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Cheruvayal Raman the Guardian of Indigenous Paddy Seeds

Cheruvayal Raman is a familiar name among those who work to protect indigenous seeds and promote organic farming. But for those who need an introduction, Cheruvayal Raman is a tribal farmer from Wayanad, Kerala. He is one of his kind because he is a stalwart warrior for the preservation of indigenous seeds for the last 56 years. He won the prestigious National Plant Genome Saviour Award and many renowned international, national and state awards including Kerala Biodiversity Board's Green award. He is also General Council member of the Agricultural University, Mannuthy. 

Raman belongs to Kurichiya tribe and he is dedicated to the cause of preserving age-old traditions of cultivation prevalent among the tribes. He has seeds of 51 varieties of indigenous paddy. He began his collection of indigenous seeds (5-6 varieties) in 1989 from his uncle. After that, he started to collect as much as possible from the elders in the tribe and also from the temple of Kurichiya tribe where they use rice varieties as part of rituals and worship.  The seeds he posses are around 500 years old which are inherited over generations. Now it totally amounts to 51 varieties. 

Indigenous variety to name few Mannu Veliyan, Chembakam, Thondi, Channalthondi, Chettuveliyan, Palveliyan, Kanali and aromatic rice varieties like Gandhakashala, Jeerakashala, Kayama are all he has in his collection.

He cultivates in 3 to 4-acre land owned by him, of which one and half acres are used exclusively for seed preservation. He cultivates each variety of indigenous seed in two to three sents. In order to preserve the seeds, sowing and harvesting have to be done carefully. According to the maturity time, seeds are sown.

Raman does not go by the way of using fertilizers for cultivation. In the early 70s, he was using fertilizers, but he backed out of it in the late 70s following the ill effects it causes to the ecology. He follows the traditional way of organic farming followed by the traditional Kurichyar tribe. They don't use any chemicals. 

Why indigenous seeds over hybrid seeds?  

He is of the opinion that Development should be defined in terms of self-reliance and not dependence on others. The commercialization of agriculture has resulted in the total dependence of farmers on external sources for all his farming requirements including seeds. In early times, farmers used to save seeds for their next cultivation. 

Indigenous seeds compared to hybrid seeds are resistant to diseases and unfavorable climatic conditions in the area. They also fit for organic farming and are less prone to the pest. Some of the hybrid seeds are of one-time use and can’t be saved for seeds, which make the farmers dependent on external sources for next term of cultivation

Though not tested in laboratories, husk or bran the rice husk is said to have medicinal properties. Indigenous rice consumed by the old generation made them healthier and immune to the disease. 

Hurdles

Though few gene banks have approached Raman for preserving seeds, needed attention is not given for his efforts. Although he is a known figure and his works are recognized by the public, proper aid and help have not reached to make his effort fruitful. Cheruvayal Raman is anxious about the future of his paddy seeds, which he preserved painstakingly. He considers agriculture not as a commercial activity but as an integral part of living. His only savings are the seeds he preserved. He is a guardian of indigenous paddy seeds in the true sense. Students and agriculturists from all over India approach him to learn from him the technique. Both state and central government should pay attention to the noble effort of individuals like Cheruvayal Raman. Their deeds have a commitment to the mother earth and for the goodness of humanity. 



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