A seed movement has sprouted in distressed Bundelkhand. On it ride the hopes of hundreds of peasants and thousands of acreage of land across six UP districts of the region.An estimated 10,000 acre of lands of over 700 small farmers in a total of 83 villages have already been sowed or under the process by this seed movement.
It is a network of different drought-aid voluntary organizations in the seven districts-Jalaun, Lalitpur, Mahoba, Banda, Chitrakoot and Hamirpur-funded by ActionAid, an international voluntary organization that have made this sowing possible. All the organizations are distributing drought-resistant wheat variety to the farmers.
"I had no means to sow my four bigha (one acre) of land. Due to successive droughts my land could not give me any crop to have seeds from. I was not even in a position to buy seeds. There was not any help from the government. The sansthan (organization) gave me a sack of seed. My land is sown now," said Rampal Sahu, 40, of Chandauli village in Mahoba, 227 km south-west of Lucknow.
Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh comprises of seven districts namely Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Banda, Chitrakoot, Hamirpur and Mahoba, continuously facing drought and drought like situation since more than a decade. Despite average annual rainfall between 850-1044 mm the region is highly drought prone. All the seven districts range between 120 km to 350 km south and south west of Lucknow.
"No agriculture relief from Government is reported from any of the village. It is assessed that 83 percent of the cultivators are without or partial availability of seeds and purchase of seeds from the market means increase in debt burden for the Rabi crop," said Debabrat Patra, regional manager, ActionAid, UP and Uttarakhand.
The beneficiaries were selected through gram sabha meetings.
"The process selection of beneficiaries was initiated in October soon after the retreating monsoon left the region drenched nicely. The rain had induced condition for good Rabi crop. So we got active as we understood that though conditions are favourable for good crop, but large number of small farmers do not have money or reserves for agriculture inputs (seed, fertilizers et al)," said Manoj Kumar, convener of Kriti Shodh Sansthan, Mahoba. Manoj's organization is among the eight such organsiations with whom ActionAid has partnership for drought relief works.
The seed for free distribution was purchased from government seed centers. All the seed was wheat seed (W373). The variety is suitable for drought regions. All eight organization distributed seeds worth Rs 50 lakh to the 83 villages. Though the seed centers refused any kind of subsidy to the procurements that these organization made for the free distribution. However, one organization-Parmarth in Jalaun managed a subsidy of Rs 70,000 on the purchase they made.
"I we get subsidy, then we would be able to help more farmers," said Manoj Kumar.
Many quintals of these seeds have germinated, remain would in next few days. If they give out a good crop, 700 families would be insulated against hunger.