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.
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
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.