For people living in the plains variety is a few types of vegetables, paddy and millets and one believes that chemical fertilizers and pesticides alone can increase the yield and protect the crops. But a visit to the annual Paata Vittanala Panduga (old seeds festival) held in the Agency area of Visakhapatnam district is a revelation.
The festival has scores of varieties of paddy, millets and vegetables that are not found even in large urban markets or big villages. While the agriculture products of various colours were a pleasing sight, the important fact is that the Girijan farmer has not forgotten his traditional methods in farming.
The Girijans seldom use chemical fertilizers and pesticides and organic farming is widely practised. He does not generally buy seed, but prepares them from the previous crop setting a part of it aside for sowing. Thus the crop from the yield is nutritious and healthy. This is an age old practice and in spite of polished rice, snacks like idli becoming part of the diet, Girijans still practise it.
Sanjeevani, an NGO working among Girijans, with the help of another NGO Samata and CRYNET, a network of rural youth organisations, organises the old seeds festival every year at different villages. This year it was held at Panasavalasa in Dumbriguda mandal, 25 km from the famous tourist centre Araku Valley on Sunday.
The NGO has bagged the Union Government's Plant Genome Saviour Community Award for 2011-12.
"The old seeds festival is organised to encourage farmers to retain and to protect seeds of many varieties of high quality seeds which are facing a threat due to changing food habits and farm practices. There is also a threat to biodiversity if the seeds are not protected and promoted. Through our Paata Vittanala Pandaga we are also creating awareness among the people, NGOs and the Government", secretary of Sanjeevani, P. Devullu said.
A couple of energetic and young farmers from Malingavalasa came with 178 varieties of paddy, millets and vegetables and 10 medicinal plants and farmers from other villages were keen on learning about them, for example many collected the seeds of Saatekalu paddy variety brought by farmers of Kusumguda village.
There are varieties that are not found even in large urban markets or big villages