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

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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.

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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.

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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