JEYPORE: Kamala Pujari is yet to comprehend the enormity of Padma Shri which she has been nominated for. “I have a little knowledge of the award and the purpose for which it was given to me,” says the 70-year-old tribal woman who was hospitalised recently for ill-health.
Popular as the preserver of paddy seeds, Kamala, however, expressed her happiness to be chosen for the national honour. “I am happy for being recognised and selected for the award. But I am more worried about my health condition,” she says.
Born in a poor family in Patraput village under Jeypore block of Koraput district, she started preserving traditional paddy seeds from a very young age. She also cultivated paddy in her land to preserve the grains for further germination. Kamala also launched an awareness campaign among local tribals to preserve and cultivate traditional seeds with use of organic method.
Along with local women, she formed a seed bank in Patraput with help of Swaminathan Foundation. In the process, she was able to preserve over 100 varieties of traditional paddy seeds through use of bio fertilizers.
In 2002, she was invited to attend a UNDP-sponsored meeting at Johannesburg in South Africa where she was awarded with Equator Initiative Award for her innovative efforts to preserve grains and use it for community development. In 2004, the State Government gave her the best farmer award for her outstanding contribution in agriculture sector.
Last year, the State Government nominated her as a member of the State Planning board and even dedicated a woman hostel in OUAT in her name.