For the tribal community of Veti Murbad, rice is more than just a crop. It’s a phenomenon which determines how the community behaves throughout the year. No matter where the villager has gone to work during the summer months, he/she will return back to the farm to plant rice in the rain and wait in the village (or take up work only in the proximity) till the harvest and processing is done. Various festivals, gatherings, marriages and even economic cycles are intertwined with the sowing, replanting, deweeding, flowering, harvest and processing of rice. However, once a completely free of monetary costs activity, is now a burden to some.
Rice has become a loss making enterprise as voluntary and community sweat equity labour is now replaced by paid one and home grown bulls are now replaced by diesel run tractors. The most degrading shift for this activity however is the shift from natural heirloom seeds to hybrid ones. Native heirloom seed have an intrinsic disaster and pest repellent mechanism. They are developed through generations of planting and hence can be used again and again every season. However hybrid seed demands an intense supply of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They also entail that the farmers buys seed every year, instead of saving seed like they used to. The bait for temporary high yield sets a permanent trap of market dependence for the farmers.
The seed bank at Veti Murbad is the architectural manifestation of a four year long community seed conservation process initiated by the Jatra in the village. Realizing the importance of rice to the village, the seed bank currently focuses on rice seed conservation. With the help of BIAF, Jawhar, we have been conserving heirloom seeds since the inception of the program and now have started making the seed available for communities and individual farmers.
For the seed bank, we chose to refurbish the old wattle and daub house of one of the founding members of the Jatra, Pratik Dhanmer. With the seed bank, the structure is expected to host the village activities of the Jatra, be a community space for the self help groups that the Jatra deals with, bamboo treatment facility and a workshops space to learn both farming and natural building. With this, the seed bank is expected to be an exhibit of wattle and daub technology. Each wall is done by modifying the traditional wattle and daub so as to suit the modern context. The building of the seed bank is done completely through workshops. It is an attempt to democratize the natural building processes where students and professionals from all fields are invited to assist us in the construction. This is done through various building workshops and volunteering programs. Each workshops adds new life to the seed bank as the batches add their mark to the structure via murals, frescos and wall arts.
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