Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tribal farming beats climate change

Manipadma Jena in IPS: Tribal farmer Harish Saraka has rediscovered the key to sustainable farming in this rain-dependent hinterland of eastern Odisha state – mixed cropping.
Saraka, 38, is careful not to take credit for helping to turn around farming in this area, in the news just a decade ago for starvation deaths. "All we are doing is returning to our grandfathers’ practices," says this member of the Kondh tribe. Saraka recalls that his forebears sowed three different seeds in the same field: millet, legume, oilseed and maybe a creeper bean.
...In 2010, amidst public outrage over a spate of farmers’ suicides over poor harvests and high interest on loans taken for farming inputs, the then agriculture minister Damodar Rout admitted that Odisha’s agriculture was in crisis, "impacted by climate change, erosion, dryness, soil acidity and falling ground water levels."
For Harish Saraka and other subsistence farmers in 70 Niyamgiri villages in Rayagada, adapting to changing conditions meant reverting to traditional farming methods such as mixed cropping, the use of organic fertilisers and trusted seed varieties.
So, while farming has been failing elsewhere in Odisha, Harish Saraka has been cultivating not three but 14 crops on his half-hectare land since the last two years - enough to see his family through the lean August-December season.
...‘Ailing Agricultural Productivity in Economically Fragile Region of India’ - a recent study published by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Soil Sciences found that the cultivation area for small millets in Odisha had declined by 500 percent over the last 40 years.
..."The movement in India to return to traditional seeds is growing stronger and at country inter-NGO level too we exchange seeds to supplement local communities’ seed needs," says Sarangi... 
Photo of millet by Offlineinternet, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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