How did an unassuming Varanasi farmer and school dropout come to be sought after by farmers, praised by experts and awarded by the government for his famous seeds?
His claim to fame? He develops indigenous, high-yielding and disease resistant varieties of plants. So far, he’s perfected more than 460 types of paddy, 120 of wheat, 40 kinds of arhar dal and three of mustard. He’s also grown a special type of wood apple or bel, one that yields 8-10 fruits in a single bunch, multiplying harvests for poor farmers.
One million farmers in about seven Indian states swear by the seeds he provides. He sells them for Rs 30-40 per kilo, compared to the Rs 200-300 that agents charge for genetically modified (GM) crops. Still, his crops outperform the GM ones on yield. And from their grain, farmers plant for the next harvest – something they can’t do with a GM crop.