02 October 2014

Women, Environment, and Sustainable Development

A study of Women among Sumi Community of Nagaland - Page 3 

Application  of  women’s  indigenous  knowledge  in Agricultural Practices

In their co-existence with the natural environment, women are believed  to  develop  inherent knowledge  of  the  earth  systems which  further  assist  them  in  fulfilling  their  role  as  nurturer
and conservationist. Modern Organic farming is not entirely a new  agricultural  technique  in  itself  but  it  is  incorporation  of  local indigenous knowledge contributed largely by women who acts as the storehouse of intense and varied information of the natural resources.

Their traditional knowledge of the forest not only ensures their subsistence needs but many existing studies/ researches  have  shown  that  women’s  inherent  knowledge constitutes  a  fundamental contribution  to  sustainable development  in  the  community,  (Filomina  Chioma  Steady; 1998).

In  the  present  work,  an  attempt  is  made  to  explore application of indigenous knowledge of women which aimed to enhance sustainable and judicious management of the natural resources.

Women  as  Custodian  of  Seeds:  Seed  preservation  is always  considered  to  be  women’s  work.  They  have  good knowledge about seed quality, genetic diversity of seeds, seeds selection,  seeds  compatibility  to  soil  types,  and  different technique to preserve seeds organically and therefore they are ultimately  known  as  Custodian  of  Seeds.  Women  also  have diverse  knowledge  of   variety  of  seeds   of  different  food  crops which  is  accumulated  and  exchanged  through  networks  of relationships  such  kinship  networks,  friend  circle,  villages, cross  tribal  connections  etc.  Different  technique  of  seeds preservation is employed to set them dry for the next season, to
avoid consumption of chemicals after sowing, and also to keep away pest and rodents.

1.  Moisture-free: Seeds when exposed to moisture tends to rot  and  increase  invasion  of  worms  or  insect  and becomes  unfit  for  sowing.   Therefore,  immense  efforts are  taken  to  prepare  the  seeds  for  the  next  season  in which  the  women  selects  best  of  all  the  variety  of  food
crops produced and separates them out for preservation. To  prevent  the  seeds  from  developing  moisture  they store  the  selected  seeds  in  a  cane  basket/  polythene  or jute  bags/used  paper  and  hang  them  in  the  kitchen  or near the kitchen hearth so that it remain dry and resist moisture till the next season.

2.   Resist pests/ rodents: when seeds resist moisture when kept near the fireplace, it also leaves no or less room for the pests or worms/insects to invade it. Moreover, when seeds  are  preserved  near  the  fireplace  they  remain exposed to the smoke for a longer time making it bitter in taste. This acts as natural pesticides to keep away the wild pests/rodents from attacking the seed after sowing in the field.

3.  Chemicals  –free:  Smoke  acts  as  a  natural  pesticide  to keep away invading agents or animals. This eliminates the use of artificial chemicals which otherwise was used extensively  to  keep  invasion  of  pests/rodents  under control. This indigenous method of seed preservation not
only  helps  to  avoid  consumption  of  affected  food  crops but also eradicate the problems of polluting soil quality and water sources.

Indigenous Land Management Strategy: The topography of  the  forest  land  is  hilly,  mountainous,  and  has  elevated vertical slope. In this condition, soil erosion is rampant which leads  to  loss  of  soil  nutrient  and  texture  resulting  in  poor quality  food  crops.  To  combat  soil  erosion  indigenous  land management  strategy  is  incorporated  in  the  modern  organic
farming  promoted  by  the  local  women.  Several  earthen embankments  are  constructed  with  the  support  of  dried branches  of  trees  which  takes  the  shape  of  a  step/terrace
cultivation  that  runs  horizontally  down  the  slope.  This  slows the  rate  of  soil  erosion  or  even  if  soil  erosion  occur  the  soil nutrients does  not  run  off  but  settles down  in  the subsequent
embankment.  As  a  result,  loss  of  rich  nutrients  is  minimized and  soil  moisture  and  texture  is  retained  in  the  constructed embankments  without  running  off  in  vain.  Increasing deforestation,  use  of  artificial  fertilizers,  grazing  of  cattle, encroachment  of  wild  animals,  shifting  cultivation,  etc.
contributes  to  the  growing  rate  of  soil  erosion  in  the  region which in the context of present agricultural system, indigenous land management system is highly incorporated and applied to arrest loss of soil texture and nutrients.

Home-based  Manure:  In  the  course  of  tending  and nurturing the food crops in the field, the women gather eatable weed, vegetable remnants, food crops invaded by pests/rodents,
fallen  crops,  etc  and feed  the  domesticated  animals  as fodder.The animals feed on these organic materials and excrete it out as high quality compost which is again utilized by the women in
their  kitchen  garden  or  field.  They  also  collect  chicken droppings from the coop  and  make efficient  use  of  it  in their kitchen garden where they usually grow essential home-based
requirements  such  as  green  chili,  tomato,  spring  onion,  king chili, yum, etc.

Strategy  of  Crop  Management  and  Cultivation:  Women are  equipped  with  immense  knowledge  on  the  wide-range  of food  crops  which  they  locally  grow  and  cultivate  in  terms  of seed  quality,  genetic  diversity,  crop  selection,  soil  types, weather  conditions,  nutrients,  water  requirements,  quality yield,  manure  requirements,  etc.  They  also  employ  their experienced knowledge  in  considering what kind  of food  crops are  suited/not  suited  to  grow  on  the  same  patch  of  land,  as according  to  them  some  crops  yield  good  result  when  grown together  along  with  different  crops  but  some  do  not.

  This  is because  some  plants  need  support  of  other  while  some  grow independently of the other. E.g. small height crops like chilly, tomato, spring onion, bitter gourd etc are collectively grown on a small separate patch of land providing support to each other in  terms of sunlight, space, and nutrient intake. But maize are often  grown  alone  or  along  with  one  or  two  standing  crops  of similar  height  to  avoid  suppressing  the  growth  of  other  crops which  happens  in  case  it  is  cultivated  with  crops  of  small height. Likewise, soya bean is cultivated separately on a small semi-arid patch of land away from the water sources because it does  not  grow  well  in  high  water  content.  Precautionary measures are taken to avoid intercropping of green chili, round gourd etc with soya bean as they believe that the sharp odor/flavor  of  these  crops  suppress  the  growth  of  soya  bean  plant which is soft and blunt.

Leguminous plants such as beans, long beans (Kuithi  in local term), flat beans (Apa Khetsuthi  in local term)  and other plants like bottle gourd, bitter gourd, etc needs support  of  a  standing  tree  or  stalk  for  their  growth  and development.  This  is achieved  by  growing  these  food  crops  on dried standing trees or tree stalks which is kept purposively at the  time  of  clearing  the  forest.  Plant  creepers  like  pumpkin, watermelon  etc  are  grown  over  the  fences  to  make  maximum
use  of  the  field  area  as  well  as  to  demarcate  the  field boundaries.

Continue to Next Page

No comments:

Post a Comment