One of the greatest shortcomings of commercial agriculture is its tendency to disenfranchise farmers by making them completely dependent on external sources for virtually every aspect of their farming, including fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. The emergence of hybrids seeds that enable higher production, greater resistance to certain plant diseases and generate specific attributes such as a specific colour or shape in the crop to appeal to modern consumers’ sensibilities has made farmers completely reliant on seed companies for input. The trouble with hybrid seeds is that they also require a lot more nutrients and water, and are more vulnerable to pests and diseases, which, in turn, necessitates the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This makes hybrid seeds economically unviable for Indian farmers who, for centuries, had been accustomed to saving and sharing seeds for their next crop.
Traditionally preserved indigenous seeds – which are sometimes referred to as heirloom seeds given that they are passed down from one harvest to the next sowing – are hardy, pest-resistant, and adept at handling the geographical and climactic conditions and challenges posed by the environment that is native to them. They also make fewer demands in terms of water and nutrition, and have their own unique flavour and characteristics that most crops produced from hybrid seeds lack. Indigenous seeds are most cost-effective for farmers, although modern farming practices often mean that farmers are discouraged and sometimes even prohibited from saving and using them. Banyan Roots works with farmers to help them identify indigenous seeds that are best suited to commercial cultivation, thereby helping them to minimize their expenses without compromising on yield. Our team references traditional farming practices which have, over the years, led to only those variants that produce crops with the most vigour and vitality being saved by farmers. We understand the importance of preserving these time-honoured practices and make efforts to disseminate them to the farmers we work with, while also encouraging farmers to use indigenous seeds for their cultivation.
Two of the biggest deterrents for Indian organic farmers are a lack of awareness about scientific organic farming principles and the high cost of entry that is typically associated with undertaking new methods of cultivation. Through our workshops and seminars, we attempt to reach out to the wider Indian agricultural community and introduce them to the concept of traditional low-cost natural farming. We teach farmers various cost-effective, healthful techniques that include the use of organic fertilizers, crop rotation, indigenous seeds and several other methods that have been extensively studied by our experts. In doing so, we aim to eliminate the financial concerns that are currently plaguing India’s farmers and reintroduce them to sustainable, economically viable farming practices. We also hope to drive home the idea that organic, traditional farming can and should be the preferred option for farmers and consumers, and that these practices can prove as beneficial for farmers as they are for consumers in the long and short term.
Through these conferences, farmers may learn about ways to implement sustainable farming practices, learn the precepts of traditional low-cost natural farming as advocated by Banyan Roots, discuss challenges and investigate new opportunities. Farmer conferences are an important way for Banyan Roots to keep expanding our community and give farmers the tools, know-how, resources and support they need to transition to traditional low-cost natural farming. Banyan Roots also advocates the many virtues of preserving indigenous crops and seeds to farmers by way of these activities.