Save a few, most farmers across the country heavily depend upon fertilisers and pesticides to ensure a plentiful harvest that has escaped from a pest infestation.
However, the Kuruchiya tribe settled in Wayanad and Kannur districts of Kerala, have been practising traditional methods of farming that do not involve any use of chemically processed fertilisers and pesticides.
The tribal communities inhabiting the tiny village of Anerimuttil, near Kalpetta in Wayanad, look after the cultivated land collectively and have never needed to use artificial fertilisers or pesticides to grow their crops.
The hills are lined with areca nut trees entwined with pepper creepers along with jackfruit, pamplemousse, lemon and coconut trees covering the 50-acre landscape.
The Kuruchiyas are known for their self-sustained way of living, and the settlements are bordered with the fiery Kantharimulaga (an extremely spicy variety of chilli) shrubs and Amla trees, along with vegetable crops and flowers revered by their local deities and live in tiny clusters stretching across the hills, well-hidden amidst in the dense vegetation.
Gangadharan, is one such farmer who has been carrying forward the organic method practised by his ancestors. The clan depends on a mineral-rich spring to meet their irrigational requirements. It originates from a sacred grove near the cultivated land and accumulates as a pond near the village, replenishing the groundwater table of the region in the process.
The Kuruchiyas believe that the local pagan gods reside in the grove and it is with their blessing that they have been sustaining life peacefully. Interestingly, the clan members breed certain kinds of carp in the pond that they believe plays a vital role in nourishing the water. “The excreta of the fish will nourish the water,” Gangadharan said to The New Indian Express.
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The tribals use gravity to route the spring water to their fields through natural waterways and implement simple agricultural practices that include cow dung as manure. They also follow an unconventional method of collecting dry jackfruit leaves and spreading it over the fields before they commence ploughing.
“Chomala, Ganthakashala and Athira—these are the three types of rice we grow in the village,” Gangadharan proudly mentioned. Apart from their traditional practices, the tribe in Anerimuttil showcases solidarity by collectively harvesting their crops and shows no restraint in working in each other’s fields.
Though the old farming practice has transcended the sands of time until now, the newer generation of Kuruchiya tribe intends to clinch a livelihood different to their forefathers and fathers through education.
We hope that their traditional method of farming that harms the nature in no way does not fade out and finds some flag bearer amidst the youngsters to carry the legacy forward.