M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
has been working in the Jeypore region of Odisha since last 12 years. Activities in the area include conservation of biodiversity, promotion of sustainable livelihoods through micro-level interventions, establishment of Community Managed Gene, Seed, Grain and Water Banks, promotion of genetic literacy and documentation of local conservation traditions. The initiatives taken up by the MSSRF in participation with the local tribal communities enabled the of Jeypore region of Odisha to receive the prestigious Equator Initiative Award for conservation of plant genetic resources and traditions. More MSSRF's interventions have raised the level of confidence in the local communities by way of interaction and cooperation. Establishment of SHGs involved in water resources management, wasteland
reclamation and marketing of speciality rices (eg. Kalajeera) and products of minor millets are some of the initiatives exemplifying the success of the work of tribal families, with support from MSSRF designed to create an economic stake in
The vast medicinal plant resources in the region, was not getting attention of researches. The MSSRF's proposal to work in this area has received excellent support from the State Govt. The State Govt. has provided 6 hectares (i.e. 15 acres) of land to MSSRF for the establishment of the "Biju Patnaik Medicinal Plants Garden and Conservation Centre" at Jeypore. The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik, performed the bhumipuja on the 16th November 2004. The major aim was to establish an ex-situ
genetic conservation centre of medicinal plants of major tribes of the region. The predominant tribes are Paroja, Bonda, Kandha, Koya, Saura, Gond, Gadaba, Bhumia, Bhatra. 1 acre of land was assigned for each major tribe for cultivating the plants they use for their health care needs. This in turn serves as a repository of various genetic stocks of the region and can be of immense utility for the present and future generations. This a conservation centre serves as a living gene bank for the tribal families.
The centre is working in such a manner that the tribal families develop a sense of ownership of the living gene bank and participate actively in all aspects of the work of the center, namely conservation, enhancement through participatory breeding, cultivation and chronicling of dying wisdom and vanishing crops. The centre helps tribal women and men to protect their Intellectual Property Rights under the provisions of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act (PPVFRA 2001) and Biodiversity Act (2002). A participatory Knowledge Management System has developed to foster genetic, trade and legal literacy. Such an initiative has got the involvement and dedicated support and cooperation of a large number of partners.
Though the programme is a joint initiative of the MSSRF and the Govt. of Orissa, the immediate partnership will be with the local farming and resource poor tribal communities of the Jeypore region. The support from the Central Govt. Departments such as the National Bioresource Development Board, National Medicinal Plant Board, Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology and Min. of Environment and Forests would be solicited in fulfilling the objectives of the center.