Unesco Green Citizens

Securing community Livelihood and Nutrition

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Project begin: 20/05/2005

Citizens across 60 villages of the Maharashtra region gathered to manage the conservation of indigenous crop and local bio-resources; preserving soils through communities’ engagement ! 

Realising the need to work around diverse bio-resources which naturally occur in different agro-climatic zones and the significance of the sustained availability of this diversity to the communities, the work around native, domesticated and diverse bio-resources such as wild relatives and local cultivars of diverse crops and forestry species and indigenous breeds of domesticated livestock has been identified as an important Programme component in BAIF.

The programmes approach was to appreciate the naturally occurring diversity, initiate efforts for community based, participatory, in situ conservation and revival of these bio-resources. The programme also aimed to document traditional knowledge, useful traits and community’s perceptions of these bio-resources and ex-situ conservation actions by blending science and technology tools for long term conservation and availability of preferred diversity. The Project focuses on the creation of: a community managed seed and agricultural produce marketing system, promotion of low cost organic farming practices for crop production, knowledge building and transfer for conservation, cultivation, consumption, value addition of produce from crop cultivars and wild edible plants in 60 tribal villages of the Gadchiroli, Nandurbar, Ahmednagar, Palghar, Pune districts of Maharashtra. It fulfils the following key objectives:

  • Documentation of biodiversity, traditional wisdom, and conservation practices adopted by communities in different ecosystems and eco-zones in Maharashtra,
  • Validation and upholding of successful conservation practices by observations, experimentation, data collection and analysis
  • Propagation of these successful practices by communication and intervention at the academic, policy and societal level, from the regional to the international scale.
  • To sustain rich heritage of biodiversity resources on a long term basis to be able to address the issue of climate change related vulnerability and food and nutrition insecurity. 
Leading organisation: BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune
Covered Countries: India
Theme: Biodiversity
Sub-themes: Natural resource management
Tag: #Women
Selection: 2020
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Initial Problem

Following key issues were prevalent in the region before the start of the initiative:
• Depleting resilient indigenous Crop cultivars and narrowing genetic base resulting in enhanced dependency of farmers on outside support
• Valuable genetic types were under serious threat of extinction and also under the process of erosion due to various factors like modernization of agriculture, process of conversion of natural habitats for agriculture, residential purposes, and process of industrialization etc.
• Poverty amidst plenty and enhanced cost of cultivation
• Highly prevalent mono-cropping and mono-varietal cropping causing crop failure and newer pests and diseases.
• Rampant malnourishment among tribal communities.
• Weak community organizations and farmer’s networks focusing on agro-biodiversity aspects
• Lack of market linkages for unique Crop produce.
• Negligence of Nutritional Aspects in conventional Agriculture systems
• Erosion of traditional knowledge on Agrobiodiversity, related recipes, seed preservation and exchange
• Growing vulnerability of farmers to climate change and climatic stresses
• Less recognition to women farmers who are custodian of seed related knowledge
• Reduction in diverse options for crop cultivation which affects food security and nutritional security of tribal communities.
• Dependency on a handful of improved crop varieties leading to crop failure in adverse climatic conditions.
• Increase in use of chemical inputs in agriculture, leading to increase in cost of cultivation.
• Market dependency for Agriculture inputs –Seeds, Fertilizers, Pesticides.
• Loss of Traditional Knowledge associated with Agriculture and related activities.

The positive impacts that the project has made

– Secured diverse indigenous crop cultivars through 6 community seed banks (More than 600 indigenous crop cultivars) and achieved seed sovereignty.

– Process for safeguarding of indigenous crop cultivars through registration of farmer varieties under the protection of plant varieties and Farmers rights act 2001 and deposition of crop germplasm to National Gene bank as common heritage from remote tribal blocks of Maharashtra

– Increased food diversity in kitchen gardens leading to food and nutritional security of 8538 tribal communities.

– Inventory of wild edible plants covering more than 250 species covering information on habitat, edible parts, method of preparation, preservation methods, present status, medicinal importance which is base for further conservation and Domestication of these species.

– Promotion of sustainable agriculture practices and improved cultivation practices like System of Rice Intensification, ridge and furrow method in millet crops, line sowing leading to increase in soil fertility, easy availability of inputs, increase in crop yield and reduction in cost of cultivation.

– Grass root innovators like Shrimati Raibai popere have been given the Padmshree award by the Government of India which is felicitation of grass root scientists.

– Tribal community Brand “Farming Monk” developed and steps towards its population taken for marketing of Unique Surplus indigenous produce.

– Community mobilization and awareness through village level seed exhibitions, wild food recipe competitions and training and exposure

– Sensitization of 16 school students from tribal schools through Exercise, Training, Exposures for biodiversity aspects and sustainable agriculture which is useful for developing cadre of resource team at school.

– 30 crop demonstration centres established for field level training’s and awareness in three clusters.

– Community level seed enterprise of Nutritional garden kits developed and strengthened for sustainable source of Income to Tribal women groups.

– The project has helped document many local vegetables and crops which are on the verge of extinction and which once served as a rich resource for food security. Local crop and vegetable based traditional recipes and related knowledge has also been documented and being transferred to the next generation. The project demonstrated how food and nutritional security can be achieved by introducing perennial and seasonal vegetable crops through the use of a kitchen garden

– The project has helped strengthen many local level institutions in the form of Seed Savers groups. The project could demonstrate how community led actions for conservation and management of biodiversity is possible and effective. The project has helped create a field evidence of a model focusing on participatory and collaborative actions to facilitate long term conservation of diverse, native, bio resource The successes of this Programme will serve as a model to be implemented in other states of India.

The impacted areas and population

– Securing Region wise indigenous crop cultivars diversity by establishment of seed banks -5 tribal blocks
–  Nutritional security through establishment of Nutrition gardens- 8538 families
– Seed security through community level seed production- 2000 families
– Safeguarding of Indigenous crop cultivar diversity Through Deposition to NBPGR and registration of farmer varieties under PPV & FR act 2001- 5 Tribal communities (Warli & Kokana,Pawara,Madiya,Mahadeo Koli)
– Knowledge building and awareness -10500 families
– Promotion of Community led approach through networking and linkages- 6 Districts of Maharashtra
– Piloting Community led agrobiodiversity approach within BAIF programmes -2 States of India( Gujarat and Uttrakhand)
– Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer on Agrobiodiversity aspects -3250 students

The obstacles and challenges

– Government policies on promotion of Improved crop varieties/HYVs leads to loss of Indigenous crop cultivar diversity.
– As per Protection of Plant varieties and Farmers Rights act 2001, farmers can save, exchange, share seeds of indigenous crop cultivars but cannot sell seeds with processing and Branding.
– Missing of participatory approach in government systems which leads to failure of such innovative and needs based programmes
– Aspirations of youth and loss of inter-generational knowledge transfer mechanism within communities.
– Lack of supportive legal framework for the seed sovereignty and indigenous seeds movement
Challenges
– Maintaining seed purity and promotion of Unique worthy crop cultivars is a lengthy process.
– Developing support to Grass Root Genome saviours who had conserved amazing indigenous crop cultivar diversity.
– Proper documentation of Indigenous Knowledge associated with agrobiodiversity is a step in the right direction
– Lack of awareness on sustainable development at government level is causing difficulties in promotion of agrobiodiversity based livelihood and Nutritional security approaches.

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