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Conserving indigenous agro-biodiversity in Karnataka

Apr 11, 2013

The community-based Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Programme aims to conserve agro-biodiversity, and build self-reliance and livelihood security for communities involved.

The debilitating effects of Green Revolution-induced high yield variety seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides and mechanised farming techniques have been rampant for farming communities in India, particularly in the south.

Farmers' suicides have been directly linked to their over-dependence on the market and resulting capture in the debt trap. The nutritional value of crops fed on chemicals is minimum and the worst hit are those who grow them. Farmers have been reduced to the role of mere 'facilitators' in the processes of farming, their traditional knowlegde systems relegated to the background.

Against this background, started by the GREEN (Genetic Resource Ecology Energy and Nutrition) Foundation in 1996, the Community-based Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Programme aims to help small and marginal farmers conserve subsistence crops very basic to their food security. Having started its work with seed conservation, the programme has expanded to include a more holistic view of sustainable agriculture - organic farming, use of bio-pesticides, bio-fertilisers and soil improvement.

Along with these, maintenance of kitchen and community gardens, vermicompost production, organic farming certification, organisation of farmers into a federation called Janadhanya, Field Farmers' School Programme, and income generation activities like handicrafts, also come within its purview.

Women are accorded a particularly enhanced role in the programme, based on the understanding that they are the ones who do most of the 'invisible' work related to agriculture. A major plank of the programme is to provide sustainability to its efforts in the villages it works in- farmers' federations, Village Development Committees and Community Resources Persons are being developed for the same.

The programme currently covers 65 villages in Karnataka and has impacted nearly 4000 farmers. It runs 14 community seed banks across the state and a gene bank that houses approximately 420 seed varieties. The impact of the programme extends far beyond this. Its partners over the years have adopted the approach in their respective regions of operation, extending up to Bangladesh and Nepal. The Karnataka government's Organic Farming Mission is substantially inspired by it.

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