Panga Kodhs have gone back to traditional, organic cropping methods

Im born of this soil. Putting poison in the soil is like poisoning ones parents. Why would I harm myself like this?, says Adi Kumurka. Kumurka belongs to the Panga Kondh indigenous community in Odishas Rayagada district. His community is engaged in mixed organic cropping from traditional seeds. This is the traditional way of farming that his community has practised since untold times. But there was a long gap in between when malnourishment and farmer suicides compelled these traditional farmers to migrate to faraway places to look for jobs. What changed?

The green revolution initiated in India in the 1960s was a shift in agricultural policies and incentives that pushed chemical fertilizers, pesticides and use of bio-engineered seeds. This was done to combat malnourishment. The thinking was that replacing the traditional heirloom seeds with high-yield varieties of staples would produce better, more bounteous crops. The farmers were now required to buy seeds from the government, giving up the age-old practice of saving seeds. Fertilisers, pesticides, tractors, electricity for irrigation as well as seeds continue to be subsidised by the government today, even though the original international backers behind the green revolution have completely changed their position. Today even United Nations reports testify that small scale organic farming is the only way to combat hunger, climate change, and growing malnourishment. More than fifty years on, the promise of the green revolution has turned to ashes. India has documented the largest number of farmer suicides. Farmers are among the most indebted especially to unscrupulous private money lenders as all their inputs from seeds. And malnourishment and hunger are present more than ever.

It is only when the organisation Living Farms entered the scene that the Panga Kondhs could go back to their traditional ways of farming. Adi Kumarka refused to migrate in search of work. Instead, he got heirloom seeds from Living Farms, an organisation committed to reviving traditional farming knowledge to combat malnourishment and famine, with which he started his farm. He grows over a dozen varieties of crops, from vegetables to millets and grains. The method of mixed cropping ensures that losses are minimised even if one crop fails.