|Women exchanging heirloom seeds at |
a seed exchange festival in Odisha, India
In the eastern hinterlands of Odisha, tribal farmers use to share their environment with encroaching forests that where home of fairly sizable tiger populations. In addition to farming, they also harvested tubers and fruits in the forest. Today, according to India's Minister of Agriculture Damodar Rout, Odisha's farmers are in a state of crisis caused by "climate change, erosion, dryness, soil acidity and falling ground water levels."
Tribal farmers have been combating changing conditions by reverting to their tribal customs of using organic fertilizer, heirloom seeds, and practicing mixed cropping. Over the past decades they had moved away from these practices due to the introduction of the "commercial high-yielding rice paddy." This style of farming was promoted by the national government, which distributed high-yielding paddy seeds and chemical fertilizers for free. Before this, it had not been a traditional custom for the Kondh to grow or eat rice.
Living Farms and ORRISSA are two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to promote traditional agriculture and the use of heirloom seeds. In 2008 Living Farms provided seeds to poor families with the understanding that they would return 10% of their seeds back into a local seedbank. This consisted of "simple woven bamboo baskets sealed with a clay-and cow dung daub and opened in times of need."
Renown Indian agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan supports mixed cropping. He notes that growing several cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetable and fodder crops helps with pest control.
"Ailing Agricultural Productivity in Economically Fragile Region of India: An Analysis of Synergy Between Public Investment and Farmers' Capacity," Bhopal, India: Indian Institute for of Soil Science, 2010.
Living Farms, India
ORISSA - Organisation for Rural Reconstruction & Integrated Social Services Activities, India.