22) ICRISAT Donates Seeds to Quake-Affected Farmers in Bhuj (June 2001)

To restore critical seed stocks lost when a severe earthquake struck Gujarat in January 2001, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), donated today 500-kg seeds of a high-yielding ICRISAT pearl millet hybrid to farmers in quake-affected villages around Bhuj. The town of Bhuj was close to the epicenter of the earthquake, which took thousands of lives and razed several villages and cities to the ground.

Mr. Becharbhai Badani, Honourable Minister for Agriculture, Government of Gujarat, distributed the seeds to about 350 farmers in the presence of the ICRISAT Director General Dr William D. Dar, Mr Mukeshbhai Javeri, MLA of Bhuj and senior government officials attended.

“Giving the farmers seeds for sowing instead of food will be of greater assistance in the long term. Hopefully, the seed ICRISAT has donated will help the farmers of Bhuj get back on their feet again,” said Dr. Dar during the seed distribution program.

ICRISAT, based near Hyderabad, focuses on the semi-arid tropics (SAT), where erratic rainfall, low soil fertility, and extreme poverty, are formidable constraints to agricultural development. It seeks to improve five crops that are important in the diets of the poor in this region: sorghum, millet, chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut.

ICRISAT's vision is ‘Science with a Human Face', tailoring research to reduce poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. The Institute helps the rural poor of these regions get the most from their natural resources, rather than homogenizing their environment with costly imported technologies and ideas.

The seeds donated today by ICRISAT were multiplied at the Institute's headquarters and packaged and transported to Bhuj with the help of Gujarat Seed Producers' Association. A local NGO - Vivekananda Research and Training Institute (VRTI), Mandvi, Kutch - is assisting ICRISAT to identify the farmers who will sow the millet seeds in the next cropping season.

For immediate relief of the affected people, ICRISAT staff had generously donated clothes, blankets, and money (Rs. 260, 138) in February, soon after the earthquake.

As part of a long-term effort to reduce the vulnerability of poor farmers to natural disasters in the future, ICRISAT is collaborating with the Gujarat Agricultural University (GAU) and VRTI to multiply and provide seeds of improved groundnut, sorghum, and pigeonpea varieties to farmers. ICRISAT is also planning to help in the proposed Fodder Bank for Kutch, which will help meet the high demand for quality fodder in this largely cattle-centered region.

In 1993, ICRISAT had mounted a similar effort, donating two truckloads of chickpea seed to the bereft farmers of Nandura village, Latur District, in the heart of earthquake-stricken Maharashtra.


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