ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

(P43)
Community-led conservation of traditional crops and knowledge co-production in response to a changing climate: Case studies from South Asia
Location British Museum - Sackler B
Date and Start Time 28 May, 2016 at 16:30
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Tsvetilena Bandakova (University of Edinburgh) email
  • Iliyana Angelova (University of Oxford) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The panel aims to explore case studies from South Asia addressing issues of mobilisation of alliances, agroecological responses to environmental crisis, global/local participation and collaborations, movements promoting sustainable food systems, anticipatory and reactive measures.

Long Abstract

Genetic diversity is key to farmers' livelihood strategies in areas under high ecological/economic stresses. Under pressures for yield-intensification in unpredictable climate, farmers in many parts of South Asia are turning to locally-adapted landraces and organic farming practices as one strategy to achieve food/seed sovereignty and reduce people's vulnerability to climate change impacts by providing significant co-benefits to the most vulnerable ones. Community leaders, academic/non-academic researchers and farming communities are becoming increasingly engaged with transformative paradigms of agroecology, sustainable farming and other approaches to shape local, regional and national climate change adaptation practices. These include, among others, creating (cross-generational) networks of indigenous knowledge transmission and technology transfer as a means for building up community resilience to changing weather patterns.

This panel aims to obtain case studies from South Asia to address issues of mobilisation of alliances with regards to agroecological responses to environmental crisis and climate change, global/local participation and collaborations, civil society movements/counter-movements promoting sustainable food systems, community-based approaches to mitigating the impacts of climate change and achieving sustainable livelihoods etc. Potential contributors will investigate issues related to agricultural biodiversity, conservation and/or revival of traditional crop varieties in topics, such as climate and environment; agri-food systems; governance of local/common property resources and benefit-sharing; competition for resources in adverse conditions (decreasing rainfall, deforestation etc.) caused by climate change; collaborations between activists, youth groups, NGOs, academics and farmers' communities promoting food security and sustainable livelihoods; technology transfer and knowledge co-production etc.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Environmental NGOs in South Asia: strategies for partnerships

Author: Ksenia Gerasimova (University of Cambridge )  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at environmental NGOs' activities in the area of food security and biodiversity conservation in South Asia, particularly at one aspect of its activities - strategic networking and partnerships and resulting knowledge transfer.

Long Abstract

I would like to offer to look in this paper how environmental non- governmental organisations (NGOs) working on food security and biodiversity conservation strategise their networking and choose which alliances to form. I will use examples of Navdanya (India) and WWOOF (Nepal) as case studies. Both organisations focus on two similar groups of partners - local farming communities and partnering organizations in the West, members of their international network, but not so much on other national NGOs. I argue that there is an explanation for that. Local farmers provide a source of traditional farming knowledge and also represent a main target group for crop sharing and educational programs. Western partnering organizations supply much needed funding which often comes through western volunteers who are ready to pay a good price to experience traditional farming and learn about nature conservation. Upon return to the home countries they promote organic agriculture and lobby for policies addressing climate change. Other NGOs based in the same countries act as competitors for funding and public attention and such alliances can be only temporary and tactic.

In conclusion, I will discuss the organisational challenges faced by environmental NGOs, such anthropological phenomenon as organic farming volunteering and point out the directions of knowledge transfers resulting from their current partnerships.

"Seed Sovereignty for Food Security and Livelihood Improvement"- Community-led Efforts in Conservation and Revival of Indigenious Crop Diversity in Maharashtra

Author: Tsvetilena Bandakova (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

The paper is a case study of community led revival of local crop diversity in tribal blocks in India. Conservation of locally-adapted landraces is one strategy farmers are adopting to achieve food and seed sovereignty and create agrarian alternatives in times of economic and environmental crisis.

Long Abstract

Genetic diversity is a key element in farmer's livelihood strategies in areas under high ecological and economic stresses. However, the pressures for yield-intensification, advent of intellectual property rights and increased influence of multinationals in local seed markets, combined with unpredictable climate, mark a crisis of eroding of agricultural biodiversity and diminishing farmers' role in the reproduction of planting materials.

