Jyotika Sood finds out how farmers in the Himalaya manage food round the year
The farms in the Himalaya present a charming picture. The pristine forests and mountain slopes cut to make way for terrace farms look picturesque. But what’s more fascinating is the way people living in these hilly terrains have managed to sustain themselves for decades, using barah anaaj (12 grains). So much so that they have never felt the need to adopt modern-day agriculture practices, which include use of pesticides and fertilisers.
I was introduced to this traditional farming practice during my recent visit to the districts of Almora, Chamoli and Ranikhet in Uttarakhand. Barah Anaaj is a mixed farming system wherein farmers grow 12 foodgrains on the same piece of land. These 12 crops include ram dana (amaranthus), rajma (kidney bean), ragi (finger millet), mangjeer, green gram, buck wheat, lobia (black eyed pea), horse gram, a traditional soy called math and a few other crops.
Farmers in Uttarakhand explain that the reason their ancestors used to follow this practice is that in case one crop fails due to climatic conditions, the others can be harvested. This would ensure food for family and a farmer will not have to beg others for food. The system also ensured less pests and diseases. It also helped them fight drought. “Ragi is one of the crops that would survive even in harsh hot weather. Even one rainfall is enough for the seed to germinate,” farmers in the area say.
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