Ghani Khan, 35, reluctantly took the reins of his 20-acre ancestral farm at Kirugavulu, in Karnataka’s Mandya district, in 1992. His father had suffered a paralytic attack and as the eldest son, he had to drop his academic aspirations and look after the farms.
Today, Khan boasts of having collected up to 200 varieties of rice, many of which have medicinal properties.
He also hosts tours of his farm that produces rice, mangoes, guava, sugarcane, banana and coconut.
Khan is one among several farmers from five states participating at the Seed Festival at Janata Kendra, Tulsiwadi, to showcase their indigenous seed varieties. The seed festival has been organised to celebrate the rich diversity of crops and spread awareness about hundreds of local seed varieties that do not usually figure in urban diets.
Khan is associated with Sahaja Samrudha, a farmer’s collective that has built a network of organic farmers in Karnataka. Like Khan, there were farmers from Bastar in Chattisgarh, Satna in Madhya Pradesh, Nayagarh in Odisha and Auroville in Puducherry at the seed festival.
Some of them were selling their local brinjal, cucumber and gourd seeds for Rs 10 per packet while some offered an entire range of seeds for full-fledged home gardening.
“The produce from my farm is 100% chemical free. Organic farming has not only increased my farm yield but is also the prime reason I have managed to protect old seed varieties. It is our responsibility to preserve our traditional ways of farming and be generous in sharing local seed varieties, that is the way to practice and promote agro- bio diversity,” said Khan.
“Many people I know want to eat organic farm produce but don’t know anything about it. I am well connected in the grocer community and came to explore the potential to market organic farm produce,” said Kishore Salia, a wholesale garment trader from Dadar.
The seed festival ends on Tuesday with the screening of ‘Raghuvanshi – The Seed Man,’ a film on a Varanasi farmer.