revolution?
K DIVYADARSHINI | March 14, 2010 00:00
Community seed banks to take on modified crops
Is there any solution to the ongoing BT brinjal controversy? Do we really need BT modified crops? These and other questions are being debated by farmers, food experts, politicians and multinationals. The proponents of BT brinjal say that it will herald a second green revolution. But the opponents argue that India can manage without modified crops because some farmers in Karnataka villages already practice community seed banks.
They cite example of farmers, like Papamma, who have already started a second green revolution. Her house is full of vegetation. Not an inch of waste land around Papamma’s house or farm can be spotted. “Do you see the black sprinkles on the leaves and the beans? That is cow dung water I sprinkled to avoid pests,” says the 60-year-old Papamma who lives in D. Kurubarahalli, a remote village in Kolar, nearly 90 KM from Bangalore.
Keeping farm green isn’t an easy task in hot weather. But Papamma has been managing it for almost 20 years now. She produces crops through organic way. Besides, the family is content with the yield they get from two acres and one acre of paddy field. In two acres, she grows almost 20 varieties of crops. “If we have sufficient water we can grow more than 50 varieties of crops in the farm,” says Papamma.
Kolar district which is better known for its extreme weather depends on rain for the crops. Moreover, the district doesn’t have any rivers. “We dug a well in our farm and we use this for the paddy field because it needs much water compared to other crops. So, even if it does not rain in the season we normally do not worry,” adds Papamma.
The family, which is known across the state as ‘seed bank Papamma,’ has more than 50 varieties of pure indigenous seeds. Displaying her rare collections, she says: “See this is the paddy that I stored four years back. Still it is good; you can either use it for sowing or husk rice out of it. Did you see the leaves on the paddy? They are custard apple’s leaves. They keep the seeds afresh.”
Adds Papamma: “These are brinjal seeds.” When asked why she has saved brinjal seeds in four different jars, she says: “In my farm I only have four varieties of brinjals…” What about the BT brinjal? Papamma’s answer was spontaneous: “No… see in my farm, I grow four or five types of brinjals, and in our village you can easily find around 45 varieties of brinjals, so just imagine how many more varieties India can have. People say it is a ‘technical’ brinjal. When we have enough variety of brinjals then why import BT brinjal and spoil soil and health? I do not think, we will need a brinjal 'which has been operated and injected to perform well.' It is not good for health. What we have is more than enough and I do not see any reason to welcome it.
“As I am following organic farming method, I may get a bit less crop compared to the farms which are using chemicals. But as far as my family is concerned, health is more important than profit. My farming is not a commercial venture."
“For almost a decade, we never purchased food items from the market, but fetch it afresh from our farm. I preserve the seed in the seed bank for the next crop. If the seeds are more, then we sell it in the market. Why should we say yes for genetically modified crops?”
Papamma and her husband Papanna do sand mulching also. She was taught organic farming by her villagers twenty years ago. But after some time, the villagers started using chemicals to increase their production.
Papamma, who did not believe in commercial cropping, just went on with her organic farming and stuck to the techniques taught to her during the training. Today, she is the main person in her village who leads the community in seed banking campaign under which the farmers are encouraged to store the seeds and avoid fertilisers.
Also, Papamma convinces rural women to adopt organic farming. Her work has been recognised by the state government. In 2007, the officials of the agriculture department honoured her with the Karnataka Rajyothsava Prashasthi for her contribution to seed bank farming in the state.