Local protest: Agriculure Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran planting locally available brinjal seedlings at a farm at Vengeri where residents are protesting against the introduction of Bt brinjal.
101 families planning to raise 1,000 indigenous brinjal seedlings each
KOZHIKODE: With protests mounting against the introduction of Bt brinjal, residents of Vengeri, a village near Kozhikode, have launched a constructive tactic to tackle what they believe is the new threat to agriculture and farmers’ livelihood.
Niravu, a residential association of 101 families at Vengeri, is planning to raise 1,000 brinjal seedlings in each household with the aim of distributing one lakh seedlings to the public in 2010.
“After what Bt cotton did to the farmers of Vidharbha, methyl isocyanate to Bhopal residents and Endosulfan to Kasaragod’s children, we do not have faith in the prescriptions of multinationals,” said Babu Parambath, co-ordinator of Niravu. “When we have several disease-resistant and high quality local varieties of brinjal, what is the need for Bt brinjal?”
Niravu members with the help of students and the management of Providence Women’s College here have worked out an alternative form of protest, which, they claim, is sustainable and can spark interest in agriculture.
“Some months ago, we began collection of locally grown brinjal varieties with the aim of creating a seed bank. We planted the seed varieties in small paper cups with a 1:1:1 mixture of sand, dried cow-dung powder and red soil. The plants are expected to survive for 2-3 years and yield 40-50 brinjals annually,” Mr. Parambath said.
Geetha Devadasan, a homemaker, has been cultivating brinjals for 12 years at Vengeri. One brinjal variety that she sourced from near the Peruvannamuzhi dam has grown to five feet and yields 60 brinjals annually. “I distributed around 300 seedlings in the last decade. But with Niravu deciding to make brinjal a symbol of resistance and self-reliance, I have decided to produce 10,000 seedlings this year and also offer technical help,” she said.
People from the neighbouring villages and the hilly areas of the district have been visiting Vengeri to buy the seedlings. Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran visited Vengeri on Sunday and spent an hour at Ms. Devadasan’s house to witness the effort. “This fight is not just the farmer’s. All can protest against the introduction of Bt brinjal by planting indigenous seedlings in their houses to grow brinjal for domestic consumption,” Mr. Parambath said.