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Mobile Biodiversity Festival of DDS inaugurated



Local food production and biodiversity are the key to solve agrarian crisis

In a state like AP where farmer suicides are rampant and seed crisis dominates agrarian scene, could there be a place where every farmer has her own seeds, their farms sport diverse crops grown ecological and no farmer has committed suicide?

This is the message of the Mobile Biodiversity Festival of the Deccan Development Society which was inaugurated on Saturday by Mr K R Venugopal, Special Rapporteur for the National Human Rights Commission and formerly Secretary to the Prime Minister of India.

The month long festival is a caravan that travels over 60 villages. Bullock carts decorated with traditional motifs, panicles and spikes of tens of varieties of local crops and laden with baskets full of traditional seeds, singers, dancers and cultural performers make up of the caravan. Over the last five years the Mobile Biodiversity Festival has dialogues with over 100,000 farmers on the strengths of their farming system.

The Festival 2006 was inaugurated in Pyalaram Village in Jharasangham Mandal of Medak District. Pyalaram has declared itself Seed Sovereign. Every farmer here has her own seeds and plants not less than 15 crops on her land. Therefore it made the ideal setting for the Festival.

"Food is a fundamental human right and only when this right was fulfilled, the other rights such as health, education would follow", asserted Mr K R Venugopal, Special Rapporteur for the National Human Rights Commission and formerly Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, "Therefore it became the responsibility of the State to concentrate all its efforts to provide for this right. The current PDS system which totally depended upon the food production in states such as Punjab and Haryana and transported it over thousands of kilometers to provide food to Indian people, was archaic", he said. "The average movement of one quintal of rice by the Food Corporation of India was 2000 kms. This entailed huge expenditure which was beyond the capacity of the state and hence gave rise to many kinds of corruption and malpractices". The only way to prevent this disaster was to follow the model of Deccan Development Society which had put the cultivable fallows in the villages under production and thereby ensured local production and local distribution, Mr Venugopal emphasised.

Recounting his recent travel all over Andhra Pradesh as a representative of the National Human Rights Commission and his encounter with hundreds of farmer families which had witnessed suicides and hunger deaths, Mr Venugopal said that the previous model of PDS had outlived its usefulness and the current need was to ensure community control over their food production and distribution.

Introducing the festival, Mr P V Satheesh, Director, DDS said that the Festival which symbolizes the biodiversity based traditional farming of the region produces hope, not despair. The evidence of this can be found in Southern Medak where not a single traditional farmer has committed suicide while farmer suicide is rampant in other parts of AP where farming has to heavily dependent upon external inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. In contrast the traditional farmers of Southern Medak are ecological and hardly use any external inputs. Therefore, though they may not have a high income, none of them has to despair even if they lose a harvest or two. Their farming thus was an affirmation of life, he said.

Moreover, Mr Satheesh said, farming in this region was completely rainfed and therefore did not use a precious resource such as water. In view of this, he pleaded for state support for this farming that can evolve into the answer for the agrarian crisis in the state.

Medak District Collector Mr Burra Venkatesham, who presided over endorsed this life affirming quality of the biodiverse ecological farming of Southern Medak. He recounted how the region had no farmer suicides while Medak District had the highest number of farmer suicides in the State.

The debt ridden farmers, in spite of achieving higher productivity were unable to live a life of dignity and were escaping into death. The chemicalisation of agriculture had produced more food but it did not make for a healthy food. Therefore the question before us was how to make it possible for every family to become food self sufficient, live a healthy and happy life. This was the quest of the bureaucracy, politicians, scientists and thinkers, Mr Venkatesham said and complimented the Deccan Development Society for its twenty years efforts resulting in food self sufficient communities who had driven despair out of their midst and creating a model for the entire state.

Ms Pyalaram Sarojinamma and Paremma were special honoured for their contribution as ecological seedkeepers.

Ms Sunita Patil, Chairperson, Medak Zilla Parishad and Prof G S Aurora, Chairperson, Deccan Development Society also spoke.
The one month festival which is now known internationally for its cultural vibrancy and environmental significance will travel through nearly 60 villages and will conclude on February 12, 2006.

The Origin:

The first Biodiversity Festival of the DDS was held in year 1999. Greatly buoyed by the response it received, the Festival was made mobile since 2001. This festival has generated an unprecedented energy and an enlightened awareness on the issues of biodiversity in all the villages. The festival is a caravan encompassing environmental spirituality marked by a set of specially decorated bullock carts carrying seeds of local crops which go round the villages, performance of folk songs and dances and holding of public meetings to discuss the importance of biodiversity and local seed varieties in each of these villages.
The Deccan Development Society was invited to be a key constituent of the national Technical and Policy Core Group for the Ministry of Environment & Forests in the massive National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan carried out all over India in the years 2001-2003. As a part of this work, in the year 2001 the Society initiated the concept of Mobile Biodiversity Festival in which bullock carts studded with traditional seeds, carrying the message of agricultural biodiversity and its importance to farmers travelled from village to village covering over 70 villages. This festival generated a never-before-witnessed cultural energy and an informed awareness on the issues of biodiversity in all the villages.
The information that the final National Biodiversity Action Plan has strongly endorsed biodiversity festivals as a tool for the promotion of agrobiodiversity all over the country alongside recommending that the Community Gene Banks model of the DDS should become a national model.
Elated by this development, the Deccan Development Society has continued to celebrate the Mobile Biodiversity Festival as an annual feature. The festival is a caravan encompassing environmental spirituality marked by a set of specially designed bullock carts carrying seeds of local crops which go round the villages, performance of folk songs and dances and holding of public meetings to discuss the importance of biodiversity and local seed varieties in each of these villages.

Schedule of caravan

The Caravan wills split into two groups and travel the following villages.

Date Group I Villages
Group II Villages
14-01-2006
INAUGURATION AT PYALARAM VILLAGE
15-01-2006 Eedulapally Jeerlapally
16-01-2006 Chilkapalli Kambalapally
17-01-2006 Yedakulapalli Guntamarpally
18-01-2006 Cheelamamidi Singitam
19-01-2006
MANDAL JATHRA AT JHARASANGAM
20-01-2006 Bidakanne Raipally
21-01-2006 Pastapur Ranjhole
22-01-2006 Yelgoi Hoti - K
23-01-2006 Potpalli Hoti - B
24-01-2006
MANDAL JATHRA AT ZAHEERABAD
25-01-2006 Khasimpur Ippapalli
26-01-2006 Kottur Chinna Hyderabad
27-01-2006 Rechintal Gangwar
28-01-2006 Mamidgi Basantpur
29-01-2006 Hoselli & Ganeshpur Kalimela
30-01-2006 Tekur Gunjoti
31-01-2006 Samshuddinpur  
1-02-2006
MANDAL JATHRA AT NYALKAL
2-02-2006 Humnapur Malgi
3-02-2006 Raghavapur Cheekurti
4-02-2006 Matur Hameerabad
5-02-2006 Itikepally Mirempur
6-02-2006   Huligera
7-02-2006
MANDAL JATHRA AT RAIKODE
8-02-2006 Maibatpur Jambgi
9-02-2006 Borancha Pippadpally
10-02-2006 Dhanwar Mamidipally
11-02-2006 Sangapur Indoor
12-02-2006
ENDING CEREMONY AT MACHNOOR