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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Seed Saver par excellence! Seed wizard?

The beauty of Himalayas is yet to sink and even before that the soft spoken smiling Vijay Jardhari and his works inundates me.
Firstly the nature, its beauty and my travails..
Oh man! A 2 hour bus ride from Rishikesh to this upper Nagini (enroute to uttar kashi in the Tehri part of shivalik Himalayas)..was such a scenic one! If it was so beautiful now at this part of the year - off season for farming..what a sight it shud be after rains or in the peak season or around harvest..one can imagine..this is all the Tehri Garhwal region of the Uttarkhand.
It’s a photographers delight..(be warned..i aint one..and i make do with my mobile only!)
I am dumped at a wrong stop by the bus inspite of me reminding that conductor so many times:-( and after all these years of travel, I haven’t learnt to travel light..next bus? forget it..one wud rather walk if its less than 5 kms..so I had to lug another 1 km with the baggage on my back..
But there - all that pain is so easily diverted by the hero standing, welcoming smiling!
He is a real hero..what then? To be a part of Chipko movement in the 70s (in his prime youth then!) Vijay Jardhari went on to accomplish so much in life and still stay so rooted and simple and never exaggerate one word..infact he says it so matter of factly as though it was just another task like eating, sleeping..
After Chipko movement won- yes the Govt had to ban any tree cutting above 1000 meters. (jardhari village is huge collection of some 17 hamlets across a vast area at some 1500 meters!)
VJ with some of his chipko friends in the village fights the mining lobby in 1984-87 and wins again. Stops mining in the Hemvalghati and dhoongahati regions!
So after two successive campaigns, for lack of anything else, he starts to work in his farm. Its then that the hybrid seeds and fertilizers land up in his village and he tries them..and the 1st year he is happy with the output too! There was an yield increase in the 1st year but he is a quick learner..immediately sees that the soil is decreasing the 2nd year itself and find out that this is a high intensive farming and the input cost can only go up.also in the 3rd year he finds that when he saved that seed and grew he just got so low output that it could only be his seed quantity.
So he stops chemical farming immediately..its then that he starts talking to his father and some elders in the village and they admonish the new hybrid seeds and state that there were so many varieties of paddy and others, where as now slowly its all the same hybrid rice.
Its then he starts going around in this whole region chasing and collecting traditional seeds.
This pioneer seed saver and one of its only kind in India has managed to save some 600 varieties, single handedly, till date! Seed saving king, eh?
His deeds and unique seed saving movement is a big hit by then in this region called the Beej Bachao Andolan (seed savers movement!). BBA does so much to reclaim the himalaya’s diversity.

Bara Naja!
It is then he comes out with the old tradition in the Himalayas- Bara naja (some where I have seen this being mentioned as bara anaaj too)..meaning 12 grains/seeds! There are 12 different seeds grown- few grains, some dals, some fibres, some millets, oil seeds, amaranth, buck wheat,a traditional variety of soya called bhaat, even bhang- not the nashaa variety he said:-)
Any 12 of these around 20 seeds are taken..infact this also means there is a nice crop rotation..after these 12 naja are grown, fallow follows and then its rice..then 12 naja follows and wheat or other rabi crop like masoor, barley are grown! He says ragi (finger millet) is the king of this! Such wide bio diversity also means only one or two will effectively fall(fail) for pest or disease. In case of severe rains or flood or drought the ones those are resistant to these vagaries survive..so they dont go without harvest, ever!

His display of seeds is such a visual treat..he wud display and talk about the various varieties without any drama or ‘I-have-accomplished’ feeling but with a small smile that conveys the pride! One gets to see so many varieties of paddy, 15 types of Rajma alone, hosts of dals. The highlight is the navrang dal which is such a colorful sight! So many colours of dal which is also so healthy and local!. The same crop gives out dals of 9 different colours!
This Bara Naja is one helluva discovery and has revamped the agriculture in this part and has done so much good for the community..in the initial days people used to be shy in doing this and wud hide these grains when guests came home..today it’s a matter of pride!

This didn’t come so easily..the modern agri cartel in garb of science, university, scientist and what not pushed for mono crop..in these parts they pushed for Soya – cash. Oil and protein crop! As is the trick these days these soya seeds came free with free fertilizer kits..
So Beej Bachao Andolan had to jump in again to the rescue of farming and farmers.. BBA campaigned and fought hard..they asked the govt who will process the soya bean in to oil or milk? And for whom was the rich protein and cash they were drumming about..the very fact that these were obviously meant for big industries, MNCs and that the farmers after selling these to the rich had to go to the market to buy cheap poor quality ones. So BBA’s save our seed campaign caught up and farmers and farming was saved..old traditional seeds and practices returning..including this Bara anaj!

He not only changed the mindset of people in Tehri Garhwal area but also of the Govt. Today the Uttar Khand state agri dept talks and professes about his bara naaja (12 grain/seeds) system, that he is a very famous name. even more is the fact that this system is being fully spread and practiced all over!
He is also the reason for a cordial relationship with the forest authorities and so there is such a nice give and take happening unlike most other places where each treats the other as sworn enemies..

Its such a fortunate thing for the society and me ofcourse that I could meet him. Thanks to KSY I met him 1st then and now could follow up and it was such an experience..
To stay in his house and keep eating and when not eating gobbling up the scenic beauty allround – I sure am lucky!

What a person and what a feat! Such gems are the hopes for the future.
Thanks VJ!

see here for Photos!

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