Danesh Kumar

Wayanad District is located in the northern part of the state of kerala.  The Tamil Nadu and Karnarataka and the District of Calicut it.  It is lying on the western ghats, and receives an annual rainfall of 3,000 mm and has an average elevation of 1000 Mt from the sea level.  It has a hilly terrain crisis crossed by numerous streams and valleys.  Migrants in the last half of this century have inhabited the district.

The homestead farm of Wayanad is a unique ecosystem by itself.  Normally the farm starts from the valley going up into the hills.  The valleys or the flood plains (vayal)support the family with food for subsistence, while the land between the hills and the valleys known as kara-vayal, after the monsoon paddy crops, become the vegetable patches.  The land above this is the Hills, (kara) where plantation crops like coffee and pepper is cultivated.  These are interspersed with crops, which adds to the family food basket.

Here too, the farmers were influenced by the market oriented agricultural options. They  resorted to high external inputs, used fertilisers, pestcides and soon fell into debt traps. the cropping patterns changed drastically.  The cultivation of paddy became the first casuality; this in turn had serious impact on cattle population.  As a result, they were left with few options. They were pushed into poverty and the overall social relationships were seriously affected.

.With orientation towards the market the farmers resorted to high external inputs The farmers started leaning on external inputs, initially fertiliser, and then pesticides, adopted HYVs and finally credit.  Except for some immediate benefits, overall it has left the area poorer in almost all aspects.  The social relationship has taken its toll, individualism has eroded the social set-up of the community, and all dealings are onetised.>

In this scenario, RASTA started mobilising those affected badly to collectively attempt preservation of local varieties. RASTA’s concern was the food security, as the region once had many varieties.  Women took up special interest in saving the traditional seeds and tubers.Some interested farmers have started cultivating the traditional varieties of paddy; they are supported with inputs from an activity under the PTD project.  These farmers have a package developed by combined efforts; the parcel promotes the use of soil amendments, compost and biofertiliser.  As they have started the process, their yield is envied as their external inputs are much less than the other farmers.  Traditional varieties like vellian are promoted.

With more than 450 SHGs RASTA has been able to spread the idea among the community members, the need and the reason to conserve.  And the conservation is done in many methods.

Green hedges

The green hedges which are disappearing fast were once a treasure house.  They were the last frontiers of vanishing species of plants and herbs. They trapped the dust floating from the roads.  These hedges provided shelter to the birds during the hot afternoons and got enriched by their droppings. The bird  droppings were the source for varieties of seeds – resulting in new plants.

These hedges also trapped much of the wind blown seeds and to some extent the seeds of the other plants.  As these hedges do not come under the preview of agriculture operations, their diversity is almost intact.  During the monsoon months, varieties of mushroom are seen growing from the litter under these hedges.  Now, an activity is promoted for planting on these hedges with Nitrogen Fixing Shrubs/trees.  They provide some fodder in the summer and green manure. The women are encouraged to plant and protect these live hedges.

River banks

The other activity promoted by RASTA is the protection of the River Banks.  The constant dredging of the riverbeds has not only lowered the beds but also damaged the riverbanks.  The earlier project of protecting the riverbanks through the biological methods has started paying dividends.  With the planting of screw pine, reed and bamboo, the greening has started.

The belt is coming impenetrable; the ground vegetation started growing profusely.  There is turn protect the banks, and helps to filter the seeds and sediments brought through the floods in the monsoon.  With the vegetation increasing, the varieties of the avian families are increasing.  They in turn are enriching these gallery forest and harbours endemic species of the avian family.  Also it is enriching the growth submerges aquatic plants under its shelter.

Seed Melas

In each of its working area, around the fall of the year, just before the harvest of the main monsoon crop, a Seed exchange Mela was organised.  Though started with skecptism, now it is on a strong footing.  There is much gaiety, the elderly person normally an elderly woman, is given the position as the master of the ceremony.  A traditional kuttuvalka is lit, and the seeds are exhibited in floral beds and variety of colourful leaves.

The entry to the mela is with seeds; each individual then explains the quality and the benefits of the variety.  It is then exchanged with some another variety of seed; some seeds are distributed among the interested onlookers, with the promise it will return to some other persons in the forthcoming year.  The seeds on most demand are the traditional varieties, which almost lost in urbanised areas, but they are to some extent prevalent in the remote areas.  It is one of the rare occasion, where due recognition is given for their silent concern.

With limited quantity of seeds available and the demand growing, the seeds are raised in small individual nursery.  The nursery is a long continous tunnel green house, the seedings are raised in two methods, one is on the raised beds and the other is small bags.  The former is for plants, which are for transplanted varieties, and the second is for directly sown varieties.

The seedlings produced are healthier and the germination is good.  The seedlings are hardened  before been distributed among the other interested farmers.  By this methods, there are able harvest the produce much earlier than other are and get a better price.  They are also taught on how to use the biological active ingredients to protect their crops from disease and pest.

In the home front, the women and childern are promoting the food security for the family.  Varieties of tubers, yams and disocera, vines gherkin, winged bean traditional varieties curcubits are promoted.  In the monsoon months, vines have good vegetative growth; their leaves are used as greens.  By the end of the monsoon, they started yielding fruits.  The young leaves of yams are also used as greens, and some varieties need a dash of tamarind to reduce the oxalate found in them, otherwise it will produce rash on the bodies.  At the fall of the year, the tubers will supplement their food basket.

This have not only being able to promote food security and conservation but also reduce their scarce income from flowing out.  There is much satisfaction among the members that their produce is pesticide free.  Besides these individuals are promoting their neighbours to grow these crops for their own health andf reduce the dependency on the market.

The small attempt by RASTA  has got its acceptance.  More groups of people are coming forward and are supporting the conservation attempts.  This imagination has been caught by the people, instead of trying to for the ex-situ measure, people would rather make a mental note of where it is standing, collect some the seeds at the appropriate time, leave some ofit at the site, while some collected for distribution.  Some it is planted at home, particularly near the live hedge take some throw around the RiverBanks.

Conservation is pickingh up, as more varieties are consered locally, the small effort has promoted people to talk of the varieties that existed, and they make it a point to collect varieties from far and near distribute among their friends and neighbours.



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