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Desi Beej Mahotsav - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar helps farmers beat monopoly of firms making hybrid seeds

The event was organised to connect farmers and exchange knowledge about desi seed varieties and how growing it can be a viable business.

Over 2,000 farmers met at The Art of Living International Center in Bengaluru to be part of the Desi Beej Mahotsav to exchange knowledge, come together on a common platform, interact, know about desi seed varieties and how growing them can be turned profitable, to beat the monopoly of companies making hybrid seeds.

The exhibition was graced by the presence of humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of The Art of Living. Also present, were some of the award-winning farmers and conservationists like Bheem Singh who is a recipient of Krishi Unnati Award from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and conservationists like Rahibai Soma Popere, or 'Seed Mother', who was in the BBC list of '100 Women of 2018', who helps other farmers return to native varieties of crops, preparing hyacinth beans for self-help groups.

"We are helping farmers to cultivate and preserve these indigenous seeds," says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, "Agriculture is the backbone of human existence. For any civilisation to prosper, agriculture has to be healthy and sustainable. Where farmers are happy that country will be happy and wealthy, so we have to do some service for farmers . Farmers practiced chemical farming in combination with hybrid seeds, which in turn made the environment polluted , production reduced, and in most cases high debt drove Indian farmers towards suicide. Government is giving subsidy , its good, but farmers should become self dependent, this is possible by adopting natural farming with indigenous cows, maintaining indigenous seed bank, following intercropping etc, and after all efficiency in planning altogether will give a better solution for farmers."

Welcoming all the farmers to the Desi Beej Mahotsav, Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences & Technology Trust chairman Rama Krishna Reddy said, " We have arranged this seed mela exclusively for farmers to share seeds and knowledge. Now, the farmers have to buy and shell out money for seeds (which are mostly hybrid variety) every time they have to sow. To free the farmers from this cycle we are proposing this method of going back to indigenous seed. To encourage them to earn more we are training farmers to grow indigenous seeds and trade between them."

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a vision to protect desi breeds of cow and desi seed varieties, and make every farmer in the country happy, prosperous and healthy. In order to fulfil his vision and also to make the desi seeds available to the farmers for the kharif season, the Desi Bheej Mahotsav was organised by SSIAST.

"Desi seeds are well suited to local agroclimatic conditions, helpful against pest attacks, disease and are drought resistant," said SSIAST CEO Venkatesh SR, "Farmer is a rightful owner of the seeds. He is a seed keeper. True empowerment of the farmer lies in having farmers be active participants in the supply chain."

Long before the Green Revolution, there were ancient Desi varieties of wheat that were grown in India for thousands of years. These varieties are almost extinct in the country today due to the rampant use of hybrid and improved wheat varieties. One such variety rediscovered by Art of Living in the farms of Pingalwara ashram of Pooran Singh is the wheat called Sona moti, christened by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi  Shankar after its almost round shape and golden hue.

The Art of Living has trained 2.2 million farmers in natural farming method, which is climate resistant, uses multi-cropping, so farmers can still make profits in spite of poor precipitation and provides competitive yields without compromising on the financial and physical health of the farmer. Practising natural farming requires desi seeds. Currently, there are very few reliable sources for getting indigenous seeds.

"This is because, unlike hybrid seeds which are a monopoly of a few large companies, desi seeds can be grown and multiplied by anybody and the grower receives nothing for it," said Dr. Prabhakar Rao, a trustee with SSIAST.

The Art of Living is providing the know-how to make desi seeds into a viable business model by developing a royalty model in collaboration with some universities like University of Leeds, Technical University of Munich, Germany, and Heirloom Seed Breeders Association from France.

The Mahotsav also offered exchange of knowledge on:

  • Display of method of growing paddy where 2.5 kgs of seeds are used for an acre of land.
  • 50 cm by 50 cm - Perumal method - where 250 gms of seeds are used per acre.
  • Bheejamruth preparation - seed treatment by indigenous method to ensure 90% sprouting of seeds.
  • Crop calendar
  • How to preserve desi Seeds naturally through indigenous methods.