Sustainable Utilization of Agrobiodiversity is the key to achieve Health & Nutrition Security: 7th Wayanad Community Seed Fest 2023 concludes

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Two days Wayanad Community Seed Fest from 10-11th March 2023 highlighted the agricultural heritage of Wayanad as well as discussed the current issues related with tribal health & nutrition and the role of millets & underutilized crops for nutritional security. Conservation of traditional biodiversity especially agro-biodiversity is identified as vital for ensuring food and nutrition security for the growing population.

Sri. Samshad Marakkar, President, District Panchayath, Wayanad delivered the Presidential Address at the event and stated on the district’s effort to make Wayanad carbon neutral and also the need for immediate action to combat climate change-related challenges. The event was inaugurated by Sri. P. Prasad, State Minister for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Govt. of Kerala who joined the event online. He stressed the importance of understanding climate change risks in agriculture and the prime need of seed conservation for a safe and secure future. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chairperson MSSRF & Former Chief Scientist WHO delivered a special address stated that food & nutrition security is still a greater challenge for India; a dichotomy of wasting & stunting on one hand and obesity & overweight on the other side. She further stressed that sustainable utilization of the rich agrobiodiversity is the key to make Wayanad climate resilient with secured food and nutrition. Dr. George Thomas, Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) delivered the Keynote Address at the Wayanad Community Seed Fest & Seminar 2023. He stressed that recognising Custodian Farmers is important to keep diversity in agriculture. He further stated that Millets can play a key role in climate adaptation; India must take up adaptation & mitigation actions at the earliest to address climate change effects. Sri. Rahul Gandhi, MP Wayanad in his message congratulated the efforts undertaken through Wayanad Community Seed Fest towards agrobiodiversity conservation. Agrobiodiversity conservators including Padmasree Cheruvayal Raman, Sri Balakrishnan Kammana & Sri PM Nanadakumar were felicitated by the dignitaries for their continuous efforts towards the conservation of native agrobiodiversity. Felicitations were delivered by Sri D Rajan, Municipal Councillor, Kalpetta; Smt. Safeena, Principal Agriculture Officer, Wayanad; Sri Balasubramanian, District Coordinator, Kudumbasree Mission; Sri Mammootty, Joint Director Agriculture, Wayanad and Sri Suresh VS, General Secretary, Kisan Service Society. Smt. Devaki A., President, WDTDAC delivered the Vote of Thanks at the event.

Wayanad Community Seed Fest 2023 gave specific attention on pertinent topics through a seminar on ‘Tribal Health, Nutrition and the Role of Agrobiodiversity’ and ‘Role of millets and underutilized crops in health and nutritional security.’ The year 2023 has been declared the International Year of Millets by the United Nations; hence a major impetus needs to be put forward towards mainstreaming millets cultivation & consumption in Kerala for their nutritional importance and climate-smart nature. The panel discussions in the seminar became a new space created for farmers, researchers, academicians and policy makers to come together and discuss as well as develop strategies for agrobiodiversity conservation coupled with nutrition & livelihood security. The sessions summed up local strategies and generated dialogue on improving health & nutrition through mainstreaming agrobiodiversity. The event also deliberated on the prospects of millets & underutilized crops in the context of nutrition, climate resilience and livelihood security.

Honouring the agro-biodiversity conservators

The inaugural event was followed by honouring the agro-biodiversity conservators of Wayanad who are engaged in conserving native agrobiodiversity. The award has been conferred by WDTDAC to encourage the farming community in the cultivation and conservation of native agrobiodiversity. This year, the award was presented to Balan Nellaranchal, Acchappan Kuttonada, Aiyappan Pilakkavu & Noorank Tribal Women Group for their remarkable efforts in protection of native crop and animal diversity with traditional management practices.

Conferring these awards is a token of acknowledgement and appreciation to the farmers and to encourage fellow farmers and community to take efforts in conserving agro-biodiversity at the local level.

Showcasing the Agrobiodiversity of Wayanad

The exhibition stall was arranged in a traditional style called Vithupura, the house of seeds and community across Wayanad exhibited agrobiodiversity. Besides, a plethora of exhibitions from the area of agro biodiversity, value-added products, research & development institutions and community groups graced the fest with a total 34 stalls.
The two-day Seed fest concluded with the seed exchange event and Valedictory function on 11th March 2023. The valedictory function was inaugurated by Sri AK Saseendran, Minister for Forests & Wildlife, Govt. of Kerala who joined online and congratulated the team for conducting the 7th Wayanad Community Seed Fest 2023 and showcasing the agrobiodiversity.
Mrs. Naseema Teacher gave the presidential address at the event and stated that youth must be encouraged & educated for sustainable utilization of traditional knowledge systems with the participation of custodian farmers. This was followed by the signature ‘seed exchange program’ wherein seeds were exchanged between elders to youngers i.e. ensuring agrobiodiversity conservation through generations. Felicitations were also delivered by Smt Omana, President Meppadi Panchayath; Sri Mujeeb Keyamthodi, Chairperson Kalpetta Municipalty; Sri Mohandas, ITDP; Sri Pramod, TDO; Sri Arun EK, Soil Conservation Officer; and Sri Suresh Babu, District Coordinator, Haritha Kerala Mission. Sri Joseph John, Scientist Conveyed the Vote of Thanks at the end of the programme.

In the future, efforts should be taken to showcase the diversity of other agricultural diversity of Wayanad including horticultural crops such as leafy vegetables, cucurbits, native and wild fruits, native breeds of livestock as well to make the festival more attractive and successful. The Wayanad Community Seed Fest & Seminar 2023 was a resounding success, with thousands of participants from across the region. The event helped to raise awareness about the importance of seed conservation and sustainable agriculture practices and provided a platform for farmers and seed savers to exchange their knowledge and resources. The event was a testimony to the power of community-based initiatives in promoting sustainable development practices.