| Agrobiodiversity in Andhra Pradesh
- a Farmers' Perspective
|About this book|
|A constant refrain heard in Andhra Pradesh is that the
state is the Annapoorna, the Rice Bowl of the South. What is never said
is that apart from the crop species called rice, Andhra Pradesh is home
to at least eight species of millets, 12 species of pulses, six species
of oilseeds -- each one of them sporting dozens of varieties. Besides
these, the state grows dozens of species of spices, and hundreds of species
But the fact that none of these find a place in the popular discourse on agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, because rice displaces all of them by occupying the centre space in the discussion on agriculture, is a tragedy. The saving grace is that Andhra Pradesh, despite the assault of the Green Revolution, still grows hundreds of local varieties of rice. But the fact that they are constantly being replaced and ousted by a few lab varieties is threatening to add an ominous dimension to this tragedy.
The Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, a network of over 140 civil society groups, spread across all the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh, is addressing this big gap in information and awareness. It is trying to bring the forgotten crop diversity in Andhra Pradesh onto the centre stage of agricultural discourse. The first task undertaken by the three -year old Coalition was to create Community Biodiversity Registers [CBRs] in every mandal [the smallest administrative unit in AP] of Andhra Pradesh.
Consequently, more than 600 Community Bio- diversity Registers have been created in different parts of Andhra Pradesh over the last two years. More than the number of CBRs, the coming together of rural communities in the process of creating CBRs has generated a fascinating momentum of its own. This has manifested in the demand for District Level Bio-diversity Exhibitions, increased discussion on ecological and bio- diverse farming, as well as the need for the establishment of District Biodiversity Resource Cells.
This increased consciousness has also found expression in a statewide movement of farmers and civil society organisations, as evidenced in the memorandum to the government of Andhra Pradesh, signed by over hundred thousand citizens of Andhra Pradesh, primarily farmers, urging the state to halt its Vision 2020 agricultural policy, which is detrimental to biodiversity and Ecological Agriculture.
Another historic engagement of the Coalition was in partnering the momentous Farmers Jury called Prajateerpu, which unequivocally rejected the Vision 2020 model of agriculture. Apart from being noted for the assertion of small and women farmers from all parts of Andhra Pradesh, the Prajateerpu was also a landmark in citizen participation. It was a model of Deliberative Democracy, a concept tried out for the first time in India
In this context it is very natural that the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity has decided to come out with the publication of the Status of Agro Biodiversity in AP. It is not our assertion that this is the most exhaustive document on the subject. Nor do we intend to claim that this publication has looked at the issue of agro biodiversity from all possible angles. If there is anything unique about this booklet, it is that it has not been produced by any agricultural scholar. What separates this book from other books on the subject is the fact that it comes out of a participatory process, and that it has been produced by real, authentic scholars-- yes, the farmers themselves.
In September 2002 the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity held a series of workshops with farmers from different districts in the three regions of Andhra Pradesh --- Telangana, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra, in each of which the farmers gave an account of the status of bio-diversity in their respective regions. And what they said in these workshops is what has become the content of this book.
The Coalition hopes that this would be just the beginning of a long
and exciting process of exploring and understanding the fascinating
scenario of agro biodiversity in this great land of agriculture called