Lands of Cultures: Different lands, different farming systems

Land types define the different forms of farming systems practiced by the Kondh farmers. The famers shared this diverse range of farming systems that defines their cultures around land.

“In our area we generally have four types of lands where practice different forms of farming. It is khala, dhep, madhyam and gudia. Khala lands are the low lands which are irrigated and hence we do two crops a year. Earlier we used to do about 7-8 desi paddy varieties in different plots of khala lands which had been conserved by our parents and grandparents. But now we do only two of our own indigenous varieties called bayanda and sikdi sama. When we make new khala lands by further levelling medium lands, we grow labia beans and biri/urad dal on the bunds so that the bunds become strong and hard so that they do not erode with rains and water logging. But in the older land bunds we do not grow anything though earlier our parents used to grow oil seeds on these bunds or even some times vegetables like brinjal and ladies fingers.

Dhep lands are the next level of low land though not double irrigated like the khala lands. In dhep lands we can though grow two crops a year if we can ensure channelling of stream or any irrigation system water into these lands. In dhep lands we grow two paddy varieties like Konark and IR 66. No other variety f crops is mixed with paddy in dhep lands.

Madhyam lands are medium lands which are rainfed and hence cultivated once a year. The variety of seeds we cultivates on these lands are generally high yielding paddy varieties like Puja, 1001, Pratikhya, etc. But since last three years we have also been growing an indigenous variety of paddy called N-20 from Basudha Farm. Just like the khala lands, even here our parents and grandparents used to cultivate different varieties of small duration and long duration as well as aromatic paddy but we have lost those seeds as we never learnt to conserve or value those seeds.

Gudia land or upland which is not only rainfed but also slopped as it is just below the hill slope lands or shifting cultivation lands called nehela thasa lands. Only on gudia lands do we continue our traditional systems of multi cropping where we mix mandia, makka, jhudunga, kandul, biri, kolath, alasi, mitha raasi, kangu, sana suan and ganthia. Earlier we used to cultivate suan on gudia lands, but now suan seeds have been lost in our area and a handful of farmers grow suan now.

Dhep and madhyam types of lands are more in quantity in our village. And we follow shared farming practices. If any villager has a piece of land but not plough to cultivate, then the other villagers would support that family in ploughing. But in return the land owning family has to give one share of the paddy or millet harvest to the person providing the plough. And if a villager does not have land, then that family would be given a shifting cultivation plot where he can do nehela thasa and also work on other people’s as daily wage workers.

When we work on the different types of lands, we have one system of wage payment which can either be in cash or kind but it is the same for everyone, men and women. The wage is fixed in the village kutumb or clan meeting in the presence of all villagers. The rates now are that if anyone is working as a daily wage labourer then she or he would get a wage of INR 100 for a full day and INR 50 for half a day or get two manas (equal to 8 kgs) of paddy for half a day and four manas (equal to 16 kgs) of paddy for a full day. The wages are paid for activities like sowing, weeding and harvesting. But for other agriculture activities like thrashing, cleaning, winnowing, etc it is done as a collective labour and the family for whom it is done gives the labourers a lunch with some local liquor. Sometimes when harvesting of paddy is done for many families on the same day then different members from one family divide themselves among all those whose paddy is being harvesting. The collective work is a legal of the land cultures of Kondh adivasi communities because earlier, in our parents and grandparents generations, a lot of singing was done during the collective labour. However we do not sing anymore while working but we do share jokes, anecdotes and stories across the fields with other group of workers in order to make the work lighter and more fun filled. 

We have however noticed some changes that have come about in our different farming systems and crop yields. While we have reduced sowing of varied millets and pulses and shifted majorly to paddy in khala, dhep and madhyam lands, our food habits have also shifted from millets and to rice though we continue to eat as many pulses as before.  

Overall we do not see much change in our different farming systems except for the loss of many traditional paddy and millet varieties. We have unfortunately shifted to high yielding varieties of paddy and lost millet seeds since the last 20-25 years. And one thing which we have observed is that the size of paddy plants was much higher than the high yielding variety paddy plants. And because of this we do not get straw for roofing and had to shift to tile roofing or cement roofing.

Profile of the Village : 56 households, All Kondhs
Village Details : Togapadar, Rasakola Panchayat, Bissamkatak Block, Rayagada District

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