Globally recognised woman farmer lives in penury

Jeypore: At a time when hybrid paddy varieties are getting wider acceptance, a tribal woman of Koraput district has turned herself a source of inspiration for agricultural scientists for preserving over 100 rare traditional varieties of paddy, which are on the verge of extinction, for future generation.

Kamala Pujari of Patraput in this block, with her undying efforts, has put the district, state and the nation on the world map.
The Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar, has named a girls’ hostel after her. Kamala has travelled to several countries and has been felicitated for her immense contribution to the field of agriculture.

Despite such accomplishments, the elderly woman still lives in penury as her repeated pleas with the administration for a concrete house are yet to bear results, it was learnt.
When asked about her rare feat and international honour, Kamala expressed extreme happiness over the desperation of scientists to preserve traditional paddy varieties.
“I was excited to learn that a girls’ hostel has been named after me,” Kamala said.

The woman has started preserving the rare breeds of paddy by applying organic compost and following traditional methods about 15 years ago.
As she has not used any chemicals, the seeds can be preserved for more than 10 years, Kamala said. The important breeds which she has preserved included Kalajira, Haladiganthi, Jhilli, Ladiari, Umuriachudi, Lalata, Ghantia and Barapaka.

Kamala gives all credits to the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation of Jeypore for encouraging her to take up the task.
Renowned agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan had taken her with him to Africa and made her visit numerous farms to boost her confidence, she said, adding he got her trained at several institutes.

Equator Initiative Award at Johannesburg in 2002 and Krushi Bisharad Samman at New Delhi in 2003 were two of the major awards the tribal farmer cherishes the most.
Besides, she is proud of being honoured with Krushi Samman by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in 2004.

When asked about her fresh interaction with the Chief Minister March 16, she said Patnaik advised her to continue with the work and encourage others to join her.
Kamala has been mobilising women of nearby villages of Mahuli, Baliguda, Balia and Kumbharpada to adopt traditional methods of farming.

She has been living with her two sons and a daughter after the demise of her husband but leading a pitiable life in a thatched shed.

“Though I placed Jeypore on the world map, I don’t have a permanent roof over my head,” Kamala lamented.  PNN

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