How farms across India are banking on native grains and hope to reap a good harvest

We have had the wettest June in 12 years, in accordance to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

Statistics launched by the IMD present that India recorded 118% of the Long Period Average rainfall in June 2020, which is taken into account extra. These copious showers introduced cheer to the farming group, regardless of a number of areas dealing with intrinsic challenges akin to scarcity of labour within the wake of COVID-19 and disruption in provide chains due to intermittent lockdowns.

In many states, each Government and private-owned seed banks ensured that farmers had enough seeds to sow. Farmers following sustainable practices seen a rise in demand for chemical-free produce and native greens, fruits and grains, spurred by the necessity to eat wholesome and enhance immunity ranges in some pockets.

In Hyderabad and different districts of Telangana, the place scorching warmth prevailed until late June in the previous few years, the pre-monsoon showers in the direction of the top of May and monsoon within the first week of June inspired farmers to put together their land to sow rain-fed crops.

Seed distribution in Bidakanne village, Telangana, after the primary rains  
| Photo Credit:
Sneha Koppula

Going native

At Zaheerabad-based Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, which has change into the go-to centre for Permaculture, its CEO Padma Koppula has seen the elevated sowing of sorghum, pigeon pea and cotton in close by areas.

She additionally witnessed a small however steadily rising demand for foxtail millet and a sizeable demand for seeds and saplings of native fruits and greens. “It is good to see more focus on food crops this time; nearly 80 farmers in this region are trying out 30 varieties of fruit saplings,” explains Padma.

A good harvest

  • Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, Telangana: Demand for seeds and saplings of mangoes, jackfruit, wild species of phalsa, neem, cashew nut, soursop, custard apple, ginger, turmeric, tree spinach and moringa. Farmers are additionally rising small bitter gourd, tapioca, vetiver, lemongrass and air potatoes.
  • Buffalo Back Collective, Karnataka: Ragi, avarakai (broad beans), groundnut and sesame are among the many common native crops right here.
  • Farms close to Chennai: Seeraga samba, thanga samba, Thanjavur ponni and thooya malli rice.

Paddy cultivation has already begun in Domadugu, Guntapally and different villages close to Hyderabad, in addition to the cultivation of inexperienced and black gram, toor dal, and native greens. A couple of years in the past, natural farmer Praveen Abhishetty had begun rising small portions of aromatic chitti muthyalu, crimson and black rice varieties. He intends to achieve this this yr as nicely.

Direct promoting

Bengaluru-based Prabhakar Rao, the founding father of Hariyalee Seeds, works with farmers across India and affirms planting has begun pretty early owing to the monsoon. “Leading up to the sowing season, the sale of seeds peaked to 300% of our usual volumes,” he states.

Prabhakar additionally seen a tangible enhance within the demand for chemical-free, secure meals following the pandemic outbreak: “Those with diabetes, which is considered a co-morbidity for COVID-19, wanted to start including millets in their diet. Farmers living close to urban areas have been able to sell their produce at apartment complexes and gated communities without middlemen. We don’t know how long this urge to have healthy food will sustain. Right now, people are willing to spend more for good produce since there is no expenditure on eating out, malls and other entertainment. Retail chains are also keen to source native grains and pulses,” he explains.

Green Gram varieties Chamki Pesarlu and Balintha Pesarlu at Aranya Agricultural Alternatives

Green Gram varieties Chamki Pesarlu and Balintha Pesarlu at Aranya Agricultural Alternatives
| Photo Credit:
Sneha Koppula

The golden pearl

Among the grains and pulses discovering extra takers, Prabhakar lists amaranth, chickpea and cowpea. He has additionally been on the forefront of reintroducing heritage wheat varieties akin to the two,000-year-old Sona Moti. “This year, farmers in Punjab harvested 60 tonnes of Sona Moti which were pre-sold at ₹ 75/kilogram,” says Prabhakar.

A couple of different farm communities are treading cautiously. Visalakshi Padmanabhan who based the Buffalo Back Collective and works from a farm within the neighborhood of Bannerghatta in Bengaluru, says the early arrival of monsoon has been a boon. “Since this is a rain-shadow region, farmers here usually prepare for drought. This year, everyone is busy doing their best to harvest the available water. With the help of forest officials, ponds and streams along the elephant corridor were cleaned up; new ponds have also been created. This prevents elephants from venturing into human settlements for water.”

With weekly natural farmers markets in Bengaluru shut due to COVID-19, she says how farmers had to search for alternative routes to attain their customers.

Rice is sweet

In Chennai, natural farmer VM Parthasarathy says whereas farmers on this belt are pleased with the early monsoon, they are involved about forecasts that counsel the potential of a flood-like scenario in November-December 2020. Memories of 2015 floods nonetheless stay recent. “No one wants to delay planting so that they can harvest before the floods. The lockdown has been tough since we couldn’t exchange seeds within our organic farmer networks in different cities; we have had to find alternatives,” he says.

Nirosha Kathiravan of The Villagers in Vandavasi, close to Chennai, has sowed seeraga samba rice for the primary time. “We domesticate groundnut, sesame, moong and urad dals too. The monsoon has helped us plant extra grass varieties and maize as fodder for our indigenous cattle [milk and milk products are the mainstays of this farm]. The massive problem on this belt is to discover labour, which has change into more durable due to unfold of the pandemic past Chennai limits,” she says.

The monsoon has introduced new hope and the farming communities look ahead to tiding over logistical setbacks and reap good harvests.

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