May 22, 2006, Uttarkashi & Pouri, Press Release

The rights and responsibilities of the mountain farmers have been discussed in two meetings organized by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS-CRC), at Uttarkashi on May 19 and at Pouri on May 21, 2006. Many farmers and the organisations working with the farmers’ issues have participated in these meetings. The main objective of the meetings was to evaluate the Access and Benefit Sharing mechanism and the Prior Informed Consent regime of our country related to the traditional knowledge of the mountain communities and to sensitise them on those issues.

Farmers coming from those regions said that the government should discuss the policies and laws to be implemented in the farm sector with the primary stakeholders, who will be directly effected by those policies. The proposed Seed Bill, 2004 has been translated into Hindi and circulated in the meetings. In Uttarkashi, Suresh Bhai of Himalaya Bhagirathi Ashram, Matli analysed that government wants to pass this kind of anti farmers’ Bill under the pressure of multinationals. Proper sensitisation of the farmers on the issues is very crucial, so that they can protest against government policies.

Many women participants have actively taken part in the Pouri Meeting and explained the difficulties of commercialization of traditional knowledge. They were of the opinion that market accessibility is the main reason, for which the communities could not commercialise the traditional medicines and traditional varieties of seeds in large scale. From local cooperatives the effort was there to market the traditional varieties, but most of the times the cooperatives suffer from corruptions, which left no alternative in front of the communities.

Storage facilities are another problem for which the seeds cannot be preserved properly for marketing. No government has ever tried to facilitate this for the local communities. The lack of proper documentation is also responsible for the degradation of traditional knowledge at the regions. From local NGOs small efforts have been made, but that could not become successful for lack of fund and expertise. The farmers urged that the local panchayats should take the responsibility to deliver an official status of the documents on the traditional knowledge, what has been made so far by several NGOs and research institutions.