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Indigenous practices in DryLands

Indigenous Practices in Dry lands

P. BALASUBRAMANIAM, Associate Professor (Agrl. Extn.),

Directorate of Open and Distance Learning, TNAU, Coimbatore - 3.

 

Abstract

Indigenous knowledge is the knowledge of the people living in certain area, generated by their own and their ancestors experience and including knowledge originating from else where which has been internalized by the local people. Farmers have found ways of conserving soil and water, protecting crops and nutrient availability without the use of artificial inputs.

 

The indigenous practices viz; Cow dung coating for cotton seeds, soaking sorghum in cow urine, soaking bengal gram in water, soaking sorghum in common salt and soaking sorghum in water were known to all farmers in both farmers' categories. Germination failure due to drought is a common phenomenon in dryland areas. In order to avoid this, farmers are found to be innovative in developing several indigenous practices. Under manure and manuring, there was only one practice. Eighty four percent of small farmers and all the big farmers were aware of cattle penning practice to improve soil fertility. cow dung cake used as burrow fumigant, displaying crow's carcass for scaring birds and beating empty iron drums toward off birds were known to all the small and big farmers..

Introduction

View from any angle, be it the contribution to national income, export earnings and livelihood of the people agriculture is the backbone of India. Every effort is being made to develop and strengthen this sector. Land is a limited resource and hence the present efforts should mainly rely upon increasing the productivity of the existing land. Increase of productivity is dependent upon increasing the potential of irrigation resource of the land. Of the 153 million hectares of cultivated land, only 28 per cent enjoy the irrigation facilities while the rest of the land is rainfed. Thus dryland cultivation in India produces about 44 per cent of the food grains and 75percent of oilseeds and pulses. In all about 75 million tonnes of food grains come from dry tracts of our country. Under these circumstances, that dryland agriculture assumes crucial role and needs through investigation and developmental efforts. This dryland area is characterized by small farm holdings periodical droughts, soil erosion and low crop yields.

 

There has been a tremendous increase of the use of modern technologies in boosting production in agriculture recently. Adoption of these technologies has however, been limited to irrigated areas, where these technologies have proved profitable. The farmers of the dry tracts however, face severe constraints in adoption of these technologies, due to a variety of reasons. production risk is one of the important features of rainfed agriculture from the farmers perspective, the risk could be observed not only due to drought but also due to wet weather, frost, pests, diseases, market rates etc., The factors associated with risk, however vary from year to year and also from location in an unpredictable manner.

                   

Traditionally, a number of practices have been evolved by farmers to address the problem of risk. These traditional practices are relevant under the changing scenario in rain fed agriculture and also to impress upon the need for blending the traditional practices of risk management with modern practices at high production. The knowledge in today's parlance is called local knowledge/traditional knowledge (or) indigenous knowledge.

 

Indigenous knowledge may also be defined as the sum total of knowledge and practices which are based on people's accumulated experience in dealing with situations and problems in various aspects of life and suck knowledge and practices are special to a particular culture.

         

         

The interest in traditional knowledge is growing with considerable momentum, more so, in case of rainfed agriculture where inadequate to overcome the problems. There is undoubtedly a need to initiate systematic efforts for collecting the traditional practices from different areas, perhaps on the pattern of germ plasm collection so that these could be catalogued for wide use.

 

          The indigenous knowledge would be helpful to develop ecologically compatible and socially accepted technologies in the difficult areas of crop and animal culture.

 

Research methodology

Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu purposively selected for this study as the researcher was familiar with the culture and dialect prevalent in the district. The study concerns with the local farm in dryland. Coimbatore district consists of 21 blocks which Palladam block was purposively selected because of the representativeness of the typical dry tract of the district. Palladam block is administratively divided into 21 revenue villages. Of them, five villages were selected and they are Ganapathipalayam, Anupatty, Panickampatti, Bumalur and Samalapuram. Dryland farmers constitute the sampling for this study. The study population comprises all farmers of selected villages. Based on the statistical requirement, time constraint and other limitations for the researcher a sample of 120 respondents was considered adequate in the study.

Findings and discussion 

 

A. Identification of Indigenous Practice followed by Dryland farmers

 

          IK is dynamic. IK changes through indigenous creativity and innovativeness as well as through contact with other knowledge system. IK is well known that the indigenous creativity, innovativeness as well as contact with other knowledge system vary from farmer to farmer.

 

          An attempt was made to identify the indigenous practices that were prevalent in the study area. The indigenous practices were classified in to eight major heads viz., Preparatory cultivation, seeds and sowing, manure and manuring, mixed cropping, intercultural operation, plant protection, post harvest and storage practices.


Table 1. Identification of Indigenous Practices followed by Dryland farmers

 

Sl.

No.

Indigenous practices

Small farmer

(n=50)

Big farmer (n=70)

Total (%)

'Z"

Value

(%)

(%)

 

Preparatory Cultivation

 

 

 

 

1.

Summer Ploughing

100

100

100

NS

 

Seeds and Sowing

 

 

 

 

2.