The paper is documenting the efforts of farmers in a tribal district in India, to reaffirm their autonomy by turning to traditional, local varieties as an alternative to mainstream agriculture. Conservation of landraces showing increased resistance to stress, yet retaining high nutritive values, is one strategy they are adopting to achieve food and seed sovereignty, in times of shifting weather patterns and unpredictable rains. The paper is discussing how using legal instruments such as the disputed concept of "Farmers' Rights", farmers initiate community led revival of local crop diversity.

Climate Change and Disaster Resilience: Traditional Farming in Rural Bangladesh

Author: Abantee Harun (University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the immense potentials of traditional farming that farmers have revived in their quest to stabilize increasingly fragile livelihood systems and their struggle to survive recurrent disaster shocks and climate change in rural Bangladesh.

Long Abstract

Bangladesh, an ancient agricultural land and one of the most vulnerable countries of climate change, is highly susceptible to floods, cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, salinity, fire, earthquakes, landslides, riverbank erosion, insecticides and other hazards. Poor people suffer most from these hazards, because of their high base vulnerabilities and over-exposure to natural hazards. People survive, mostly without outside intervention, under conditions that are often critical and fragile. For centuries, people have succeeded in overcoming adversity and have managed many challenges to their livelihood through their traditional knowledge and skills. In the daily struggle of life, indigenous knowledge and coping strategies have become a key to survival. In recent years, because of successive crop failures and the significant erosion of livelihood support systems resulting from climate change, rural farmers revived traditional farmings to encounter climate change and disaster impacts. With several case studies of traditional farming from rural Bangladesh, the paper probes into aspects of local resilience, capacities and traditional coping strategies.

Indigenous Communities, Subsistence Economic Systems and Nature Conservation Practices in India: An Anthropological Approach

Authors: Ram Babu Mallavarapu (Indira Gandhi National Tribal University )  email
Koteswararao Mannam (University of Hyderabad)  email

Short Abstract

The tribal societies, any where in the world, which have been still in the hunting, gathering and slash-and-burn stages, have a much closer relationship with nature and its management.

Long Abstract

India is a home for about 360 indigenous communities, speaking more than 100 languages / dialects and occupies the second position in the world in terms of population, after that of the african continent. The economy of these traditional communities has been primarily fishing-hunting-foraging and shifting cultivation. More than 90% of them depend on forests and other natural resources for their livelihood, even today, except for a few who adopted to plains agricultural practices. The proposed paper is aimed to understand how the traditional communities have been adopted / evolved / developed various conservative mechanisms / principles, and practiced them in order to protect their natural environments and livelihoods in a sustainable manner in India through an anthropological approach.

Intergenerational knowledge exchanges for more sustainable livelihoods: case studies of tackling climate change from Nagaland, Northeast India

Author: Iliyana Angelova (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores how intergenerational exchanges of indigenous knowledge, farming practices and planning methods result in the promotion of more sustainable livelihoods and help mitigate the effects of climate change in Nagaland, Northeast India.

Long Abstract

The state of Nagaland in Northeast India is famous for its immense agricultural biodiversity, fertile soils, rich forest and water resources. Its population is predominantly rural and has been practising indigenous methods of agriculture for generations. While most Naga farmers are small-scale subsistence farmers who use traditional farming practices and grow organic local seeds, they remain heavily dependent on climate change and its impacts, especially in relation to landslides, excessive or scarce monsoon rains etc. At the same time, human-induced local problems such as deforestation, soil erosion and exhaustion etc. pose a continued threat to traditional farming practices and local livelihoods. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many Naga communities insist on practising traditional forms of shifting cultivation and resist the efforts of the state government and some local activists to introduce settled forms of cultivation. In these conditions of increasing precarity and tensions, some young Naga, who have received higher degrees in agricultural studies, environmental studies, management etc., are beginning to return to their communities where they share their expert knowledge and apply their entrepreneurial skills in order to help local farmers achieve more sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming by using better technologies and planning, and thus adapt better to climate changes. The paper explores how these grassroots initiatives and intergenerational exchanges of indigenous and contemporary agricultural knowledge and techniques help promote genetic diversity and organic farming, and equip local communities with better mechanisms for coping with climate change and its diverse impacts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.