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.
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