Like many other farmers across the country, preserving and using seeds is a major issue for Andhra Pradesh groundnut cultivators. In Anantapur district, farmers mostly grow groundnut.
The crop diversity in this region earlier included many dryland crops like sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet, foxtail millet and groundnut. Farmers used to grow various crops and groundnut was alternated between red gram, coriander, sesame, sorghum and finger millet. But over time, groundnut became a major crop in the region due to its commercial value.
“The high input costs on one side and decreasing yields due to prolonged usage of chemical fertilizers forced many growers to borrow money from private money lenders and the moment the crop is harvested, it is sold immediately to pay off the debts. Often the area is prone to droughts and seed availability has been a serious issue for more than 15 years,” says Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad.
Farmers could raise only one good crop every three years. Being already in debt they sold off the harvested nuts for repaying loans and other expenses rather than preserving the seeds for next season.
Also, absence of proper storage facilities posed a serious problem; many felt that the seed from the same land will not grow well if sown for the next season. Subsidised government seeds are available at half the price in the market so farmers preferred to buy those seeds rather than save some for themselves.
But buying the seeds is an arduous task, according to Dr. Ramanjaneyulu. Every year soon after the monsoon season farmers start to queue up for buying subsidised seeds from Government cooperatives.
Each farmer has a passbook which he needs to show in order to get the seeds. Very often, a farmer ends up making at least three to four trips to the town to buy the seeds.
“Sometimes they do not get the seeds (due to no stock) or get them very late in the season. If he does get it on time, there is no guarantee of its quality. Earlier Ananthapur farmers used to grow different groundnut varieties depending on demand, but the subsidy seeds given by the government covers only a few or sometimes only a single variety,” explains Dr. Ramanjaneyulu.
In 2006-07, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Hyderabad and Rural Environment Development Society (REDS), Kadiri, initiated groundnut seed production through women self help groups as part of the ‘Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture’ programme in different villages.
Different farmers’ groups took responsibility for managing the entire programme.
However, seed subsidy could not be extended as the Department of Agriculture was not ready to support farmers own seeds. In 2011 another initiative, a community managed seed system (CMSS) was started in partnership with WASSAN (Watershed Support Services Network) a Hyderabad based NGO with the objective of meeting the requirements of both seed producers and consumers.
The programme was started in 2011 during rabi season to supply seeds for 2012 kharif. The foundation seed was supplied with 50 per cent subsidy from the department of agriculture
The Government agreed to facilitate the process of exchanging the seeds at farmer level and extended subsidy for them.
“A total of 2,888 acres of seed production was taken up in 183 villages involving more than 2,000 farmers under the programme. The group was able to procure 3,763 quintals of seed and distributed it to nearly 4,000 farmers. Similarly in 2013 they have distributed 11,518 quintals of seeds in 260 villages covering nearly to 10,000 acres,” adds Dr. Ramanjaneyulu.
The seed production, supply and distribution, administration are localized within a cluster of villages where the overall control is by the farmers.
This model helped many growers get access to good quality seeds at affordable prices and also saved enormous expense for the Government.
To know more contact Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street no-1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad-500 017, website: www.krishi.tv, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook: ramoo.agripage, mobile: 09000699702.