India’s ‘Seed Mother’ Single-Handedly Preserved 122+ Native Crop Varieties; Film On Her Life Wins Cannes Award

Image Credits: MITTRA

Follow Us On

A short film by Indian filmmaker Achyutanand Dwivedi was awarded at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, 2019. The three-minute film, titled ‘Seed Mother’ won the third prize at the Nespresso Talents 2019 for its brilliant portrayal of an unsung hero of India – ‘Seed Mother’,Rahibai Soma Popere.

Recognised as ‘Seed Mother’ by India, and now the world, Rahibai is a 55-year-old tribal woman farmer hailing from Kombhalne village in Maharashtra. Over the course of the past few decades, she has single-handedly managed to conserve hundreds of native varieties of crops which would otherwise have faced the cruel crux of extinction. Last year, Rahibai was featured in the coveted list of 100 Women 2018 by BBC, where only three Indian women had found place. 

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Seed Mother’,Rahibai has preserved 122 native seed varieties

To involve more women in her noble mission, Rahibai has founded the Kalsubai Parisar Biyanee Samvardhan Samiti – a women’s self-help group in Kombhalne exclusively devoted to urge farmers to preserve native seeds and do away with hybrid varieties as much as possible.

At Rahibai’s backyard, a frail wooden door reads – “Biyane Bank Kombhalne” (Seed Bank Kombhalne). Inside the quaint mud cabin lies a treasure trove of the rarest of rare seeds native to Maharashtra – ranging from grains to vegetables, herbs to fruits. A staunch opposer of chemical farming, Rahibai has saved over 60 indigenous vegetables, 15 varieties of paddy, 9 varieties of peas and oilseeds among others. At her seed bank, one can find up to 122 varieties of 32 different crops, states a report by Homegrown. She conserves all these seeds in completely primitive methods, without resorting to any modern chemical preservatives. In fact, this is how director Achyutanand Dwivedi came in touch with this incredible woman while searching for some rare native seed varieties for his sustainable kitchen garden, reports Indian Express.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

A single-handed effort with no prior experience or knowledge

In her youth, Rahibai used to work as a labourer most months of the year. Like most families in drought-ridden rural Maharashtra, her family also practised agriculture only during the short span of monsoon and migrated to nearby suburbs and villages to work as labourers in sugar factories. In their meagre landholding of three acres, his family used to grow native crops using all natural and organic means.

Through her sole efforts, Rahibai turned two acres of wasteland in her present village into a productive farm, by creating traditional water harvesting system like a jalkund there. She organically cultivated vegetables throughout the year in her farm until the Maharashtra Institute of Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (MITTRA) stepped in to support her. With their help, she established a nursery for preserving native crops and also started rearing poultry at her home. The most astonishing part must be that Rahibai had no training or knowledge about seed preservation and she has achieved everything through her personal experience.

She is strictly against hybrid seeds and chemical cultivation

“Villagers were falling sick frequently after eating food prepared from hybrid crops,” she shared the details in an interview with VillageSquare. It caught Rahibai’s attention how the deficit of nutrients is increasing among the village children and how the general immunity of the villagers has degraded since the advent of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers or pesticides. She also observed how hybrid crops require a lot more water than indigenous varieties, which added on to the water scarcity in these drought-prone regions.

Rahibai could remember the healthier, tastier and more nutritious rice or vegetables on her plate during her childhood. Her palate and her conscience could never get acquainted with the hybrid varieties, which in her opinion, were the root cause of all health disorders.

Inspiring farmers and enriching agro-science

So Rahibai travelled across the state of Maharashtra, collecting local seeds from here and there. She also spoke to the village inhabitants everywhere and explained to them the importance and benefits of growing native seeds.

In her own courtyard and farm, she has planted nearly 500 native plants, shows a documentary by BBC. Her prized collection of an unbelievable range of hyacinth beans has not only drawn admiration from all over but has also earned her a place in science, as some of these seeds are now being studied for their unknown genetic properties. Inspired by her, local farmers are also adopting the cultivation of native seeds from her seed bank, rather than procuring expensive hybrid seeds with loans. Her village has also acquired the traditional habit of consuming wild vegetables (Ranbhaji) which grow during the monsoon.

A Good Samaritan in more ways than one

Rahibai wishes to take the count of seeds preserved by her to 250 and bring more than 25,000 families within the ambit organic and native crop farming. When not toiling in her garden or seed bank, she will often be found organising health camps in adjoining villages and also distributing solar-powered lamps.

Efforts For Good salutes the amazing endeavour of Rahibai and wishes more farmers of India follow her footsteps.

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

Image Credits: MITTRA

Follow Us On

At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous