Agro-Biodiversity & Dryland Farming
Biodiversity has been a consistent central theme in our activities since it is a hallmark of gendered ecological thinking and indigenous peasant farming systems that guide our organization. At a time when development for dryland farmers only meant groundwater extraction and shifting to mono-cropping of commercial crops, DDS was able to recognize the effects these shifts had on ecology and gender relations. This understanding guided DDS to design integrative programs that considered social, economic, and environmental regeneration.
Community Seed Bank – 1995:
DDS sanghams (groups) established village-level banks of traditional local seeds managed by local women seed keepers. This initiative aimed to restore agro-biodiversity on farms and empower women with control over seeds and leadership in their communities. Over the years, the number of crop varieties under cultivation has doubled, and an operational Central Seed Bank now saves up to 80 varieties of seeds.
Biodiversity Festivals – 1999:
For the last 20 years the Deccan Development Society has been conducting a month-long celebration of biodiversity called Mobile Biodiversity Festival (PataPantalaPanduga). Over the years this has received global acknowledgment as a unique way of making agrobiodiversity into a community-led cultural campaign. The festival presents a caravan of artistically done 20 bullock carts which are decorated with a variety of seeds, spikes and art pieces, all of which together form a symbol of biodiversity of the region. Besides their dozens of small baskets that contain seeds of local landraces play the most significant part of this mobile exhibition.
The strength of this unique cultural campaign registered its strongest impact when India’s National Biodiversity Strategy & Action Plan (NBSAP) was being drafted in 2003 where the Mobile Biodiversity Festivals of DDS not only became a source of National Plan on Agrobiodiversity but also an important recommendation by the NBSAP which recognized their this was how the abstract concept of biodiversity can be translated into an actionable agenda for the local, rural communities.
Permaculture – 1988:
DDS pioneered permaculture in India and created vibrant permaculture models in the Zaheerabad region. The organization leveraged traditional knowledge systems of local farmers to address farming challenges in the region. Permaculture, a concept of designed organic agriculture, played a significant role in finding sustainable solutions.
Community Biodiversity Register – 1995:
DDS developed the Community Biodiversity Register (CBR) methodology, which gained recognition from environmentalists and is now being utilized by the government to record biodiversity data nationwide. The methodology has also attracted attention from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which highlights its potential for scaling to other nations where indigenous communities seek to document traditional knowledge and local biodiversity.