Drilling Of Rice Bowl And Conservation Of Seeds: Response Of Peasant Society To Globalisation Of Agriculture In Chhattisgarh

Hasrat Arjjumend

Chhattisgarh, the newly formed state of India, has been considered Arice bowl@ of the country.  Agriculture of  Chhattisgarh is subsistence agriculture.  Food grains are grown in 88.37 percent of net sown area.  Among food grains grown, rice is the main crop that is grown on 39.91 lakh hectares and covers 77 percent of the net sown area.  According to the scientists at Indira Gandhi Agriculture University (IGAU), Raipur, at one time  had approximately 19,000 rice varieties under cultivation by traditional farmers.

Farmers over generations developed different varieties and land races for different geo – climatic and socio-economic conditions.  Though these local varieties and land races of rice are under tremendous pressure of globalization, the traditional farmers still grow countless local varieties of rice.  In Rajnandgaon district alone, about forty local varieties of rice have been recorded to be grown by the traditional farmers (see box).  Paddy farming in Chhattisgarh banks upon massive indigenous knowledge of the peasants .  The crop cycle of different varieties are closely understood and only the suitable varieties having compatible crop cycle are grown in the areas with particular geo-climatic conditions.  For instance, in the irrigated plains, varieties having crop cycle of 120 days are generally grown.  On rainfed lands , only the varieties having crop cycle of 90 – 100 days are grown. In waterlogged lands the varieties having  shorter crop cycle, i.e. 60-65 days are grown. Varieties requiring transplantation are usually not grown in waterlogged and rainfed lands.

Invasion of Globalization of Traditional Rice Farming

 Traditional agriculture had for centuries been considered as a strategy for coping with adverse conditions and has served people for thousand of years in Chhattisgarh.  Now it is under stress and on the verge of breaking down.  The reasons for this are diverse. The forces of globalization are considered as one of the reasons of the mass disappearance of the traditional cultivators of the rice.    Resultantly, there has been a neglect of subsistence agriculture and the role of women in farming. Scientists believed that the traditional varieties cannot be relied upon for high production.  Interestingly, the introduction of high yielding varieties ( HYVs) of rice has increased the yield only by 2 quintals per hectare i.e., from 14 quintals per hectare in case of traditional varieties to merely 16 quintals per hectare in the case of improved varieties.

A particularly disturbing aspect of this development is the replacement of such a wide variety of landracers by HYV monoculture. Landrace is more or less synonymous to traditional variety that is something usually more viable than a variety. Besides rapid erosion of biodiversity, introduction of HYVs has already led to reduction of food availability among the people of the region, and hence poor level of nutrition.  The recent Food Insecurity Atlas of India, as a consequence, identified Chhattisgarh among others as the most food insecure state in the country.  What a fall for a state which happened to be the state which boasted of vast genetic diversity of rice!

Increased use of fertilizers in growing the HYVs is common phenomenon.  Another related  problem is the susceptibility of HYVs to the pest attacks and the proliferation of weeds due to the loss of natural fertility of the land.  This in turn has been countered by increased application of pesticides and herbicides.  Resultantly, not only  the soil fertility  has further reduced but also  eliminated all sorts of insects and weeds that are beneficial to agriculture.


Gurmatia Desi


Terhgi Bako



Kanthi Bako




Gaja Guda


Kalsa Jhool

Chirai Guda

Dub Raj


Asam Chudi

Gurmatia Gol




Gurmatia Nagpuri

Budhia Bako





Nau Mohar


Gaja Kali

Nan Keshar


Chhid Ghofa

Chirai Nakkhi

Bans Bhira


Dhunraj Masuri

Lalu Dhan


Bhata Safri

The costs of fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid seeds, machinery and labour only increase the cost of production.  The cost of production went on rising with the price increase not matching the raise in the price of the farm produce.  By cultivating HYVs the farmers have entered vicious cycle of debt trap and many farmers now cannot escape from the persisting indebtedness.  For instance, a progressive farmer, Bansi Yadav, was self – reliant and happy when he used to grow Gurmatia rice.  Now he is in trouble and has no option but to depend solely on the government for seeds and other inputs.

Another effect of the globalization of agriculture is the growing dependence of farmers on govt. machinery for seeds, loans and agricultural inputs. The government as well as the market lobby attains fabulous profits out of the regular sale of seeds and chemicals, but the farmers incur irreversible losses.

