Illiterate women farmers from Medak district in Andhra Pradesh will have a lesson or two to teach world leaders at a UN convention next month.
Their short but exhaustive journey from food scarcity to abundance has been captured in a series of movies made by them. “It has been done to show the outside world our traditional agriculture knowledge, and preserve it,” said Humnapur Laxmamma, one of the filmmakers. The movies and books about this will be showcased for global food experts at a UN convention on biological diversity in Bonn, Germany, next month.
The story of the poor farmers is simple and straightforward: adopt traditional food habits, restore traditional farming practices and conserve nearby biodiversity. For them, the result of these practices was better than adopting modern agriculture tools.
The farmers were forced to turn to traditional farming methods after agriculture produce began falling, as was the case in most parts of Andhra Pradesh, where farmer suicides have caused a national alarm.
The London-based International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and the Andhra Pradesh-based Deccan Development Society convinced them to adopt traditional methods and record their efforts to help others.
The project identified ways to sustain local crop and livestock diversity to increase people’s livelihood options and their ability to adapt to climate change. It also created stable local markets for marginalised producers to sell their surplus produce and improved local control over what is grown, in the face of pressure to conform to the needs of outsiders. “The entire chain from farming to selling was made lucrative,” said Michel Pimbert, director of IIED’s sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihood programme. “The women felt both respected and empowered as they were equal partners in the design, implementation and communication of the research”.
In a bid to protect traditional knowledge, the women decided to document the research and share its findings through video.