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Access to seeds builds self-reliance

Shakuntala Devi produced flood resistant seeds using organic methods
Shakuntala Devi produced flood resistant seeds using organic methods

Farming and livelihoods of small, marginal and women farmers in flood-prone areas of Uttarakhand are under threat. Lack of flood resistant varieties often pushed them to the brink of food insecurity. To combat this problem, the women farmers of Mehdawal block in Sant Kabirnagar adopted the practice of producing flood resistant seeds, ensuring food security all through the year.  

Farmers in Chikaniyadeeh own small pieces of land, which are uneven and are prone to frequent floods. Chikaniyadeeh is located in Mehdawal block of SantKabir nagar district. Doodhiya Taal attached to Bakhira lake gets flooded often and submerges most of the farms destroying the kharif crops. This also affects the timely farming of rabi crops. Almost 25 per cent of the low lands in Siwan remains flooded till April-May, adversely impacting farmer livelihoods.

Farmers generally grow hybrid varieties of wheat and paddy which are not flood resistant and as a result, incur heavy crop losses during the floods. Though these seeds are expensive and are prone to pest attacks, yet farmers have no choice but to sow these seeds which are easily available in the local market and the government agro centers.  Owing to crop losses, households have food available only for 6-7 months in an year. Farmers have to take loans to feed their families.  Most often, men migrate in search of work leaving behind the women to take care of families as well as farms.

By using flood resistant varieties, the production increased and households had food available for the entire year.

Initiation

In 2012, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, a voluntary organization, initiated a programme in 19 villages including Chikaniyadeeh, to promote stability in farm livelihoods by empowering farmers to produce flood resistant seeds. Women farmers, belonging to marginalized communities were the center of focus.

Around 35 women farmers were organized into two groups – Mrityunjay Women Farmer Group and Durga Women Farmer Group. Also, 100 farmers (80 women and 20 men) were organized into Small Marginal Farmer Front to address the problems faced by small, marginal and women farmers. This unit met monthly to find solutions for their farming and livelihood related problems.

Access to seeds improved due to sharing with each other
Access to seeds improved due to sharing with each other

One of the main problems which the group identified was the unavailability of proper seeds on time. The closest market to the village is in Pipiganj which is 15 kilometres away and the government seed store is almost 30 kilometres away. Women farmers were finding it difficult to procure the right seeds. They also had no information regarding the seeds suitable for the local circumstances.

Keeping in mind the problems faced in the Kharif season, the group members decided to organize a one-day event in farmer schools to demonstrate the benefits of Swarna Sub-1 variety of paddy seeds, which is flood resistant. Swarna Sub-1 is a variety of seed, which gives a good produce even after being submerged in water for 15-18 days.  The event was organized in collaboration with scientists from Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Centre for Integrated Pest Management. The seeds were provided to 54 farmers associated with different groups like women farmer groups and small marginal farmer front.

Seed Production

Ms. Shakuntala Devi, president of Mrityunjay Women Farmer Group, cultivated this variety on her one acre field, for the purpose of seed production. She prepared a nursery using 15 kilograms of foundation seed and transplanted these seeds in the farm located next to the pond. The technical knowledge needed for the seed production was provided by GEAG. Training was also provided by Dr. J. P. Singh, a scientist from KRIBHCO. The entire process of seed production was carried out under the guidance of KRIBHCO. Shakuntala Devi used dung manure, vermi-compost and bio insecticides. Around 22 quintals of paddy was harvested from one acre.

Looking at the good quality and the flood resistant nature of this variety of seed, in May 2014 there was a demand for this seed from other farmers of the village. Shakuntala Devi sold the seeds to 135 farmers at the rate of Rs. 18 per kilogram. She took up seed production once again. Ten more women joined her in seed production. Now, the popularity of Swarna Sub-1 variety is not just limited to Chikniyadeeh. It has also spread to nearby villages like Ghurapali, Badhya Thathar and Pidari Kalan from where there is a demand for these seeds.

Conclusion

Owing to the availability of the right seeds on time, the women farmers of the village, unlike before, are able to produce crops during the Kharif season and have been successful in reducing their losses during natural disasters. Since they have started using the flood resistant variety of seeds, the production has increased and there is food availability round the year. The financial resilience of Shakuntala Devi has encouraged other women farmers to follow her footsteps.

Archana Srivastava

Documentation Coordinator

Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group

Post Box # 60, Gorakhpur

E-mail : pacs@geagindia.org

 

Subia Ahmad

Researcher

Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group

Post Box # 60, Gorakhpur

E-mail: geag@geagindia.org