Mountains filled with dense forests, air that is crisp and fresh, is breathtaking and indeed a truly mesmerizing experience just to be present in a place which feels like heaven on earth. Ironically though, earning a livelihood in such a Utopian environment can be quiet a daunting task, especially for an individual who comes from a non-agricultural background and decides to be a farmer.
In the small rustic town of Muniguda in the Rayagarh district of South Odisha, lives a farmer who is a champion in his own ways. Dada- as everyone calls him fondly- migrated from Kolkata to Odisha when there was dearth of water in his fields in Kolkata. Leaving behind his family- a father, wife and children, Dada moved to Odisha to grow and conserve 1000 different varieties of rice.
A visit to his farm was a heartwarming experience. Right at the entrance there was a kitchen garden in which he had grown various kinds of fruits and vegetables. On closer inspection, it was seen that this was no ordinary garden, but a highly planned piece of art, where the vegetables and fruits growing adjacent to each other seemingly had a symbiotic relationship and in some way assist each others’ growth. Dada had actually just grown these vegetables and fruits to see how they compete or complement each other and developed the entire garden by hit and miss method. He also used only organic manure to nurture these plants which he made and stored on his own in earthen pots in his garden.
A little further in the field, he grew more than 1000 varieties of rice which, while indistinguishable to the untrained eye, were placed by Dada in an extremely systematic manner. He went on to explain how he had actually collected these varieties of rice from different parts of India and grown them in small square blocks and labeled them scientifically, also keeping full written record of the varieties. In different seasons farmers visit him from all over India to retrieve varieties of rice and to grow them in their fields. In addition to rice, he also grew many organic fruits and vegetables.
Also inside his solar-powered hut, he kept small earthen pots, where he stored and kept different kinds of rice and maize. There dry seeds have kept for many years and when farmers from all over India visit him, he distributes these seeds to them, so that they can go back to their fields and perpetuate these varieties of rice. This field is run by him and a group of other farmer friends with due support from Dr. Debal Deb and Debajeet Sarangi, both of who are Nutrition Champions in the area of organic farming and actively support Dada’s work by giving him technical guidance.
Migration can be a daunting task, leaving behind his family in another state, and working towards rice conservation in Odisha. But when asked Dada is very happy doing what he is doing and feels very deeply passionate about his work. He does not charge money for sharing his seeds with farmers, but actually earns a living by giving lectures in many universities in India which are centered around seed conservation. A true example of working for his livelihood he is indeed a champion, more of what India needs.
By- Surbhi Bhalla