Seed-keeping is an age-old tradition of the Naga community, especially for the women in Nagaland. Village mothers pass over the seeds and in the process the Naga indigenous agriculture, food and cultural systems remain attached to them over generations.
Atsole Akami one of the old seed keepers said that they give the young people tips about how to store them properly either in bamboo or dried gourd containers for future use. Seed keeping in Naga villages have remained a shared tradition but a predominantly family activity. Inspired by this, the Northeast Network in Nagaland encouraged women to take the knowledge to the next level of community seed banking.
Community Seed Banks
Stephen Gangmei, Program Associate at NEN, Nagaland, who worked to initiate community seed banks in 8 villages in Phek distrit said the market seed were proliferating in the villages and that there is a need to better preserve climate resistant indigenous seeds. The concept of community seed banks is that it will have a collection of seeds grown locally as well as those brought through exchange from other indigenous communities. For those in need of seeds, a cup will be loaned out; once they have grown the crop, two cups of seeds are expected to be returned to the bank.
Gangmei elaborating the rules of seed bank mentions that the rules will be set by the respective villages depending on what crops they grow and the quantity of seeds available to them. NEN also took initiatives to mobilize women farmers from 8 villages in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendra and helped them to set up a community structure to enable the banks.
Presently, seed banks are managed by individual women cultivators. But, seed keepers now on will be in-charge of a larger community based knowledge system. Gangmei focused on how the communities will be able to harness their knowledge and diversify their indigenous crops. If a village has lost some seeds, they can draw from the other’s banks and vice versa he added. It will further strengthen community bonds also according to him.