Safeguards the seed treasure of Uttarakhand and promotes ‘Baranaja’ farming system
“Uttarakhand state is gifted with finest quality indigenous seeds and unique intercropping cultivation methodology that upholds the food security all round the year irrespective of any tribulations. With green revolution we farmers were blind folded with the faulty brightness of hybrid seeds and chemical based farming inputs but soon we returned back to our roots. We started saving seeds under the program ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ and resumed ‘Baranaja’ farming system,” shares Mr. Vijay Jardhari, activist of Chipko Movement, experienced farmer and social worker. He hails from Jardhari village, Tehri garhwal, Uttarakhand. Along with fellow farmers in his village and neighbouring villages they are growing high-value agricultural crops grown exclusively in Himalayan hills such as buckwheat,
cannabis (bhang), common kidney beans (rajma), mix of pulses (naurangi) and so on. He speaks with Agriculture and Industry Survey magazine from his farm and shares details on revived native seed varieties and baranaja farming arrangement. Excerpts:
We believe in being self-dependent for all our requirements for growing crops and food for self consumption. For crop cultivation we ensure no-harm to the soil and air thus does not use any chemical inputs instead make our own compost and concoctions for protecting the crops. For self-consumption food too we need a balanced diet thus we grow 12 grains intercropped with one another. This traditional mixed cropping system is called as ‘Baranaja’ (literal meaning 12 grains). These grains include crops from every segment precisely cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fiber plants and spices.
In one cycle, we select the crops that grow in inter-dependence to one another. Crops are cultivated in a systematic pattern as per the farmland layout, plant growing height and nutritive requirement from the soil. Being in hills we do not have flat level lands so crop arrangement is crucial for us. For example ramdana plant grows upto 3-4 feet high so we grow rajma alongside. Legume creepers use the stems of grains/plants as a natural support, while the grain roots grip the soil firmly, preventing soil erosion. Crops grown are: grains like corn (makka), buckwheat (kuttu/ogal), sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi) and amaranthus (ramdana); pulses like kidney beans, cow peas (lobiya), naurangi, urad, moong and ghat; oilseeds like sesame (til), bhang, sann, and bhangjeer; vegetables like pumpkin, okra, egg plant, cucumber, ; spices like jakhiya; fiber plants like sann and bhan.
Sowing in baranaja system begins in rabi season from May-June and harvesting starts from October and ends by mid November. After all the 12 grains are harvested the farmland is allowed to rest by leaving it fallow for four months. Next crop grown in kharif season is dry-land paddy or barnyard millet (bajra) from March-October followed by wheat or barley. Post harvesting of wheat/barley then baranaja is grown again. Thus the crop rotation is done naturally. Once in two years baranaja planting system is repeated in the same farmland however crops selection in various segment would change as per the seed availability and requirement of the farmer.
We prefer baranaja planting arrangement because it enables us to have food for our families all through the year. Also it takes care of nutrient rich food for our livestock and soil. The plant residue after harvesting makes good fodder for our animals like desi cows, goats, sheeps, hens and ducks. We never face extreme condition like no-food at all even during the crop failure if any!
Food for the soil is maintained well in this system thus we do not use any plant growth promoters or manures. For example pulses leave nitrogen in the soil while millets enrich the soil with iron, vitamins, calcium and phosphorus. Pest control is done by making concoction from neem and walnut leaves along with cow urine.
As the seeds are desi and grown along with other crops the diseases and pest attacks are negligible. Further the seeds are resistant to natural calamities in particular drought and floods. We keep exchanging our seeds in order to keep the food grown in rotation. In this way we have also been able to revive our indigenous seed varieties under the program ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’.
With our collective efforts we are able to attain good collection of desi seeds and the numbers are increasing gradually but steadily. Seeds are stored using different traditional techniques. In our seed collection we have 350 varieties of paddy, 30-wheat, 04-barley, 12-ragi, 08-barnyard millet, 220-kidney beans, 08- corn, 08-cowpea and 20-navrangi dhal.
The farm produce is sold only when it is in surplus after fulfilling the self-consumption, saving seeds for next season and seed exchange with other farmers. On our produce we have first right thus we sell limited quantities of produce to the selective buyers across the country.
Agriculture in our region is done for endurance for living souls and environment. We are not aiming for huge profits! We are happy and proud with our culture but at the same time we seek a change in the government policies to be more in the favour of farmers instead of giving away our wealth to the multinational seed and fertilizer companies! We are small in number yet we are committed to let our traditions and farming treasure continues forever for coming generations!!
(As told to Shweta Dhanuka)
Mr. Vijay Jardhari
Village and Post Jardhargaon, District Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand – 249175.