The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), the country’s premier biodiversity management body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, has decided to honour N.M. Shaji, who has made it his life’s mission to conserve domesticated crop species, 2018 has turned to out to be a year of good harvest with a special citation as part of the National Biodiversity Awards 2018.
Mr Shaji, a farmer who belongs to Mananthavady in Wayanad district, has been chosen for the honour for the conservation of domesticated species. The award was presented to him at a ceremony at the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Hyderabad, (on May 22), International Day for Biological Diversity. He was nominated for the award by the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU).
Mr Shaji, who is conserving a wide spectrum of tuber crops, including wild tubers, paddy, and vegetables using organic cultivation methods, had also won the national Plant Genome Saviour Award in 2015.
Mr Shaji thanked the university for the support and guidance extended to him and other farmers for national recognition. “I am delighted to get such an award and the KAU’s guidance has been instrumental in this case as well as the Plant Genome Award. It is great to see the university support farmers and I thank the authorities on behalf of the farming community of Kerala,” he said.
“I am happy to see a Kerala farmer guided by the KAU getting this award. KAU has been constantly supporting the farming fraternity and hence this is a matter of pride for us as well,” said the Vice Chancellor.
After receiving the award, he presented seed pens as a return gift to the dignitaries, including Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan from whom he received the prize. “It is made of paper. You can use it as a normal disposable pen, and when the ink is exhausted, you can just throw it away. It contains a seed, which will give birth to a tree in future,” he explained.
Making seed pens is more like a hobby for Mr Shaji, whose major occupation is conserving tuber species.
Started 20 years ago as a response to the drought conditions in Wayanad District where he lives, his passion has taken him places across the country, in search of newer tuber species. “I have a collection of 200 edible tuber species, including the rarest ones, besides herbs and medicinal plants on my four-acre land,” he says proudly.
He has shared the germplasm of the tubers with institutions such as Central Tuber Crop Research Institute and Kerala University.
Recipient of many awards, including National Plant Genome Saviour Award, Mr Shaji’s conservation efforts are not limited to tubers; they extend to rice. He grows 17 traditional varieties of rice on the meagre plot, besides dabbling in fish farming, beekeeping and horticulture.