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Concluding Ceremony of Mobile Biodiversity Festivals 2005
 

The Biodiversity Festival has now become an annual feature of the region where the Deccan Development Society works. It has become one of the traditional festival for the local people and the same with the name "Biodiversity Festival - 2005" started from Village Hoti B, Zaheerabad Mandal, Medak District on January 14, 2005 on the auspicious day of Sankranti and has traveled through 54 villages. The Jathra was inaugurated by Dr Rajender Singh, a famous environmentalist and winner of Raman Magsaysay award. Invitees from the state government viz., Smt. Nirmala I.A.S., Joint Commissioner for Rural development, Govt. of A.P., Sri Suresh Shetkar, M.L.A., Narayankhed, Sri G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Reknowned Agricultural Scientist participated in the opening ceremony.

The Concluding Ceremony of the Jatara is held at Pachasaale, the Green School being run by the DDS at Machnoor Village, Jharasangam Mandal on February 15, 2005. Some of the special invitees who have participated in the ceremony are Mr P V S Suryakumar, Deputy General Manager, NABARD, Dr Michel Pimbert, International Institute of Environment & Development , London, Ms Ignacia Yucra Alvarez, ANDES, Peru, Mr Sayyad Soltani, CENESTA, Iran. A group of farmers and internationally known environmentalists from Peru, Iran and UK have actively participated in the Closing Ceremony.

DDS "Biodiversity Calendar" was released by Ms Sunita Patil , Chairperson, Medak Zilla Parished, Andhra Pradesh. A Film on "People's Agenda for Bio diversity" was released by Dr Vinod Pavarala, Professor of Communication,University of Hyderabad

DDS had made detailed survey to identify the well-noted and successful farmers, who have wedded their agricultural activity for keeping alive the traditional agricultural methods and propagating the importance of biodiversity, and mixed cropping patterns. Advantage has been taken to invite such farmers and honor them before the elite guests and general public at the Concluding Ceremony. Advantage has also been taken to honour Ms Chilakapalli Anasuyamma Ms Bardipur Shantamma and Ms Ranjole Shobha,Ms Eedulapalle Manjula who had done unforgettable service by actively participating and conducting Jathras during the year 2004 and 2005.

Consequent on celebrating the festival in 54 villages and having interaction with a diverse and large sections of farmers the attention of entire audience centered on such issues in the concluding ceremony. As a result the following memorandum unanimously approved by the farmers has been submitted to Ms Sunita Patel, Chair Person, Medak Zilla Parishad for further follow up with Government.

Memorandum submitted to Ms Sunita Patil , Chairperson, Medak Zilla Parished, Medak District


We the women farmers of the Zaheerabad region, representing Dalits and poor are very happy to present to you the following facts which embody the concerns of over 150,000 farmers of the Zaheerabad region with whom we have dialogued over the last five years through the medium of Mobile Biodiversity Festivals initiated by the Deccan Development Society.

As the first citizen of the District of Medak and as the citizen of Jaharasangam Mandal, you are extremely familiar with the agriculture of this region. When the entire Andhra Pradesh is going through a period of extreme turmoil marked by thousands of farmer suicides, we are proud that the Zaheerabad region has not had a single suicide until recently. We recognise this phenomenon as the result of an extraordinary farming system that we as women and as Dryland farmers have kept alive.

If we are able to conserve this farming system that is characterised by non chemical agriculture, crop diversity, raising of millets and food crops, then our lives and agriculture will be saved for ever and there will never be any suicide in this region. As the first citizen of this district, we earnestly request you to protect and enhance this richness of our agriculture.

As mentioned earlier, the Mobile Biodiversity Festival initiated by us has dialogued with over 150,000 farmers over the last five years. During this dialogue all the farmers have repeatedly endorsed the strength of our farming and have said that if the government provided an enabling environment for us, Zaheerabad region will have not agrarian crisis that has enveloped other parts of our state and the country. Very specifically the farmers have made the following demands.

  1. Dalits and poor farmers in this district have inherited marginal and poor quality lands, whether they are assigned or Inam lands. On these lands under rainfed circumstances the only crops they can grow are millets.
  2. The government which has repeatedly said that it wants to protect the poor farmers, must come forward to offer support and encouragement for farmers who grow millet crops like Sorghum, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Finger millet and Little millet.
  3. The government must recognise that these millets are nutritionally superior to rice and wheat, which have promoted to become the dominant crops through the policies of the government.
  4. In order to reverse this policy and provide encouragement to the millet farmers, the government must put millets in its PDS system. This will not only provide nutritionally rich grains to the poor but also provide a good market for the millet farmers. It is the absence of such a market which has become a deterrant to the farmers to grow millets.
  5. In every government be it Food for work, meals that the Social Welfare hostels or in the mid day meals in the schools or at anganwadis, it is always rice that is distributed. This has not only hampered the market for millets but also has changed the food habits of people. This must be immediately reversed by introducing millets in all these programmes. A beginning of providing millet based meals must be made in all the schools and hostels of Zaheerabad region. Please start this practice in Jahrasangam mandal where you come from and where your influence is strong. From this beginning the practice can be widened to include all other mandals
  6. Current lending policies of the banks are completely against millet farmers. They lend happily to cash crop farmers who use scarce resources like ground water and power alongside polluting our atmosphere with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. But the same banks do not lend healthy and environment friendly farming which the millet farmers practice. We request your to take lead in persuading the bankers in the region to extend the same lending polices to the millet farmers.
  7. A prerequisite for millet farming is the availability of farmyard manure. This demands that every village must have adequate likestock. But the livestock is dwindling progressively. We request you to help the farmers by offering easy loans to purchase livestock and regenerate their farming.
  8. Another useful support for millet farming is to encourage vermicomposting which can build soil fertility by offering a range of micronutrients to the soil. Thousands of women in DDS have been profitably producing vermicomposts at their backyard. They use this for their own farms as well as selling the surplus and making extra money. You should take a lead in persuading the government to offer women and SHGs support to take on this as a viable enterprise.
  9. Most of us, small farmers and women are also organic farmers but the present market does not make a distinction between chemical and organic farmers. This makes it difficult to pursue organic farming. Therefore we request you to create organic food outlets in every mandal headquarters and the District headquarters in Medak so that organic farmers can gain in status and economically.
  10. Finally, processing of small millets like foxtail and little millet has become a cumbersome process and a drudgery for women. However small mills are available for processing millets. If the government can give support for purchase of such mills by SHGs and womens groups by offering subsidies and easy loans, millets processing will become easy and thereby there will be a spurt in the cultivation of millets. This will help not only millet farmers but also millet consumers.

We hope as the first citizen of the District and as a very sensitive woman leader, you will consider all these issues holistically and start some bold and regenerative initiatives in our district and provide a lead to the State, the country and the world. If you are able to take steps to realise the above requests, this district will become suicide free, ecological and move towards prosperity and self reliance.

With our collective regards