Mother of Seeds
Kannama Mandiga, fondly called Bihana Maa (Mother of seeds) by people, a 38 year old tribal lady from Odisha’s deep interior Mathili Block of Maoist infested Malkangiri district bordering Chhatisgarh’s Bastar region. Coming from a small marginal farmer family, she and her husband though had a small piece of land were face to face with non availability of seeds to sow in their land that really lifeline for their sustenance. They did not have money to buy high yielding hybrid seeds which are promoted by Government as well as private companies.
This experience made Kannama to get into deep thought. As she moved around nearby villages she found the traditional cereal and minor millet that she was feed in her father’s home those variety are not available everywhere. She finally traced an old lady in a neighbouring village who for years had preserved traditional seeds as the family was using traditional local seeds instead of hybrid variety.
Slowly and steadily Kannama moved around villages as she liked to interact with women most and collected traditional variety of seeds from them. She grew limited crops in her small land and harvested crops meant to be used as seeds. As from hybrid cultivation the products cannot be used as seeds she few of her fellow farmers who could not afford buying hybrid seeds. She promoted seeds that can be used to grow vegetables in their homestead land and sustained a life by producing crops meant for seeds. He grew with number of variety and gradually many people in nearby villages shifted to traditional seeds. She tried to convenience people of advantage of use of traditional seeds like no or less use of pesticides and fertilisers that makes farming only labour intensive without much investment. The taste as well as food value of traditional seed used farming was much better.
In the process of 10 long years of effort Kannama could manage to store 150 variety of traditional seeds which was popular in at least 10 odd panchayats. She distributed seeds among farmers and initiated Bihana Mela (Seed fair). Recounts Kannama when she moved around house to house searching for traditional seeds then people laughed at her. Everybody thought its was near impossible work as people have accepted high yielding hybrid variety. Bihana Maa is more than happy today. The hybrid seeds are things of past in and around her gram panchayats. She wonders why traditional seeds are not being promoted by successive Governments!