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Revival of Traditional Varieties of Seeds By Indigenous People

Agriculture is a part of the cultural heritage of Kondh people in Daspalla, Odisha. Nirman NGO organized a seed festival in Bidapaju village of Daspalla Block, Nayagarh district Odisha in collaboration with the local Kondh community from 18 villages.

Climate change has impacted the local crops and livelihoods of local communities. Impacts are seen on changes in crop production, yields, the emergence of new pests and diseases, changes in cropping patterns, distress migration, and livelihoods of local Kondh communities.

Kondhs have their sub-clans like Odia Kondh and Desia Kondh. 4 types of tribal languages are prevalent. Desia language is in high parlance. There are other socio-economic and cultural differences among the tribes.

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The seed festival was inaugurated by the local women and invitees with the lighting of the lamp by local community leaders, women, Sarpanch, and invitees. Women farmers were felicitated in the public platform for their outstanding work and contributions to practice and promote ecological agriculture in their local communities by Shri. Prashant Mohanty, Executive Director, Ms. Arunima Swain, State Co-ordinator, Nirman, local Sarpanch, and Ms. Kumudini Mishra, Planning & Convergence Department, Bhawanipatna. Certificates of recognition of women as champions were distributed to innovative women farmers in the Block. 

Around 1000 farmers participated actively in the seed festival. Local desi varieties (indigenous) of seeds were brought in Kalash (earthen pots) by women and displayed at an exhibition. The men also participated in the seed festival along with the children. Local drums were played and men led the folk dance. Children displayed the local dance.

The festival was organized by Nirman NGO in co-ordination with the local communities and Millets Mission. Authorities from the Odisha Millets Mission also participated and graced the occasion along with intellectuals, independent researchers (Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera), Dr. Imran Ali, Co-ordinator Natural Farming, Odisha Chapter, practitioners (Shri Shishir Kanta Parija), NGOs (Mr. Ranjan Praharaj, Pradan) and journalists (Press Club, Mr. Satya Barik, The Hindu, Ms. Monalisa Patsani, Independent Journalist, Odisha Post, and My Citilinks). 

The seed festival was organized by Nirman to empower the local communities on have pride on their local foods, recipes, seeds and planting materials. These seeds and planting materials have stood the test of time over generations and are climate-resilient. The women explained the various traditional recipes prepared from the local food crops. Local recipes like – Chakuli, Kanji, Kheeri, Adisha pitha, Mudi, mixture, Muha, local Curries, Khota, Chuna macho (small fish), Sukhua (dry fish) etc. The women also explained the specific methods to store and preserve seeds. These local foods were also displayed at the exhibition. 

Seeds of local varieties of paddy (Chandra, Raisul, Kuluchi, Barsarani, Dhalasathiya, Suhagini, Niali, Chausathi, Kala dhan, Swarna, Lalat, Jajati etc.), minor millets like Ragi (Muskul, Sika, Bodo Mandia, Taya, Sano Mandia, Kontamita, Dussera, Muskul, Sika, Kongora, KMR 204 etc.), Suan, Kangu, Kerwa, Kodo, Kosala, oilseeds (Mustard) and vegetables (Brinjal, Beans, Sem, Tomato, Pumpkin, Banana, Pahadia Barabati, Pahadia Biri, Pita Aloo, Chillies, Lemon, Coriander, Colocasia etc.), green leafy vegetables (saag – 15 varieties – Lal Kosala, White Kosala), wild tubers, yams and other NFTPs  (Satabari, Mulika Chero, Siali leaves, Gongei etc.) were displayed.

Wild food crops are particularly important to the local communities during scarce food periods. Women explained the specific characteristics and uses of these seeds and crops. 

Local foods were cooked and distributed to all participants like Kheer and lemon water. Local rice, dalma, and local vegetable curry were served for lunch.

Farmers also exchanged the local seeds in the seed festival on the second day from each other for sowing in the next cropping season. Almost 200 types of local recipes from the food crops were displayed in the food festival about one month back, organized by Nirman.

Ravi S. Behera
Ravi S. Behera
Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera, PGDAEM, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is an independent freelance Consultant and Author based in Bhubaneswar. He is an Honorary Advisor to grassroots Voluntary Organizations on Food Security, Forest and Environment, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change, and Social Development issues. Ravi has lived and worked in various states of India and was associated with international donors and NGOs over the last twenty-three years including ActionAid, DanChurchAid, Embassy of Sweden/Sida, GiZ, UNICEF, Sightsavers, Aide et Action, Practical Action, Agragamee, and DAPTA. He has a keen interest in indigenous and marginalized communities, hunger, malnourishment, and food policy issues.

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