Indigenous farming is not just farming practiced by the indigenous people; it is deeply rooted in the cultures of the particular place. Different communities have varied approaches, methods and ritual practices that have been carried out traditionally. Such knowledge has been passed down through generations which have always ensured nutritious food security for the indigenous people. Lately, modern agricultural systems are infiltrating these communities. Traditional practices are being interrupted by conventional farming practices that promote use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers, excessive tilling, monoculture farming – all of which degrade the soil and increases pests and crop disease. To address this growing concern, through the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) we continue to encourage indigenous farmers to strengthen traditional food growing methods.
On the 30th of January, we conducted a workshop with PGS indigenous farmer group leaders to converse about their role and responsibilities and seasonal documentation for proper operation of PGS groups. The role of a PGS leader includes organizing community farmers, encouraging traditional practices, and understanding farmer’s need by providing solutions.
Group leaders from 10 PGS groups from 8 different villages of Aracode, Garikyoor & Pillur regions took part in the workshop. Robert Leo (Deputy Director) addressed the gathered leaders to take up the responsibility to interact constantly with farmers in their region and inform them about the PGS norms. The workshop created a space to have a two-way dialogue with the group leaders, besides just familiarizing their role and functions.
Organic farming was the topic for the day. R.Chandran an Irula from Neeradi (A village in Pillur dam) spoke to the other farmers about his farming practices and organic bio inputs he uses to grow bananas in his farms, encouraging others to try out these methods. PGS also enables knowledge transfer among farmer groups through peer support and collaborative learning. Peer review is the crux of PGS system. All PGS groups come together to have peer reviews every month. It installs a sense of responsibility among farmers.
A session on processing techniques, storage methods post-harvest for better quality control took place at the meeting. Through the Aadhimazhai Tribal Producer Company, the farmers are assured better rates than the market standard price for their PGS certified crops.
The farmers left with more knowledge and confidence after the meeting. We look forward to bring more farmers on board with PGS.
By Rajesh Pandian
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