Mobile biodiversity festival calls for seed sovereignty

Zaheerabad: The mobile festivals of Deccan Development Society (DDS) form the longest cultural campaign of the agro biodiversity of hundreds of local seeds. A rural caravan driving the message home and accompanied by folk singers, dancers and thousands of farmers is passing through villages and towns to spread awareness on sustainable farming.

The seed is the first link in the food chain - and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty - and consequently no food sovereignty. There is a call to ensure no company gets monopoly over seeds.

This year's biodiversity festival is special as female farmers from Mali and Senegal are attending the fair to exchange knowledge regarding their agricultural practices, experiences and to promote millet farming and to acquire knowledge on food sovereignty by the farmers.

Director of DDS P V Satheesh stressed the concept of biodiversity to be liberated from the confines of textbooks, academic/scientific circles, universities and colleges. Co-director of Deccan Development Society (DDS), Jayasri Cherukuri Cherukuri said that the efforts of the women farmers led to the prestigious Equater Prize award from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This year, Zaheerabad Agenda, a document signed by 156 sarpanchs' swearing to follow biodiverse agricultural practices was made and would be sent to the President of India, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural development of Government of India and Government of Telangana, Chairman of NITI Aayog and Planning Commission of government of Telangana.

President of the Convergence of Rural Women for Food Sovereignty, Alimata Traoré from Mali said, "The pressure of globalisation on their seeds and food systems are under threat. In 2014, the organisation had the pleasure of receiving the DDS women at the West African farmers' seed fair in Senegal. The DDS women's participation was very inspiring, with which they have also set up farmers' seed huts, based on rural women's networks. The women farmers from Mali came to meet the women farmers of the DDS Sanghams to learn about their dynamics, their diversity and their practices."

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