So great to read about all the efforts and experiments going on. I am Mackenzie and I live in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. This area is in the Southern Aravalis, a hilly area with pretty intense sun. Though the city where I am located and immediate bordering areas have been pretty much urbanized, much of the region is the home of the Bhil tribal people among others. They are facing a number of challenges due to land degradation, urbanization and the psychological pull cum economic pressure to modernize. There are many other castes here as well — the Indian social system is pretty complicated, but suffice to say, tradition – be it in farming, food, or trades – though struggling, is not lost here. I am originally from Omaha/Chicago and found myself in India trying to understand the role of American seed corporations immediately after college. I found a lost more than I bargained for here and wound up staying longer to explore. After getting married here, I stayed – been a little over 10 years now.
I am just starting to work on a focused seed-saving effort because years of spending time in villages here as well as working with various NGOs has shown me that local seeds are under great pressure of disappearance in the face of well-funded efforts to promote hybrid seeds from grains to vegetables –even soy beans are being distributed by NGOs here to farmers with less than 1 acre of land who otherwise only grow enough food to eat — this causes deforestation as farmers look to expand their land for cash crops. Needless to say, there are many compounding issues, but the hopeful part is that many older farmers still have local seeds and knowledge about them so my hope is to connect with these farmers and borrow some of their seed to continue to save and share. I have no idea what I am doing. I hope to learn a lot of context with practical examples in this course to help guide this endeavor and help me engage rural youth and elders in discussions on and growing local seeds. Hoping to start with one or two good connections and a small space(s) for growing that I can also work on independently or with school students. Currently I only have pots on my roof and am doing a few small school gardens with semi-urban kids (who are crazy about sharing what’s growing in their villages!)
Here millets were the traditional crops, namely finger millet, which is hard to find now having been replaced by wheat. There are local varieties of corn that are fairly common, though farmers grow hybrid corn to sell in the market. There are also other millet varieties I am trying to figure out the translations for as elders share the names in local dialects. I hope that next year there will be seeds and sites to do some trials and seed-saving with grains, even in small 100 square foot plots.