Two of India's ancient farming systems, intact over 2,000 years and still relevant, have been shortlisted by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as world agriculture heritage sites, being compiled for the first time.
Koraput in Orissa and Kuttanad in Kerala are among a crowded list of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, including south Italy's Lemon Gardens and Iran's Qashqai pastoral nomads.
A third farming system, from India's Northeast, is still being evaluated for qualification, S. Bala Ravi, adviser of the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Foundation, told HT on Saturday.
The foundation, headed by M.S. Swaminathan, the father of India's green revolution, was tasked by the UN to identify Indian nominees, Ravi said.
To be eligible, it is not enough for a farming practice to be age-old; it has to have a "current global significance".
Legally, the sites will have the same status and require similar protection as the UN's other well-known World Heritage Sites, such as the Taj Mahal.
Kuttanad, an idyllic farm belt hugging Kerala's backwaters, is the only place where large-scale cereal farming takes place below the sea level. Situated in Alappuzha district, it is the rice bowl of Kerala.
Koraput has been identified as one of the centres of origin of rice itself, the staple food of more than half the world's population.
Koraput's tribals have cultivated 79 different species of cereals, pulses and millets, one of which is unique, the FAO brief states.