NAGAPATTINAM: Two-acre plot in Kuravapulam village in Nagapattinam is home to all of India’s native 1,250 crop varieties. While indigenous crop cultivation is vanishing from the country’s conscience, owners of this piece of land hope to spread the importance of healthy farming to all consumers.
These seeds have been painstakingly planted by 39-year-old farmer P Saravanakumaran, and his wife, S Sivaranjani. For the past seven years, this couple has been on a green mission to save and popularise traditional seed varieties. Cultivation of these crops is rainfed and done once in a year due to lack of river irrigation in Vedaranyam block.
Their mission started with just 130 crops in 2015, Saravanakumaran, also a Siddha practitioner, says with palpable pride. Their venture, ‘Arivar Seed Bank’, at the village is now a major source of traditional crop seeds. In fact, Sivaranjani, an engineer, says she left her job to become a full-time farmer. “I got a job offer in campus recruitment drive. But after I got married in 2012, I started managing the farm in Kuruvapulam along with my husband.”
Sivaranjani leads dozens of seed exhibitions every year where she carries the trust of her family, displays all thousand-odd varieties, and tirelessly explains their benefits to farmers. “More farmers got inspired through our outreach and wanted to learn and cultivate traditional crops. Their enthusiasm motivates us,” says the farmer, mother, and traditional crops evangelist.
Green fingers seem to be a trend in the family; Sivaranjani’s parents R Sivaji and Vijayalakshmi and Saravanakumaran’s parents P Paranjothi and Nirmala are traditional farmers. The couple has a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter.“Our ancestors gave us the best soil and the best food. It is our responsibility to pass it on to the next generation,” says Saravanakumaran. Sivaranjani’s father R Sivaji (69) says, “Many crops have almost become extinct. It is good that the younger generation understands their value.”
Her father-in-law P Paranjothi (70), echoes the sentiment, adding, “We have shared our knowledge, but our children show us they can handle multi-crop cultivation much better than us.” The couple had started with indigenous Tamil Nadu varieties such as soorankuruvai, maappilai samba, kaattuyaanam and poongarand neelan samba, and later added crops from across the country.
“The government should create marketing opportunities for traditional crops on a par with hybrid varieties to increase traditional crop cultivation in the State,” asserts Saravanakumaran. Officials, farmers, researchers, and students regularly throng the farm. The obliging couple conducts workshops to share more about cropping techniques.
Despite facing natural calamities and new pest attacks every year, the couple do not throw in the towel. It is resolve that saves the crops. Dr V Kannan, agronomist from ICAR- Krishi Vigyan Kendra, says more consumers must step up to support traditional crop cultivation. “Food based on traditional crops and cultivation will help us live a healthier life,” Kannan says. Collector A Arun Thamburaj lauds the dynamic duo. “Demand for organically-cultivated crops is growing. The couple is doing well to preserve and popularise it,” he says.