Agroforestry boosts rice and biodiversity in India

WEST BENGAL, India For the tough, weather-beaten farmers in the rural heartland of West Bengal, agroforestry is an age-old tradition that even finds mention in their folklore.

In the remote village of Bhattadighi, a group of women farmers observes a unique ritual, known as Paakh Pakhali or welcoming birds, in which they fill an earthen urn with water and top it with mango leaves and green coconut. Placed under a freshly planted neem tree sapling, it symbolizes the goddess of farming, Bhumi Lakshmi, whose mythical mount is a barn owl. The holy site is adorned with facsimiles of owls, painted storks, herons, egrets and other birds, all painted on white terracotta plates.