Celebrations of Tenth Anniversary of
It was a decade ago that we started celebrating the return of the Sun on Sankranti Day with festivities marking the return of our cherished local seeds into active farming systems through a colourful Biodiversity Festival. The Festival not only symbolises the celebration of the agrobiodiversity of the region but also the way the poor and the women have retrieved their dignity and autonomy. This is the tenth year of the Festival and we rejoice the dawn of that time of the year again-- time for the farmers of the Deccan dryland region to celebrate their food systems, seed sovereignty and rich bio-diversity on their farms; time to celebrate their identity as farmers even as others of their kind are losing hope and hold on their independence
Since 1999, the annual Mobile Bio-diversity Festival of DDS has made its presence felt as a unique festival of the rural communities, dialoguing with fellow farmers and citizens about ecologically sustainable agriculture, community seed sovereignty and the idea of local production, local consumption and local markets.
Continuing the tradition, the Biodiversity Festival - 2009 started on Makara Sankranti, 14th January, from the village Tekur, Nyalkal Mandal and concluded at Machnoor village on 13th February. The colourful caravan, heralding the joys of food sovereignty, once again rolled across 55 villages in Medak District.
The Mobile Bio-diversity caravan is welcomed by people of all the villages through which it travels excluding an atmosphere of gaiety. It symbolises an agrarian system which is capable of sustaining the lives and livelihoods of the entire rural community. Hundreds of traditional varieties of seeds (of the Deccan dryland region) are displayed in the caravan of tastefully decorated bullock-carts. The harvest festival of Sankranti merges with the festivity here.
The final National Biodiversity Action Plan of India has strongly endorsed biodiversity festivals pioneered by the Deccan Development Society as a tool for the promotion of agri-biodiversity all over the country alongside recommending that the Community Gene Banks model of the DDS should become a national model.
The procession of bullock carts, decorated with sheaves of grain, flower garlands and colourful fabrics is an overpowering image of bountiful crops and food-sovereign villages. Inside the evocatively painted carts there are small baskets with their own glass cases containing seeds, a colourful shop-window of biological diversity on wheels. Each village greeted the procession with songs and dances. Women farmers, moving along the caravan, singing and dancing, spread their message of ecological farming even as other women prepare traditional dishes bringing out the culinary significance of their crops.
It is a time for many to turn nostalgic about food and food crops they dissociated with long time ago, pressed by aggressive marketing of external input-based agriculture which they have been forced to practise today. In every village there were discussions about the concerns and demands of the agrarian communities, especially the poor and women.
A number of important visitors are with us in solidarity this festival. They include a large group of farmers from Southern Africa and scholars from Kwazulu Natal University and the African Centre for Biosafety. Prof Jeffrey M Smith, a globally famous scholar and writer on genetic engineering, food sovereignty activists from all across India, Dr Michel Pimbert, internationally known scholar on agro ecology, and prominent organic farmers from many parts of India.Festival Route Map