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Agroecology – Conserving biodiversity, nurturing ecology

Agroecology approach is a way to make farming sustainable. It is also a way to resist the corporate agriculture model pushed through the green revolution and gene revolution. Besides technologies, it is important to create an equitable food system for the people who actually produce the world’s food.

Integrated family farm development in 18 acres of Malegaon village
Integrated family farm development in 18 acres of Malegaon village

The Southern-Western Odisha is largely an agro-economy based region with 75-80% people depending on agriculture. Even though blessed with rich natural resources, the changing climatic conditions create threats to food, livelihood and ecological security of tribal communities. Due to hasty environmental degradation, deforestation, and challenging climatic conditions the food production and income is affected severely throughout the year in the region.

To address these issues, Agragamee, a pioneer NGO in Odisha State has promoted the concept of Eco-Village Development in 150 villages in 3 blocks (Kashipur, Dasmantpur and Th. Rampur) of 3 districts (Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi).  Agroecological models replacing monocultures with biodiversity have produced impressive economic results in terms of yields, productivity, nutrition and efficiency, also making a significant contribution to food security and sovereignty. Women farmers have an equal status with men in agro-activities.

The Eco-Village model

Agroecology is used as strategic application to amplify diversified agro-ecosystem. Soil conservation measures like terrace bunding and vegetative bunds on the hill slopes were taken up. Gully and ravine formation were checked through appropriate drainage treatment.

Fruit-bearing trees like mango, cashew, litchi and guava have been promoted along with forest species. These plantations were taken up on slopes above 30 degrees. Using sophisticated equipment, land survey and settlement processes were conducted in 150 villages in 3 blocks. In 2010, total 117000 fruit plants have been planted by 1800 farmers.

By the end of July 2016, more than 6000 households were following family farming. As a result, between the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons, there was a 120 percent increase in the land on which family farming was being practiced. Typically, most cereals and legumes grown in these areas are consumed in the household, while the surplus generally sold to support household income and to take care of children’s education and their health expenses.

A girl happy to harvest diverse crops
A girl happy to harvest diverse crops

Key Impacts

It has been proved that agroecology is an organic solution for making profit by increasing agro-production for small farmers. Let’s look at how agroecological methods contribute to a farmer’s income and better health underlining the significance of harmony with environment.

Increased production and crop diversification

The tribal small scale farmers of the region were able to check land degradation and improve soil fertility with multiple cropping and practice traditional and indigenous practices. Productivity increased and within 3-7 years of using agroecological methods, farmers were able to double their crop yields.

Livelihood security

The agroecological practices have been largely enhancing the income of small farmers. Farmers are no longer dependant on external inputs. Innovative irrigation practices and producing bio-inputs on farm reduced their costs of production.  Small farmers have taken up animal rearing for income generation. Around 1500 farmers in 150 villages were encouraged to save money to buy livestock, develop land, and enhance irrigation systems which added a sustainable income opportunities to ensure livelihood security. In case of crop failure too, farmers are not crippling in indebtedness. And, agroecology has certainly proven to reduce the magnitude of farmer’s suicide.

Food Sovereignty

The food systems ensured good health, justice and dignity for the small scale farmers. It has given the farmers control over every aspect of farming including their land, water, forest, seeds and income. These  farmers with enhanced awareness and abilities are able to see the interconnectedness of food systems,  industrial farming and trade policies.

Sumani Jhodia: The change maker

Sumani Jhodia, a sixty two year old woman belongs to Jhodia tribe
of Siriguda village of Kashipur block in Rayagada district, Odisha.
Earlier, Sumani Jhodia was practicing shifting cultivation on hill
slopes. She was growing ragi and paddy for household
consumption. But the condition of her family changed when she
practiced the methods of agroecology for several years now.
Sumani Jhodia has been practicing multiple cropping for food
security. Mixed cropping has helped the crops to grow better within
an year. The bigger problem that she faced was water supply, an
issue faced by the entire village. The youth and old farmers came
together to dig channel diverting the nearby stream water to their
farms. This ensured irrigation for their farms throughout the year.
The channel holds the rainwater and facilitates in recharging the
ground water.

Now Sumani Jhodia grows vegetables, fruits and has raised nursery
with six varieties of mango saplings. She sells the products at the
local market of Kashipur. In 2015, she had raised 5000 sapling of
over six varieties of mango and has already sold 6000 grafted
plants in 2016 @ Rs. 25/- earning Rs. 1,50,000/-. Her family now
has food supply all year round. The village seed cum grain bank
has stored supply for three years for the entire village of 56
households.

“I grow many vegetables and fruits on my farm now. We make our
compost here and have good water supply. My grandchildren will
not face hunger like us and have healthy food to eat. Now, I have
sustainable source of livelihood for me and my next generations”,
says Sumani Jhodia, smiling with satisfaction.

Conclusion

Agroecology is becoming a promising agricultural practice for the small farmers. This approach not only provides sustenance for small farmers but also serves as a way to resist the corporate agriculture model pushed through the green revolution and gene revolution. We don’t need to produce more food to end the world hunger. We need to create an equitable food system for the people who actually produce the world’s food. What small farmers need is better access to land, water, forest, basic infrastructure services and not GMOs, large scale agriculture or global markets. The journey has already begun!

 

 

Kulaswami Jagannath Jena
Project Coordinator in ECO VILLAGE
DEVELOPMENT,
Agragamee,
Kashipur, Rayagada, Odisha, India.
www.agragamee.org
E-mail id: kulaswami13@gmail.com