KORAPUT: Raimati Ghiuria, a young tribal woman, not only proved to be a leader in conserving local traditional varieties of rice and millet seeds in her own land but also showed the path of development to the farming communities of Odisha's Koraput district, an agricultural expert said.
Ghiuria, a leading woman farmer in Nuaguda village of Kundra block, has conserved 40 traditional landraces (lineages developed by farmers) of rice and 12 of millets and even trained about 340 neighbouring women farmers in conserving of local genetic resources. She has also trained others in the SRI (system of rice intensification) technique and line transplanting method of rice cultivation. This has seen farmers increasing their yields more than what they were getting from traditional cultivation practices.
It all started nine years ago when Raimati became a member of a self-help group (SHG) in her village and participated in capacity-building training and awareness programmes at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here.
"This inspired her to lead the group undertaking various micro-enterprises. This converted the group into a model SHG which won the Most Progressive SHG award given by the district administration in 2013," Kartik Lenka of the MSSRF told IANS.
"We develop hybrid varieties of paddy and other foodgrains. It is also equally important to conserve indigenous species to maintain the natural biodiversity," Raimati told IANS, adding that training on value addition to the rice and millet crops is also provided to the members of 27 other SHGs.
"They took this micro-enterprise as an alternative livelihood option and each family is earning an additional Rs.2,000 to Rs.3,000 per month," Raimati said.
Due to her energetic leadership and multi-skilled activities, she was conferred the best leadership award by the district administration and Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy Fellowship Award in 2014 for being "a leading grassroot academician".
She recently participated in the 'Prajatiya Khadyotsav (an agro forest food diversity festival) organised by Tata Steel's Sukinda Chromite Mine in Jajpur district.
"Even as conserving traditional species is not lucrative against hybrid products, we need to conserve so that these indigenous products do not go extinct," Lenka pointed out.
B.B. Panda of the Cuttack unit of the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) said the indigenous varieties have to be conserved for further research on producing high-yielding varieties.
"We can develop high-yielding varieties through these indigenous varieties. With the unavailability of the varieties, there would be no further improvement," Panda told IANS.
He said climate change is posing a severe threat to the country's farming community and there is need to preserve and multiply the traditional seed varieties to improve the adaptation mechanism of farmers.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has accorded the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) status to the traditional agricultural system being practised in the Koraput region.
This means the tribal people have an indigenous knowledge system for their various agricultural practices that they use to check the viability of seeds before sowing, maintain soil fertility and conserve their landraces.