An innovative development project is asking farmers to document their knowledge in their own films in order to identify ways to sustain local crop and livestock diversity, thus increasing the population’s livelihood options, improving resistance to climate change and creating local stable markets for marginalized producers.
The London-based Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says the project is having success and has sparked a revival of local food culture that is helping preserve agricultural biodiversity and traditional farming practices in several hundred villages in the Medak district of Andhra Pradesh.
‘In many parts of India and the rest of the world, contract farming, inappropriate supply chains and unfair prices for farm produce are eroding local control of food systems and the rich biodiversity and knowledge they depend on,’ argues Michael Pimbert, director of IIED’s sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihoods program. ‘Farmers, indigenous people and other citizens have to be centre-stage in this process of transformation and cultural affirmation for food sovereignty, with researchers, policymakers and development agencies engaged in respectful conversations and providing support when needed.’
‘I am a seed-keeper. I store a variety of valuable seeds in the baskets in my house and with them my own knowledge of farming, environment and life,’ explains farmer Humnapur Laxmamma. ‘Since I learnt to use the camera, I am doing the same. I am storing the knowledge of my communities with my camera and interpreting them for the outside world which does not know about this.’
The book Affirming Life and Diversity and 12 films were launched recently. IIED is working with the NGO Deccan Development Society (DDS) and around 75 village-based women’s sanghams (village level associations of the poor) in Medak district. Its 5,000 women members include the poorest of the poor in their village communities.