The Art of Mixing: Mapping the knowledge of mixed farming

This story started with a sad reminder to us, non-adivasis, by a Kondh elder about our disturbing opportunistic attitude towards the adivasi people’s stories. Harish Saraka reflected that, “we feel happy when we our stories in print form sometimes in newspapers and sometimes in books. Bt we are tired of telling our stories to people who only listen and do not come back again !” Thus these stories will be theirs first and we will keep coming back when the Kondhs need us ………….

“In our area gudia (up land) and dangar land (hill slope or poddu) lands are the most suitable for mixed farming. We are total seven clans living in the village and if any new family from any clan settles in the village, then we have a meeting and assign them a piece of either gudia or poddu land. But they have to pay the revenue tax to the revenue inspector (RI) for that piece of land. In all Kondh villages dangar land belongs to the kutumb or clan and most such lands are not patta or recorded lands in any one’s names so any family can cultivate any piece of land but they have to take the village elders’ that is the Nayak, Jani and Disari’s consent before cultivating it.We believe that a Kondh may not have any patta or low land or even gudia land, but the Kondh will definitely have a patch of dangar or poddu land and hence will never stay hungry.

Moreover, Kondh people do not always depend only on cultivated land for livelihood. They also depend on forest produces, roots and tubers for food or earn cash from daily wage work. We never had conflict over lands. You see, we did not have greed for keeping more land during the earlier generations. Whatever is the village’s resources it is shared so land is a shared resource just like forests. We believe that we can share labour and the forest but cannot grab anyone’s lands.

We have been practising mixed cultivation for many many generations.Mandia, kangu, suanand other millets are part of farm culture since the beginning. Paddy cultivation is comparatively a recent crop that we have adopted. Our forefathers were cultivating different type of millets and have left the seeds for us and since generations wehave been cultivating from those traditional seeds only. And that is why we have 70 types of seeds that can be cultivated on dangar lands. Even many varieties of vegetables can be cultivated. So see, our forefathers were cultivating so many types of seeds. They were giving most of their time to dangar and gudia cultivation rather than plain land cultivation. But there is a need to guard the harvest from wild animals on the dangar lands. And our forefathers were able to devote that much time for that. We do not have that amount of time to spare as we focus our attention on paddy cultivation in the plan or low lands. Moreoevermostly the elder parents cultivate the dangar lands while the younger people cultivate the paddy lands and most of their time goes in transplanting and weeding. And with just two elders, it is not possible to keep watch over the dangar lands to ward off wild animals.

Another crucial reason why mixed farming on dangar ad gudia lands is reducing is that we do not have the depth of knowledge our forefathers had about mixing seeds while sowing the dangar or gudia lands. We do not know the proportions and timings of such forms of mixed farming and hence do not want to take any risks with crop loss due to bad practices of mixed farming. One kind of paddy cultivation is far less risky and hence easier to practice !

In mixed farming, we harvest first those crops which we sow first because that is the simplest rule. We first get suan,thenmakka,thenkangu, jhudunga, mandia, khed jana, kandul and so on. These food crops are more economic and can survive even bad monsoons. Further, with just one tractor of khata or cow manure we can grow multiple crops on a mixed farming plot. Also different crops exchange nutrition with each other and do not need external inputs. Paddy is more expensive, labour intensive, high risk and after all this, definitely the yield is less every year.

We believe that each crop variety in a mixed farming plot takes different kinds of food from the soil, water, sun and its neighbouring plants and that is why they all taste different. If they all ate the same food in the same way then all vegetables and grains would have tasted the same !

This kind of knowledge we have learnt from our fathers and grandfathers. We don’t have books but we have hearts and these hearts teach us about our farming because we love our earth and our fathers. Our sons are going to school to learn many new things and they are not studying to get a job only. But school cannot teach him those things about farming that I can as his father. He will have to come to me if he wants to learn about our farming like I learnt from my father. The school has only one teacher, but a village has many many teachers. If you stay for a year in any adivasi village you will learn mixed farming but this cannot happen in one year at school !

Will mixed farming as a practice of the Kondhs get extinct ? Actually eagerness among the youth to continue mixed farming may increase or decrease but we cannot predict anything about this ! We have learnt from elders that relationship between a man and woman is key to strengthening farming. If a man and woman cannot work together then farming cannot be successful. And may be the younger generation is unable to work together on the farm and that is why mixed farming by the young Kondh farmers is giving way to paddy cultivation.

How can we ensure that the younger generation learns mixed farming ? There are three main ways this can happen. One, through participation of the youth in all forms of mixed farming; two, sharing labour and knowledge in each aspect of mixed farming and third, by ensuring that the kutumb takes the responsibility of teaching the younger generations. This culture of sharing and participation can only ensure that mixed farming survives across generations. If cooperation breaks down, then the adivasi village will get extinct. This is the key !”

Thus the collective over the individual is the essence for survival of this extremely rich and unique form of farming called mixed farming among the Kondhs.

Profile of the Village :72 households, All Kondhs
Village Details : Munda, Jigidi Panchayat, Bissamkatak Block, Rayagada District

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