Cowdung coating for cotton seeds

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

3.

Soaking sorghum in cow urine

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

4.

Soaking Bengal gram in water

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

5.

Soaking Sorghum in common salt

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

6.

Cotton treated with red soil

46

49

41

NS

7.

Soaking Sorghum in water

100

100

100

NS

 

Manure and manuring

 

 

 

 

8.

Cattle penning

84

100

93

2.82**

 

Mixed cropping

 

 

 

 

9.

Sorghum raised as mixed crop with lab-lab

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

 

Intercultural operation

 

 

 

 

10.

Crop ploughing

74

74

74

NS

 

Plant Protection

 

 

 

 

11.

Cowdung cake used as burrow fumigant

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

12.

Displaying crows carcass for scaring birds

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

13.

Beating empty iron drums toward off birds

 

100

 

100

 

100

 

NS

14.

Tieing polythene sheet to a pole

86

71

77.5

NS

15.

Raising castor as border crop in cotton field

66

100

80

4.12**

16.

Night fire to prevent red hairy caterpillar

70

26

36

3.41**

17.

Digging the field burrow to kill rats

100

77

87

NS

18.

Block cloth tied with a long pole

86

63

72

NS

19.

Dusting ash on the sorghum

78

100

91

3.57*

20.

Throwing stones with help of leather rope

72

81

77.5

NS

 

Post Harvest

 

 

 

 

21.

Coating red gram with red soil

100

100

100

NS

22.

Mixing green gram with ash

90

86

87

NS

23.

Mixing green gram with sand

32

100

72

4.07**

24.

Mixing sorghum with dried neem leaves

100

100

100

NS

 

Storage

 

 

 

 

25.

Storing grains in Mudkudhir

100

100

100

NS

 
** Significant at 1% level           *   Significant at 5% level          

 

          It could be observed from the table 1 that under preparatory cultivation, the summer ploughing practice was known to all sample farmers. The reason might be that in dry land area the quantum of rainfall/annum is generally very low. So in order to preserve the rain water received during the summer, summer ploughing is commonly practiced by dryland farmers.

 

          There was no difference in farmers' awareness of this practice between small and big farmers. Since, every one was familiar with this operation.

 

          Under seeds and sowing, there were six indigenous practices five of them viz., cowdung coating for cotton seeds, soaking sorghum in cow urine, soaking bengal gram in water, soaking sorghum in common salt and soaking sorghum in water were known to all farmers in both farmers' categories. Germination failure due to drought is a common phenomenon in dryland areas. In order to avoid this, farmers are found to be innovative in developing several indigenous practices. Under manure and manuring, there was only one practice. Eighty four percent of small farmers and all the big farmers were aware of cattle penning practice to improve soil fertility. The small and big farmers however differed in their awareness of this practice.

 

          Regarding mixed cropping, there was only one practice namely sorghum raised as mixed crop with lab-lab to circumvent crop failure of any one crops when sown as sole crop. In addition, lab-lab being a leguminous crop enriches the soil. These are the reasons as felt by farmers.

 

          Crop ploughing as an inter-cultural operation was followed in sorghum crop to eradicate the weeds. This practice was known to seventy four percent of small and big farmers. There was no significant difference in farmers' awareness of this practice.

 

          Regarding plant protection measures, there were ten specific indigenous practices of which three practices namely, cowdung cake used as burrow fumigant, displaying crow's carcass for scaring birds and beating empty iron drums toward off birds were known to all the small and big farmers. Percentage of farmers ranging from 72 to 91 were knowledgeable of six more practices namely, digging the field burrow to kill rats, black cloth tied with a long pole, dusting ash on the sorghum, throwing stones with help of leather rope, tieing polythene sheet to pole and caster raised as a border crop in cotton field. The practice of using night fire to prevent red hairy caterpillar was known to only 36 percent farmers. As shown in the table, four practices were known to more number of small farmers as compared to big farmers.

 

          Under post harvest, coating red gram with red soil and mixing sorghum with dried neem leaves were known to all small and big farmers, where as mixing green gram with ash and mixing green gram with sand were known to 87 percent & 72 percent of farmers respectively. The practice of mixing green gram with sand was more popular among big farmers as compare to small farmers.

          Regarding storage practice, there was only one practice and same was known to all farmers.


B. Description of Indigenous Practices

 

1.     Coating Red Gram with red Soil

 

          Before storing for later use, red gram seeds are coated with red soil and the main purpose of this practice is to prevent the pest attack and easy separation of kernels and also for longer storage.

 

2.     Cowdung Coating for Cotton Seeds

 

          Cotton seeds are coated with cowdung before dibbling. This helps in compacting the fuzz in the seeds and which makes dibbling easy.

 

3.     Cattle Penning

 

          This is the practices of keeping the Cattle herd over a period of time on the cultivated land. So, that the dung and urine excreta can be directly absorbed by the soil. It is followed in summer when the land is free from crops.

