A community seed fair was organised by the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) in collaboration with three Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) groups in Nongtraw village today.
The fair is an initiative of the Rural Electrification Corporation Foundation (REC)-funded project ‘No One Shall Be Left Behind Initiative’ with an aim to address the growing threat of seed system.
Eight communities participated in the fair like Laitumiong, Laitsohpliah, Lad Mawphlang, Dewlieh, Nongtraw, Mawmihthied, Mawkma, Nongpriang, and Mustoh, under Laitkroh C&RD Block and Shella C&RD Block, East Khasi Hills.
The communities showcased more than 50 indigenous seeds at their stalls. The seeds have been saved by their ancestors of some community members, foraged from the nearby forests, and harvested by custodian farmers of the communities.
Sohra MLA, Gavin Miguel Mylliemngap who graced the occasion as the chief guest, said, “We are happy that many communities around this region, are engaged in traditional farming systems because of NESFAS. The organisation is working towards enhancing the farming systems by going back to the traditional methods as opposed to the long-existing commercial farming systems.”
Members of the Iatreilang PGS, Ryntihlang PGS and Kyntiewlang PGS groups who helped organized the seed fair collectively said the fair aims to connect farmers and help pave a way for them to show and exchange seeds from their respective communities. Seed fairs are one of the many opportunities for farmers from different communities to gather discuss not only seeds but also exchange knowledge about their local practices.
Community Seed Systems ensure the local seed requirements of farmers and are strengthened by seed exchanges among farmers and communities and also exchange of knowledge associated with it, NESFAS in a press release said. However, over the years, the growing focus on mono-cropping, declining interest in agriculture, the introduction of high yielding, and other factors are contributing to the gradual decline in traditional seed varieties, it added.
Mewan Kharsyntiew, Project Engineer, Regional Office REC (Shillong), said that the staff of the regional office in Shillong has all learned from NESFAS about farming and traditional food systems. He added, “Farming and traditional food systems are not topics that we deal with directly and are in our field, thereby, we learn a lot from this project that we are collaborating with NESFAS.”
Executive Director of NESFAS Pius Ranee said, “Farming communities across the state face problems with production because eventually, they turn to chemicals and other resources to increase yield. But, we at NESFAS, we are working with the communities to address these issues and come up firstly with local/indigenous solutions concerning farming.”
After the formal programme, NESFAS Associate (Agroecology) Gratia E Dkhar held a workshop on seed, pest, and soil management at the same venue where she hosted a farmer-to-farmer exchange knowledge session. The farmers were divided into groups and asked to discuss various issues and best practices of soil fertility management pests, seeds, and soil erosion.