A grassroots approach to achieving seed sovereignty
As part of its “seed satyagraha” (seed sovereignty) struggle that began in the 1992, KRRS has been at the frontlines of the movement for local peasant saved seeds and against corporate controlled patented seeds. Today, Amritabhoomi has a large and growing seed collection both in a seed home on campus, as well as on its farms, and in the farms of various seed homes that are part of KRRS. One major focus is to conserve drought resistant seed varieties and crops such as millets which are not only easy to grow in an increasingly drier, hotter climate, but also have a better nutritional profile than the more widespread water guzzling green revolution crops like rice.
Amrita Bhoomi currently has a one year old seed home where Vasantha the seed saver keeps a treasure trove of native seeds. There are 60 varieties of rice, 26 varieties of Ragi, 14 varieties of other minor millets, lots of vegetable varieties and the collection is growing fast. There is also a medicinal garden with special local medicinal plants that are endangered and rare. As part of Amrita Bhoomi’s seed program, native seeds are being reproduced on their seed plots for distribution at nominal prices among farmers.
One of the key problems facing India’s livestock sector is a loss of local livestock varieties. The government has been blindly promoting crossbreeding programs with exotic Jersey or Holstein Freisian and other high yielding milk breeds. These exotic cow varieties, unsuitable to the hot and dry Indian climate require high inputs and aftercare, medication and water, all with detrimental consequences on their livelihoods and the environment. On the other hand India’s diverse local cow breeds (Bos Indicus) are hardier, and require very less aftercare and if bred selectively, some of these varieties are capable of producing high quality and quantity of milk.
Even if farmers want to buy local varieties, and they cost less than the foreign cows, it’s not easy to find them. In response to this problem, Amrita Bhoomi also has a small local cowshed with 14 native cows– what it calls a “livestock bank”, where it will breed and reproduce local cow varieties for distribution among farmers, in order to conserve the quickly disappearing indigenous livestock varieties.