This 86-year-old retired teacher from Odisha is sowing the seeds for an organic future
Since 1988, Natabar Sarangi has collected over 700 variety of paddy seeds from across India. He has also set up a research institute called Rajendra Desi Chasa Gabesana Kendra to train and farmers in organic farming.
Saturday May 18, 2019,
3 min Read
Achieving sustainable crop production to feed an increasing world population is a challenge many countries are trying to solve. Farmers are using fertilisers, genetically-modified seeds and other chemicals to attain quick growth, high-yield crops, and for all-season availability of vegetables and fruits.
These have adversely impacted crops and has phased out organic seeds, which has the capacity to withstand any climatic condition.
To make sure the biodiversity is still preserved and maintained through organic practices, 86-year-old Natabar Sarangi, a teacher-turned-organic farmer, has been collecting paddy seeds from states like Odisha, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh. Since 1988, Natabar has collected over 700 variety of paddy seeds to date.
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Travelling across the country alone wasn’t easy for Natabar at this age. Hence, in 2010, he used a small grant from the Global Greengrants Fund to collect seeds from farms across India, and hired few people to travel for the purpose.
The following year, Natabar also hired 100 women to help clean and store the seeds in a seed bank, reports Green Grants.
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Speaking to The Hindu Business Line on the importance of conservation of organic paddy seeds, he said,
“In the 1960s, increase in crop yields was much-needed in India as the country always battled famine. However, the new agricultural practices had dire effects on small farmers and the biodiversity of crops. The high yields were the result of monocultures — planting just one cash crop each year and using irrigation techniques to grow crops even in the dry season using huge volumes of chemical fertiliser and chemical pesticides.”
Hailing from Niali Village in Odisha, Natabar has now emerged as an icon for the farming community across India for his organic farming practices. He has so far trained more than a thousand farmers at his research institute called Rajendra Desi Chasa Gabesana Kendra, set up in Niali, Odisha.
At the institute, Natabar, along with his friends, trained farmers about organic nutrients, biopesticides, and organic seeds, which are taken from plants grown without the use of chemicals.
To promote the use of organic seeds among the farmers, Natabar distributes organic seeds, and in return, farmers give him four kilograms of seeds post their harvest.
Convincing farmers initially wasn’t an easy task, as Natabar said,
“Initially, farmers were hesitant. But when they realised that traditional inputs were cheaper than the chemical ones and the yield was the same, it was easier to convince them. Now, we get farmers not just from our village but the surrounding areas also. People come to us from far-off states such as Maharashtra to collect traditional seeds.”
Besides farmers, the Odisha state government has also reached out to Natabar to tie up with his research institute to implement government’s Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana. It is a training programme aimed at promoting organic farming.
At present, Natabar is looking to promote rooftop organic vegetable farming. Speaking on the same, he said,
“We are producing about two lakh quintals of organic paddy in our area and some marketing help can go a long way in increasing the earning of our farmers,” reports The Hindu Business Line.
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