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Farmers’ Rights and traditional knowledge

Miguel Braganza

In the next few weeks we will explore the diversity of plants in Goa as we prepare for a vegetarian Shravan and the mattoli at Ganesh Chaturthi that makes us conserve some of these plants.

The first chairman of the Goa State Biodiversity Board, Heman Karapurkar, has been inspired to document some of Goa’s rich biodiversity as a visual documentary. The festival held at Kala Academy last year to coincide with the Goa Environmental Forum’s award function had showcased photographs of insects and plants by some present and past students of botany and agriculture. Perhaps, the youth inspired the grand old man of botany and agriculture in Goa.

Conservation of varieties is best done in a ‘live museum’ where each variety is grown every year to get new and viable seeds. In living memory, such a task was done at Ela Farm by SR Nadkarni, who later retired as the director of Agriculture on June 30, 1983. Now, Shipa Bhosle has added a book entitled ‘Rices of Goa’ to the body of information that is available from traditional knowledge that would have been lost with the passing of the generation that is now closer to the grave than anywhere else. Principal scientist-plant breeding at ICAR-CCARI, Ela Farm, K Manohara has purified some lines of the local ‘korgut’ salt-tolerant rice variety, and farmers including the Ilha Verde Farmers’ Club led by Nestor Rangel have begun cultivating these varieties on a commercial scale. Some of this work will be showcased in Panaji by the end of this year.

The sath xiramcho bhendo as the local seven-ridged okra or ladyfinger is known now sells at `10 to `25 per piece. Yet no government institute or farm multiplies them after Sheela Kumar (now Tiwari) left service at Ela Farm. Nevil Alphonso has done some work on it last year. The same is the case with the local ‘tambddi bhaji’ or amaranthus blitum and everyone grows a variety that has purple and green mottled leaves instead of red. The village biodiversity committee of Taleigao is of the opinion that the Taleigao variety of brinjal or eggplant is extinct while the ICAR-CCARI, Ela has seeds of the variety. Monsanto converted the Agasaim variety of brinjal into a Genetically Modified ‘event’ (as a GM variety is called) GO-112 and the KVK-South Goa actually tested it for a private agency through the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, apparently believing that it was a central government mandate. No one spares a moment to think of the consequences of their actions; they just do as they are told.

The syllabus for the BSc (honours) in Agriculture that is awaiting the consent of the chancellor for implementation by Goa University has Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and legislations covering IPR in India as a part of its courses in economics. Trademark, Geographical Indications (GI) and Patents Act 1970 are also a part of the study, once approved. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV and FR) Act 2001, breeders, researcher and farmers’ rights are also included. Traditional knowledge, Indian Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and its salient features, access and benefit sharing (ABS) is guaranteed to get the students future ready.

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