 

4.     Cowdung Cake Used as Burrow Fumigant

 

          The cowdung cake is kept in a mud pot with a side hole. The mouth of pot is placed at the entrance of the burrow. The cowdung cake is ignited to a little extent and air is blown through the hole. So, that the smoke which emanates into the burrow and the rats inside are suffocated to death.

 

5.     Soaking Sorghum in Cow Urine

 

          The Sorghum is soaked with cow urine before sowing. The purpose of this practice is to induce drought tolerance of seeds.

 

6.     Displaying Crow's carcass for scaring Birds

 

          The carcass of a crow is tied to along pole and it is placed in the centre of the field. The purpose is to drive away the birds.

 

 

7.     Summer Ploughing

 

          Ploughing the land with the immediate receipt of light showers. The advantages of this practice are

 

a)     eradication of weeds

b)     Moisture retention

c)      Erosion control

d)     Minimum number of ploughing during the time of sowing

 


8.     Mixing Green gram with Ash

 

          The harvested green gram was mixed with ash. After through mixing it should be dried. The purpose is to control storage pest.

 

9.     Beating Empty Iron Drums toward off Birds

 

          This is the practice of beating empty iron drums in sorghum, cumbu and groundnut fields. One man has to be continuously engaged for this purpose. This practice drives away the birds from the field.

 

10.  Crop Ploughing

 

          Weeding with country plough is done in the early stage of the crop, particularly in sorghum fields.

 

11. Mixing sorghum with Dried Neem leaves

 

          Sorghum is mixed with neem leaves acting as pest repellent. This helps in longer storage.

 

12. Soaking Bengalgram in water

 

          Bengalgram is soaked with water before sowing. This results in good germination.

 

13. Tieing polythene sheet to a pole

 

          Polythene sheet is tied to a long pole and placed in the centre of the field. During windy season polythene sheets flutter and produce sound toward off crow.

 

14. Raising Castor Crop as Border Crop in Cotton Field

 

          The castor is grown as bund crop in cotton field. It acts as a catch crop. Because, the castor crop easily attract pests (Spodepetera pest).

 

15. Soaking Sorghum in Common Salt

 

          Sorghum seeds are soaked with common salt solution before sowing. The purpose is to ensure good germination under adverse conditions.

16. Sorghum raised as a "Mixed Crop" with Lab-Lab

 

          The lab lap is mixed with sorghum and broadcasted. The purpose is to get additional yield and to improve soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.

 

17. Storing the grains in Mudkudhir

          This is the practice of storing the grains in "Mudkudhir" a container made of mud. The purpose is to store grains for longer period without pest attack.

 

18. Cotton Coated with Red Soil

 

          Cotton seeds are coated with red soil and then sun dried before sowing. The purpose is to secure good germination and same for easy dibbling of seeds.

 

19. Night Fire to prevent the Red hairy cater pillar

 

          This is the practice of making fire near the groundnut fields in order to get rid of red hairy cater pillar.

 

20. Green gram mixed with sand

 

          This is the practice of mixing the harvested green gram with sand. The purpose is to protect crop from pest attack.

 

21. Digging field burrow to kill the rats

 

          The breeding activity of the rats is intensive in dry lands. It is difficult to dig out the bunds during the cropping season. Therefore, the best time to dig open bunds, catch and kill the rats is after the harvest of crops. This practice needs 2 to 3 labourers.

 

22. Tieing Black Cloth to a long pole

 

          A black cloth is tied to a long pole and placed in the centre of the field. The purpose is to drive away the birds.

 

23. Dusting ash on the Sorghum

 

          The ash is dusted on the infected leaves of the sorghum to prevent the pest incidence.

 

24. Soaking Sorghum in Water

 

          Sorghum seeds are soaked in water before sowing. The purpose is to secure good germination.

 

 

25. Throwing stones with help of leather rope

 

          Stones are kept in a leather pouch tied with strings. This is swirled around by catching on to the string. Thus releasing the stones, which are hurled to a great distance chasing away the birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. Source of the indigenous practices

 

          For each of the identified indigenous practices, the farmers were requested to indicate the source from which they had known about it. Three sources i.e., ancestors, neighbours and relatives were frequently cited by them. To priorities the sources, the total number of times that a particular source has been cited for all practice by all farmers were determined to arrive at the ranks. The details are given in table 2. The source of ancestors topped the list followed by neighbours and then by relatives. The same order of sources was also observed among small as well as big farmers.

 

Table2. Source of the Indigenous Practices

 

S.

No.

Sources

Small farmers (n)

Big farmers

(n)

Small farmers rank

Big farmer

Rank

'R'

Value

1.

Ancestors

325

509

I

I

 

1.00*

2.

Neighbours

205

217

II

II

3.

Relatives

61

74

III

III

          * Significant at 5% level

 

          In support, the spearman rank order correlation value, confirmed the above ranking of sources. Both small and big farmers were alike in giving same ranking to various sources.

Conclusion

The majority of indigenous practices are known to farmers and source of indigenous practices are ancestors

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.