Traditional Farming Holds All the Aces
IPS, 1 February 2013

KORAPUT, INDIA: Deforestation and climate change have resulted in erratic rainfall, shrinking water bodies and severe soil degradation in Ramaparia’s hamlet of Tentulipar, located in the Eastern Ghat region of Odisha’s Koraput province, leaving scores of farmers vulnerable to extreme hunger. But the Bhumia tribe is simply falling back on the wisdom of their 3,000-year-old traditional farming systems to ensure a year-round supply of healthy food. The tribe uses local seeds from the biodiversity-rich Eastern Ghats, a discontinuous mountain range that runs parallel to the Bay of Bengal along India’s eastern coast at an average of 900 metres above mean sea level. The agricultural system here has adapted to the intensely hilly terrain, built resilience to the changing climate, and developed a natural pest-control mechanism. Tribal farmers grow hardy crops on the highlands, and more water-intensive crops on the midland and low-lying areas. Though the government of India has offered the tribe subsidised hybrid paddy, which yields about 3,700 to 4,800 kilogrammes per hectare – a much larger haul than the 2,400 to 3,300 kilogrammes farmers can expect from traditional seeds – the tribe has no intention of abandoning their indigenous crops. Last January, FAO accorded the status of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) to the traditional agricultural system in the Koraput region. This status grants farmers the support they need to continue to nurture and adapt their ancient practices to a changing climate and shrinking landholdings in order to ensure food security, without succumbing to modern agricultural practices. Read the article …