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Need to conserve Uttarakhand’s biodiversity stressed

UNI – Saturday, May 8 1999

DEHRA DUN: Activists of the “Beej Bachao Andolan” (Save the Seed Campaign) have stressed the need to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Uttarakhand hill region to reduce hunger and malnutrition in the area.

At a workshop on “The Rights of the Village Community to Biodiversity” held in the Doon Valley recently, participants said that lack of biodiversity in the fields had a direct link with nutrition and health of the hill folk.

Biodiversity-based productivity measures show that small farmers can feed more people because in terms of multiple yields, they have higher productivity.

Productivity of monocultures is low in the context of diverse outputs and needs, the participants said.

The Uttarakhand region has a rich diversity in paddy crops. Approximately 1,000 varieties of paddy are available in Garhwal and Kumaon. The workshop underlined the need for protecting and conserving these varieties.

Amit Bhattarai, an activist from Nepal, said that due to excessive use of chemicals in farming, the production of mustard seeds in his country had fallen.

Meanwhile, “Navdanya” an organisation committed to promoting traditional organic farming in Uttarakhand and other parts of the country, has begun a `Beej Satyagraha” last month in the valley. This movement is carrying-on under the guidance of noted environmentalist Vandana Shiva, winner of the Alternate Nobel Prize. A “Beej Yatra” was organised recently from the Navdanya Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Farm near the Shimla by pass road.

Villagers and students participated in this yatra in large numbers. The rally went up to the Bhuddi village. The key to successful organic farming systems, according to experts, lies in maintaining fertility through the cycling of nutrients. Crops which fix nitrogen are an essential part of organic rotations and a balance is maintained between those crops which build fertility and those which exploit it.

Experts also feel that the newly introduced market-oriented practices in the hills have had the effect of marginalising the indigenous knowledge systems that were guiding mountain farming practices.