The contributions of the legendary agricultural scientist Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, popularly known as MS Swaminathan, to the farming community, especially to the community in the hill district, Wayanad, is remarkable.
Dr. Swaminathan set up the Community Agro Biodiversity Center (CAbC) at Puthur Vayal here in 1997, as part of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, a non-profit NGO, to develop and promote strategies for economic growth that directly target increased employment of the poor in rural areas.
One of the major objects behind the center was to conserve the vanishing plant species of the Western Ghats—and propel an agricultural revolution at that time.
When the project was set up on a mere 13 acres of farmland, Dr. Swaminathan and his wife had themselves donated for the cause, there was a scientist and a farm manager.
Twenty six years later, it is now a sprawling on a 46-acre campus under the Kalpetta municipal limits. Apart from state-of-the-art facilities, there is a conservation and sustainable development team of 48 people including scientists and young researchers. They are on a mission to conserve the biodiversity and promote sustainable development of the farming community, especially tribal farmers, in the State.
Conservation of traditional crop varieties and landraces has always had a direct role in the food security of the people. Starting from the Peoples Biodiversity Register in 1997 to the multitude of activities taken up by MSSRF, all these are inspired by the guidance and support of Dr. Swaminathan.
Dr. Swaminathan was instrumental in framing the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights (PPV&FR) Act in 2001 that led to the formation of PPVFR authority that comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
Under this Act, the efforts of custodian farmers have got recognition as Plant Genome Saviors both at the community level and also at the individual level. Many farmers, including tribal farmers in the district, had been recognized as custodian farmers for their contributions in protecting the plant genomes.
It is a time of great sorrow and a massive loss for the nation that cannot be replaced, said Shakeela, Director of MSSRF CAbC. His contributions to agriculture, food security, and sustainable development have left an indelible mark on all our lives, Dr. Shakeela added. Dr Swaminathan was a great leader and the lamp that lit many lives said Joseph John, Scientist MSSRF. His activities in linking science with society will continue through the activities of MSSRF, Mr. John added.