Pesticides do not decipher caste, gender or nationality. They will kill anybody irrespective of his or her origins.



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Why do dryland farmers in the Deccan practice Ecological Agriculture?

A presentation by Ms Bidakanne Chandramma and Yerrolla Jayappa
from the Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

In the International Ecoagriculture Conference and Practisioner's Fair held at World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya from 27th September to 1st October 2004


Dryland ecological farming in the Zaheerabad region of Deccan is characterised by its diversity. Farmers practice this diversity for a number of reasons.

The first of these reasons is the risk insurance that such diversity provides to the farmer.
The crops that are sown at the same time and space have both species and varietal diversity. The species diversity is directly related The diversity is directly related to the variety of foods that is a part of the farmers diet and their food culture. The diverse crops also help farmers in preserving their soil fertility and meet the fodder needs of their cattle. All these crops are nutritionally rich and therefore meet the nutritional needs of the farmers families.

One of the most important contributors to this nutritional security is the host of uncultivated greens that they can harvest from their fields as a result of their practice of ecological agriculture. Free from the chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the so called weeds are not weeds at all for ecological farmers. They are either food for humans or for the cattle or medicine plants for both.

The cropping pattern is designed to insure against various climatic and pest factors. They include early maturing varieties, late maturing varieties so as to meet with early and late monsoons. They have varieties that can grow with deficit rainfall, excess rainfall and
normal rainfall. In this manner the farmers insure their farms against vagaries of weather.

Medicinal properties of different foods also factors itself into the biodiversity of the ecological farms of the Deccan. Each food has a special quality that is important for the folk healthcare systems of the region. If Little millet is eaten for its cool quality, Foxtail millet is used for its warmth. Horsegram clears the body of kidney stones while sorghum is good for the diabetics. Almost every crop combines this food-medicine property and therefore for the poor a very important source for their healthcare.

The fourth factor that prompts farmers to practice ecological agriculture is the diverse needs of their culture and rituals. Each of the festivals of the region demands a particular food crop and together the scores of festivals of the region ensure that there is a religious need to maintain the biodiversity in agriculture.

There is no seed in this system that does not answer the need of a medicine or of fodder or of food or of nutrition. Every crop is good for the soil, good for the human and good for the animal. It is this character of the diverse cropping system in the Deccan that sustains the ecological agriculture from the farmers point of view.