Community responses against globalisation

Without planned intervention, it is difficult to cope with the challenges of globalisation forces and the expansion of consumer culture. Peasants of Chhattisgarh have certain traditions through which they attempt to exchange, preserve and proliferate the different local varieties of rice. In the forested belts of Dhamtari, Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts, the farmer families celebrate a festival on the completion of the paddy harvesting. On this occassion, every household brings handful ( about a half kilogram) paddy to the place of Thakur Dev ( chief deity), where they mix everyone=s seeds. A heap of seed grains becomes ready before the diety. Later on, an earthen kothli ( storage container) is constructed there itself and the entire collected seed grains are filled in it. The deity then keeps a vigil on that for few months. When shukl paksha of Baisakh month ( end of April) arrives, the seed garins are distributed back to the same households for sowing which starts from the day of teej ( local festival).

A similar tradition to keep the indigenous seeds alive is traced in Mohla block of Rajnandgaon district. Here some infusion of external innovation has taken place in the local tradition. Lokshakthi Samajsevi Sanstha, a Mohla based NGO, has promoted formation of >janasakhthi sanghatans= in each of 265 villages. These local institutions now coordinate at the village level the celebration of festival involving seeds collection and distribution. The festivity is locally known as akli when every household brings seed grains of paddy that are mixed together. The mixed seeds are then distributed back. Important to note that they prepare plan of paddy farming for the next year. Farmers of all classes sit together on this occassion and enjoy the festivity. Lokshakti has also promoted the establishment of grain banks fully controlled and managed by janshakti sangathans.  Any farmer requiring the seed in the sowing season generally borrows the paddy from grain bank, and returns  it back after harvesting the crop.  The grain banks contain only the seeds of local varieties of rice.

There are few other NGOs in Chhattisgarh who have been working as promoters of traditional farming systems, Rupantar, for example, works in 30 villages of Nagri block of Dhamtari district.  Dharohar of Kondagaon has a seed collection of about 250 – 300 indigenous rice varieties from Bastar district.  In the extreme north of the state, Sarguja Gramin Vikas Sansthan alongwith the successful rainwater harvesting has been promoting ecological farming systems.  Moreover, there are few other groups like Prerak, Jagriti and Jan Jagriti Kendra who have been active for preserving the genetic diversity in Chhattisgarh.

Moreover, there are informal networks of the local farmers active in rural areas through which they exchange seeds and agro-technologies.  There is a lot of variation in the profile of local varieties from one district to the other and from plains to the plateau or valley.  Farmers of one area have the relationships or acquaintances in the other areas.  In such conditions, if one farmer finds a new variety he/she brings its seed and cultivation technology onto his/her fields.  Such an exchange also enriches the profile of local varieties in the state.


Increasing force of globailization has been mounting tremendous pressure on the indigenous varieties of rice in Chhattisgarh.  Modern agriculture scientists  seem to be  myopic in recognising the huge repository of genetic diversity of rice in the region.  Instead of enriching and saving the gene pool, the scientists have started promoting monoculture, indebtedness, food insecurity, chemical-intensive farming, increased groundwater usage, erosion of biodiversity. High production based farming systems only benefit  the big farmers and agro businessman.  The  poor and marginal farmers will soon get entrapped in the clutches of local traders and money lenders. In order to cope with the process of marginalization of the poor, the peasants of Chhattisgarh have devised over a period of time certain strategies in the form of traditions and cultural values that actually challenge the globalization of agriculture. Developing new varieties, exchanging seeds, preserving the grains and lending the seeds are some valuable traditions of the farmers that are considered as the social response of the local people against market forces. Some NGOs in different parts of the state have also commenced to promote the cultivation of local rice  varieties and the traditional ecological farming. However, in Chhattisgarh the rural society as well as the NGOs have to build sound association to fight against the invading modern agriculture and globalization.  Peasants of Chhattisgarh need to be well prepared to face the outrage of the enclosure of genetic `commons=.


The article is an outcome of the knowledge and experiences shared by various farmers especially women of Chhattisgarh with the facilitation of their community leaders like Preet Ram Sahu, Raitram Mandavi, Malikram Mahle and Ravindra Gaiwad.   The author is thankful to Lokshakti Samajsevi Sanstha for extending every possible help in conducting discussions with the peasants in different villages of Chhattisgarh.


Aarjjumend, H. Chhattisgarh in Peril. Bhopal, Samarthan – Centre for Development Support, 2000.

Chinnakonda, D 2000, Integrated Agriculture: Towards Food, Financial and Ecological Security. LEISA INDIA, Vol 2, no.3, 2000.

Menon, M.  Cracks in the Rice Bowl. Economic and Political Weekly, June 9, 2001.


Hasrat Arjjumend

P O Box 616, Ravishankarnagar PO

Bhopal – 462 016 M.P. India

Tel: + 91 (0755) 792146

Email: a_hasrat@usa.net



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