By Tiharu Birhor, Ramakant and Basant Soni
On the 17th of May 2019 Using Diversity fellows Tiharu Birhor and Ramakant from Korba District and Basant Soni from Gariyaband District, Chhattisgarh visited Bhawru Ram Hansda at his village Amanara. Bharwru is a Using Diversity Network community fellow who has been responsible for the implementation of the Using Diversity project in Pahari Korwa villages of Dharamjaigarh Block of Raigarh District, Chhattisgarh. He has been working with Pahari Korwa village communities across Dharamjaigarh Block to promote the revival of Bewara a traditional form of shifting cultivation practiced by Pahari Korwas. In this regard a community seed bank has been established in Amanara village and over 100 marginal Pahari Korwa families have received a variety of traditional seeds for cultivation on their lands. This is promoting the revival of a variety of traditional crops that had become rare or completely disappeared from the project villages of the area. The UD network is also committed to promoting seed exchanges between the different communities it is working with in order to enable them to get access to seeds that are no longer available in their regions and subsequently promote their revival.
Tiharu Birhor and Ramakant are working with Birhor villages in Pali and Podi blocks of Korba District, Chhattisgarh. The Birhor’s are a forest dependent community who have not had a very strong association with agriculture. They used to be nomadic, roaming the region’s forest areas and depending largely on the creation and sale of a variety of rope and bamboo products. In the last few decades the government has encouraged them to adopt a more sedantry lifestyle and they have now live in small hamlets and have started practicing agriculture in addition to their traditional trade in bamboo products. Tiharu and Ramakant visited Bhawru’s Community Seed bank to get a variety of different seed varieties which they will distribute to Birhor farmers in their area with a view of promoting mixed cropping of seeds that have been traditionally grown by indigenous communities of this region. They took 6 different varieities of maize, millet, pulse and bean seeds from the seed bank which included – Hirwa, urad, jhunga (lal, safed and kala), Bede and Makka.
Basant Soni works for the implementation of the UD project in Kamar villages of Mainpur Block, Gariyaband District, Chhattisgarh. While the Kamars still practice traditional forms of shifting cultivation, Bewra and Penda, they have witnessed a sharp decline in crop diversity have lost a number of seeds that were traditionally cultivated by them. Basant collected a variety to seeds from Bhawru which included – Jowar, Kosra, Makka, Urad, Bede, Jhunga, Hirwa and local rice/Dhan varieties.
The fellows also shared knowledge and experiences of the different agricultural practices and challenges being faced in their areas. Bhawru also showed his visitors the herbarium he has been preparing of different uncultivated food plants. They also discussed strategies to promote revival of crop diversity and traditional agricultural practices of the communities they are working with.