The Workshop:

On September 11-12, 2016, Debal Deb led a workshop addressing the topics of Agroecology and Seed Conservation on Basudha farm in Odisha, India. This two-day workshop trained 13 participants from Kerala to understand in-depth ecological explanations of agroecological system resilience. The workshop provided farmers with direct exposure to live demonstrations and methods of agroecology, based on a large spectrum of species and genetic diversity on Basudha farm. Discussions during the workshop addressed topics including:

  1.         Multi-species multi-tier home gardening:
  2.         Rotational multiple cropping with rice and 20 other crops:
  3.         Multi-variety rice farming to control pathogens:
  4.         Maintenance of genetic purity of rice landraces:
  5.         Techniques of seed storage and seed bank maintenance:
  6.         Open seed exchange as a resistance to the corporate seed market:
  7.         Agroecological practice to stop synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

This practical workshop supported farmer-to-farmer discussions and gave participants hands-on experience preparing liquid manure and identifying interaction links between species. Farmers were encouraged to stay in contact with other participants and form a network for sharing of ideas, seeds and other resources. Additionally, participants could take the lessons learned from the workshop and conduct experiments on their own farms and cross-validate observations with other farmers.

The Takeaways:

Debal Deb’s Agroecology and Seed Conservation workshop left farmers with a number of takeaways, a few of which were:

  1. A clear empirical understanding of the importance of biodiversity in the farm ecosystem;
  2. Technical knowledge of rouging of “off-types” of rice to maintain genetic purity of seeds;
  3. An understanding of the complexity of ecological interactions among the plants, insects, spiders, frogs, lizards, birds, and the below ground fauna;
  4. A theoretical knowledge of the relationship between complexity and resilience of the agroecosystem;
  5. Confidence to abandon the reliance on agrochemicals, and to follow agroecological principles to deal with problems of weed infestation, pest attack, and disease outbreak in their respective crop farms.