Seeds of Hope – Agriculture and Food Security - A Lokayan and Planning Commission study

Understanding the traditional ways in agriculture, biodiversity, education, forestry, governance, health, movements and water : "Seeds of Hope"

This set of case studies is a part of a book prepared by Lokayan in collaboration with the Planning Commission titled “Seeds of Hope", covering themes of agriculture, biodiversity, education, forestry, governance, health, movements and water. The case studies related to agriculture and food security are summarised below:

Apatani wet rice cultivation: A highly evolved traditional agro-ecosystem (Arunachal Pradesh) by P.S. Ramakrishnan

The case study looks at one of the most advanced traditional wet rice cultivation done by the Apatanis in Arunachal Pradesh in Northeastern India, in the context of valley cultivation as a land use system in the region. The yield from valley cultivation of rice varies considerably depending upon the socio-ecological context in which it is done. The exceptionally high energy efficiency of this valley land agro-ecosystem (60 to 80 units per unit energy input) is markedly different from the values discussed for other rice systems discussed earlier for other tribes in this region, with an output/input ratio of 4-18. Arising from this, the paper also examines possible redevelopment strategies of wet rice cultivation so as to meet certain basic criteria for sustainability. 

Agriculture and food security - A peoples’ movement for conservation and livelihoods in Jardhargaon (Uttaranchal) by Pradeep Malhotra

The case study deals with a peoples’ movement for conservation and livelihoods started two decades back in Jardhargaon in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttaranchal. The study describes how people were able to fulfill their subsistence needs and enhance agricultural productivity. The strength that has determined the sustainability of the initiative has been the moral factor. The people feel that the forest and the local resources are theirs as it provides them with their daily needs and consider it as their responsibility to conserve the forests and resources not only for their own use but also for future generations. It is this that makes them raise issues, respect regulations imposed by the Van Suraksha Samiti and other village institutions, and move towards evolving newer directions.

From food security to food sovereignty - Autonomous community level production systems (Andhra Pradesh) by P V Satheesh

The case study chronicles the work of Deccan Development Society (DDS) with Dalit women in the semi arid tracts of the Deccan plateau spanning nearly two decades. The early efforts of the Society to create a more productive base for them to improve their lands through eco-employment led to an initiative on enabling these women to lease in patches of lands from the richer landlords and work on it as a farming collective. Both these steps significantly contributed to the food security of the women. Shortly thereafter, DDS started working towards food sovereignty in place of food security. This meant that it was not enough to empower communities to access food but to ensure their sovereignty to produce the food they want to. The case study describes the initiative of the society towards this alternative public distribution system through the community grain fund.

Dryland farming in Bundelkhand (Uttar Pradesh) by Parshuram Ray

The case study describes the agricultural economy of the Bundelkhand region which owing to uncertainty of irrigation is largely into dryland farming marked by traditional farming practices like crop rotation and crop-mixture. Despite the poverty and backwardness of the region, farmers suicides are not common and this the case study argues is not incidental but intrinsic to the sustainable and equitable agricultural livelihood systems.

Kakching Ethei: The soul of the soil (Manipur) by Ksh. Kennedy

The case study describes the Kakching Irrigation canal of Manipur locally known as “Kakching Ethei Khong” that has been serving as a source of sustenance for Kakching and its adjoining villages since their earliest settlement. In recent years, with the advancement of traditional agricultural technology, the importance of this canal has increased manifold. Besides irrigating several thousand hectares of agricultural land, this canal has also been catering potable water and other domestic purposes to the people.

Doodhatoli Lok Vikas Sansthan (DLVS) - A silent revolution in the Himalayan foothills (Uttarakhand) by Parshuram Ray

The case study deals with the work of ecological regeneration and environmental protection in the most inhospitable terrain of Pauri Garhwal and Almora districts of Uttaranchal by Doodhatoli Lok Vikas Sansthan (DLVS). DVLS is directly involved in the formation of Mahila Mangal Dals (Women's Welfare Groups) and in spreading ecological awareness among villagers, afforestation, protection of forests and watershed management. The objective of water conservation, goes much beyond soil & land management and is a sustained endeavor of the mountain communities to revitalise the thinning headwaters of the Himalayan rivers and recharge & augment their volume in the upper watersheds.

The Green Foundation – Biodiversity conservation in traditional agriculture (Southern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) by Nikhil Anand

The case study deals with the broader issues that emanate from the advent of globalization and the liberalization of agricultural goods even as producer and consumer subsidies for food and agriculture are being slashed. Farmers that have been weaned and wooed on a diet of these inputs now face troubled and uncertain times. The prospect of paying more for fertilizer and pesticide inputs come even as farmers cannot be certain of a market for the produce as state price supports are being dismantled. At the same time, highly subsidized (sometimes as much as 60 percent) food from the developed countries is flooding the markets. And finally, new intellectual property rights regimes threaten to deny farmers access to the seeds that they have cultivated for generations.

When placed in this context of the multiple attacks on agriculture and the farmer, on-farm biodiversity conservation becomes immediately relevant and critical. Farm based biodiversity conservation is a means by which farmers can move to a paradigm of agriculture that is living and constantly evolving, unlike that of industrial agriculture. In conjunction with community biodiversity registers, on farm biodiversity conservation is the basis for a renewed paradigm in agriculture, which places the farmer as the guardian of the biodiversity that sustains them economically and ecologically in the long term.

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