The Maria Model for Seed Preservation
Maria is a densely populated village in Amrul Union of Shahjahanpur upazila of Bogra. People here are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The village is now a model for advanced seed technologies. Farmers here cultivate crops and the women collect seeds. Alongside seed management, around 200 women from this village are involved in the seed business. Seeing what they've done, around 600 women of the area have gotten inspired and tried to do the same sort of thing. These women have lifted up the standard of their living, and contributed to the national income. The director of the Maria Model, agronomist AKM Zakaria has won the international communications prize. The Maria Model has been exported, it is now said to be used in West Africa, Nepal, India and Cambodia.
The village of Maria is on the banks of the river Korotoa. Its people struggle with poverty everyday, just as they do in every other village. The village gets flooded every year. When the flood happened in 1988, researcher AKM Zakaria got deeply interested in the methods people adapted to survive. People talk about agriculture and that invariably leads to them talking about seeds. Zakaria got involved in talking to farmers about seed preservation. The first thing he noticed was that it was mostly the women who do the seed preservation. That's why he got the women involved in his project. In 1999 he undertook what he called the “Seed Health Improvement Project”. His research was quite fruitful; the outcome of it was the “Maria Model”, named of course, after the village.
Recently agricultural advisor Dr CS Karim toured the village and was highly impressed. He directed the ministry to follow the model and try to expand it. Before this, many divisional commissioners had also been highly impressed with the model. He encouraged the farmers to spread this technology as much as they could.
A look around Maria village shows how remarkable their seed preservation methods are, as well as the seed sales. Starting with care and preservation of the paddy through to seed selection, seed desiccation, seed preservation- everything is done by women. The methods are pretty sophisticated. One of the things they do is put the seeds in a bowl full of salt and water. Good healthy seeds sink to the bottom, the bad seeds float. After that the good seeds are spread out on a table to dry. It is important to use a table for this because if seeds are placed on the ground, moisture from the ground hardens the seeds. The seeds are later collected onto a plate. Alejan Begum from the village said the seeds must be placed in a completely nonporous container. Typically a mud plate is coated with paint. Pesticides are also applied.
The women here don't just preserve, of course. They also sell. About 800 women are now in the business of selling seeds. Just last year these women sold 45 metric tonnes of seeds after meeting their own needs. This is contributing a lot to our gross national product.
About 90% of the total seed need is met by women. From collecting to preserving, they do everything from methods they themselves have devised. These inventive women deserve a lot of credit for what they've done. Now the women are expanding out into vegetable seeds. In Bogra's Mahastan area, 200 women are doing the vegetable seed business. Because of better seeds about 15-20% more crops have been produced.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008