In the late 1980s, the movement was initiated by the group of activists of Hemwal Valley of Tehri and led by a farmer and social activist Vijay Jardhari. ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ (Save the Seeds Movement) was started from Jardhargaon of Tehri district, Uttarakhand.
Because of the adverse effects of Green revolution, many indigenous practises and seeds have been lost. Earlier there were more than 3000 varieties of rice in Garhwal before Green Revolution, now there are only 320. “We started the ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ as an awareness campaign in 1989 for farmers to discontinue growing cash crops like peas, potatoes and soybean, and promote indigenous practices like the ‘Baranaja’,” Vijay Jardhari said. It is a traditional method of mixed farming and intercropping of twelve species in agriculture.
A movement to revive the old traditions of agriculture and against the agro-business policies which only benefits the rich people. This movement also promotes the traditional practises of the villagers like controlling the pests by using the leaves of walnut and neem.
He discovered the old tradition of agriculture ‘Baranaja’ which means 12 anaja or grain (Baraha anaja). In this process, 12 seeds of different kinds is harvested in the fields. After this wheat is sown and the same procedure is repeated. Thus, a proper crop rotation is ensured. Some of these seeds are immune to drought, floods and pests which are beneficial for the farmers during natural calamities to at least have some production on their farms.
His dedication not only brought change in the lives of villagers but also changed the attitude of the government. The Agriculture Department accepts that his Barahnaja scheme is being practised all over the region. People like him can bring a significant change in the agricultural practices in today’s fast eroding farming sector. The success of movement can simply be measured by the collection of about 350 varieties of paddy, eight varieties of wheat, four of barley, 220 varieties of kidney beans (rajma), eight of cowpea and 12 varieties of navrangi dhal.
This movement has not only resulted in higher yields but also improved the soil fertility and agro-biodiversity. In 2002, the Booker Prize Winner, Arundhati Roy donated Rs 1.5 lakhs to Beej Bachao Andolan on being impressed by the work of locals to conserve their traditional seeds. The people of Uttarakhand and government has yet to acknowledge their work and support them.
Inputs from: beejbachaoandolan.org