Native Seeds: The Once and Future Crops

Local partner Chethana recently held a village rally to convince more farm families to try native seeds and organic farming methods. There was a good turnout of local officials, farmers, seed-saver groups, women’s self-help groups, school children and Chethana staff. Chethana is promoting a return to traditional crops as a means of improving food security now and preserving plant diversity for future generations.

Traditional farmers see the native varieties and sustainable farming as their protection against crop failures and famine. Higher yields mean families have enough to eat and still save seed for the next crop. Returning to traditional legumes and cereal grains – in combination, they provide a complete protein – also improves nutrition and health. Intercropping them prevents erosion, enriches the soil, promotes bio-diversity, and controls weeds and pests.

More and more people are willing to experiment with low-cost methods that bring higher yields and reduce expenses. For years, area farmers have grown only rice. In recent years they’ve experienced low farm productivity, scarce rainfall, depleted groundwater, and water shortages, and they worry about crop failures and famine. Many are deeply in debt from poor returns on investment in high-cost chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

At the recent rally, successful “seed saving” farmer groups displayed native varieties of millet, okra, sorghum and a perennial legume called red gram. Observers noted with interest that these plants are acclimated to the dry conditions, require less water, and respond well to applications of organic compost.

Caption: Harvesting native okra

India South Program
Led by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Local Partner Chethana
30 communities, 500 households, 2,500 individuals

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