From Chipko to Baranaja: Untangling the politics around agroecology in Uttarakhand (North India)

Authors: Sadaf Javed*, Rutgers University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Local Agriculture, Traditional Knowledge, Agroecology, Seeds, India
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years, & across the Global South, revitalization and preservation of traditional seeds has been at the forefront of social movements. Traditional seeds and farming practices have become objects and sites through which farmers and communities contest monocropping, corporate interventions, and state-led policies. Drawing from preliminary dissertation fieldwork, this paper contributes to the literature on the relationships between seeds and social movements, by providing a case study from the foothills of Himalayas, Uttarakhand, India. Here, people from Jhardhargaon have long preserved and cultivated seeds through ‘Baranaja’ (Twelve Grains), a traditional agro-ecological practice that includes multi-cropping of local varieties of cereals, lentils, vegetables, creepers & root vegetables that are grown in the companion planting system. All crops are planted together on the same terraced fields in the Kharif / Chau masa or monsoon season. The seed banks that store and distribute local seed varieties, moreover, are autonomous and operated by local people. Baranaja farming practices have transformed agro-ecologies in the region and, more recently, farmers’ mobilization and contestation against the state and ‘improved certified seeds’. The local seed movement ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ (BBA) has played an instrumental role in peoples struggle. BBA has mobilized the local farming community in this region and promoted traditional seeds and farming practices. Thus, through BBA, seed banks and Baranaja, local people are mobilizing around resource access, local autonomy, and agro-biodiversity. This paper also argues that, through seed banks and Baranaja, local people are able to preserve traditional or ‘situated knowledge’ around farming and agriculture.

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