The November chill belies the festive fervour in scenic Deogarh village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district. Draped in vibrant sarees, a gaggle of boisterous ladies from surrounding villages makes its solution to the venue of the Burlang Competition. On their heads are the hand-painted burlangs (earthen/bamboo seed pots) that kind the core of this pageant of the Kutia Kondh group.
As soon as on the venue, the pots are positioned on a mud platform embellished with conventional motifs. Aside from the primary job of exchanging seeds, the occasion witnesses talks on agriculture, sharing of experiences, and felicitations of farmers. It additionally has its set of easy pleasures. The ladies dance collectively in a wave-like motion, inserting arms on one another’s shoulders, apart from indulging in celebratory feasts and tuning into tribal music.
A follow that fostered the group spirit and enabled sustainable built-in agriculture, Burlang Competition has helped the Kutia Kondhs of Tumudibandha tehsil save 60 indigenous seed types of mung, kandula, masang, kuling, kaladhan, kating, dangarrani, kangu, bazra and jower, edible roots, and domestically grown herbs and spices, in response to Odisha Millet Mission block coordinator Soumya Ranjan.
“Sakara and dhulila mint species have also been identified as traditional crops of the tribal people of Kandhamal, though they supposedly belong to the Himalayan belt,” stated Bikash Rath, a researcher and technical advisor to NIRMAN, an NGO that has been holding the Burlang Competition since 2013, after noticing that a number of conventional seeds within the area had been disappearing.
The pageant, domestically referred to as burlang jatra, started when a jaani (a ladies priest) seen the extreme seed scarcity locally and determined to discover a resolution. “Community leaders jaani, maji and bejan announce the timing of the festival. They believe the jatra would make the community realise the importance of indigenous seeds, besides overcoming the deficit through seed sharing… We celebrate three festivals: maria and anka are to please dharanipenu (the gods of nature) during times of climate crisis, while burlang jatra is held in times of seed deficit,” defined Kumuli Majhi, a younger Kutia Kondh girl.
Historically, the jatra was organised each three or 4 years. However after NIRMAN’s intervention, it turned an annual affair. The pageant is organised in a special village every time, with a majority of the households in 5 participant gram panchayats getting concerned in it. Seed alternate is voluntary in nature, and there’s no barter system or seed financial institution facility. Although a lot of the attendees within the seed alternate occasion are ladies, males additionally accompany them for the celebrations.
Sharing is caring
The Kutia Kondhs domesticate lands on dongars (hills), positioned far-off from villages. They construct earthen cottages close to to those fields’ crops throughout the harvest season. Millets, maize, pulses, sorghum, oil seeds, greens in addition to herbs and spices are their outstanding crops.
Months earlier than the pageant, the mature seeds of beans, pumpkin, onion, garlic, ginger, yam and different greens are collected, dried and saved away for the subsequent yr. “Since high-quality seeds are essential for a good harvest, we preserve them in burlangs,” stated Rukmani Nayak of Deogada in Kandhamal district.
Kuni Majhi of Dupi village claimed the Kutia Adivasi ladies possessed in-depth conventional information on harvesting, seed assortment and preservation, and took an effort to cross it onto the subsequent technology.
In line with Sita Majhi (60) of Rangaparu, seeds are tied up utilizing bamboo strips and saved in specially-built mud homes that don’t enable direct daylight. Darkish soil is used to construct these homes, and a particular combination constituted of cow dung, ash and dust is ready to shine them. This retains out rodents and bugs.
Tilottama Majhi (23) of Dupi began amassing and sharing seeds after studying about them from her elders. She stated they like to eat what they develop relatively than what they get on the PDS (public distribution system) retailers. In line with her, the villagers declare it solely to promote out there for money.
Mentioning that seed sharing was an integral a part of biodiverse farming, Ranjita Digar, a farmer from Birunga, stated, “It enables us to grow our own food. The production of millets and other indigenous grains is part of the Kutia Kondh identity. Notwithstanding this, millet production has come down in recent years causing a shift in traditional dietary practices.” This actual fact upholds the importance of the Burlang Competition.
Selling indigenous crops
When NIRMAN carried out an agricultural survey in 2011, it discovered that a number of indigenous crops had disappeared because of hybrid agricultural practices. The youthful technology additionally related their conventional diets with poverty and backwardness, which led to the exclusion of staples like millets from their meals baskets. Then again, farmers stopped cultivating small grains because of lack of a gradual market and procurement system.
“Realising these issues, we decided to first focus on Dupi village to preserve traditional crops and knowledge practices for the future generation,” stated NIRMAN government director Prasant Mohanty.
In line with Dr Debashis Jena, a senior scientist at Cuttack Krishi Vigyan Kendra, hybrid seeds launched throughout the Inexperienced Revolution had been much less drought and flood-resistant. They wanted environment friendly administration of water, fertilisers, pesticides and pesticides. With rainfall turning into erratic and climate patterns altering over the previous couple of a long time, manufacturing additionally dropped.
As crop loss started to hang-out farmers regardless of investing in fertilisers, pesticides and labour, aged and tribal farmers step by step started to keep away from hybrid seeds and returned to conventional farming practices and seeds which had the potential to be climate-smart, genetically various and sustainable.
They’re already seeing the advantages of switching again to conventional methods. As they use solely cow dung for manure, their crops earn higher costs below the natural produce class. There’s a big demand for his or her merchandise in Pallishree and Adivasi Melas held within the State.
Sushree Mohanty, an anthropologist on the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, stated the lads in Kutia Kondh group did all of the heavy work, together with irrigation of farms to the precise cultivation course of. The ladies, however, had been engaged in skilful work, together with preservation of seeds.
NIRMAN programme officer Sigma Dan stated ladies locally have grow to be conservationists of their information programs, meals, diet and well being. They play a central function in all elements of group life, from farming, to processing, to decision-making.
On why seed sharing was necessary, Soumya Ranjan stated, “Kandhamal district is a hilly terrain and does not have much plain land. Hence, the tribal people convert hilltops into farmlands… However, not everyone can cultivate all kinds of crops and so they uphold the practice of seed exchange.”
(Prativa Ghosh is Bhubaneswar based mostly freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India community of grassroots reporters, the place this text was initially revealed.)
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