Atappadi small grain village as a model for the world
There are many millet varieties in the world like Bajra, Maize, Ragi, Chama, Millet, Koovarak, Varak, etc. Uniqueness is that they could withstand drought and water scarcity. And it have high nutrient content.
Earlier tribal communities in Wayanad district in Kerala had been cultivating millet. Infact, today, it seems that almost all tribal farmers in Wayanad have almost abandoned millet. Water scarcity, lacks of adequate land, economic losses are to be blamed.
infact, Attapadi – the lone tribal Taluk in Kerala, situating in Palakkad district put forth a totally different scenario. It consists Irulas,Mudugas and Kurumbas tribal communities .Paddy, plantain cultivation and goat rearing were the main livelihood means of tribal people. Infact, most of them either fully or partially abandoned paddy due to water scarcity, erratic climate events like flood, landslide, drought etc.
Livestock farmers face many challenges especially wild animal attacks, shrinking space for grazing etc
Millet village scheme
Since 2017, there has been a drastic spike in millet cultivation in Attapadi. Kerala Agriculture department with ST department has begun a “millet village “project intending to uplift the livelihood of tribal people. Most favourable component with millet is that it needs less water to grow. Further, in comparison with other crops, fewer pests are infesting on millets. After five years, today Attapadi has turned into a thriving place of millet cultivation in Kerala. Today millet cultivation can be seen in almost all 192 tribal hamlets.
It is noteworthy that the majority of the farmers are women. A drastic shift from black goat rearing to millet cultivation is also being seen on the fringes.
As all other crops, getting an adequate price for the millet has been the biggest challenge. Middlemen were taken advantage after purchasing millet from tribal people for throw away prices. At this juncture the government has intervened with the millet village scheme. Today Kerala Government has been procuring millets with Rs 60 per kg if they have organic certification and
for Rs 40 if they don’t have organic certification. According to Kerala Agricultural Department, this is the highest procurement price for millets in India.
Need safety from wild animals
In Attapadi, almost all farmers are really concerned about wild animal attacks.
Counts are really alarming. Since 2022 January, 15 people have been killed in wild animal attacks. And in 2022, crops in 600 acres were destroyed by wild animals. Further around 8000 people were migrated from Attapadi to nearby safer places, according to a Government baseline survey.
Indigenous people are experimenting with various options including traditional and new generation technologies. Beehive fences are erected in many fields
In fact beehive fences are not fully dependable. Most of the time indigenous farmers have suffered bee sting. And there are occasions that wild elephants encroach on millet farms after dismantling beehive fences.
Its really amazing to note that a farm women Chindi has been cultivating a special variety of pulse – “Attukombha Amara” with an intention to ward of wild animals. This pulse species is believed to be delivering a peculiar smell unbearable to the wilds. Following the footstep of Chindi, now tribal farmers are cultivating millets with “Attukombha Amara”
This article was first broadcasted in Kairali News on May 14, 2023
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.