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.