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Water Management of Western Ghats (India) tribals and practices of their age-old wisdom
[ J.S Paimpillil ] - Center for Earth Research and Environment Management, Cochin, India,
The forest tribals (Adivasis) have confronted the extremes of climate change for generations and had developed a large arsenal of practices to survive and adapt to an increasingly dangerous climate. They observe climate change and react to it positively by making use of their traditional knowledge and ancestors’ rich experiences. They use diversified adaptation strategies to survive and ensure their food security. The tribals in Wayanad, Kerala have ensured their food security even in the years of heavy rain and flooding and in years of severe drought. Over the decades, they have developed certain agricultural practices and varieties of paddy seeds that can withstand flooding for more than two weeks and can be sown and raised when there is no rain. In order to survive in the changing climatic conditions, they had developed diversified adaptation strategies suitable to every land and region. A number of interesting adaptation strategies emerged, based on their experience of the tribals in the area. In drought conditions they use traditional seeds like Mulanpuncha, Kalladian and Onavattam. The night moisture is sufficient for them to germinate. After a month or so, when there is a little rain the crop takes advantage and grows well. The adivasis also have their own ways of knowing when there will be floods and when drought. For example, if certain mushrooms grow in abundance before the rainy season, it signifies that there will not be enough of rain forthcoming. These tribal farmers have indigenous method of soil classification, fertility management, soil and water conservation through selected plants/trees/shrubs and cultural practices, creating micro-environment, seed selection and conservation, planting methods, weed control, maintaining the indigenous gene pool of location specific rice varieties, cropping systems and local techniques of insect pest management. Indigenous knowledge though being utilized by Indian forest communities in the forest resource management and conservation of biodiversity, it is not widely utilized by the scientific community since they are not incorporated in the manuals. In order to effectively use the vast store of traditional knowledge to aid in climate change prediction and adaptation, a multiuser-friendly knowledge management system must be set up to collect, classify, test and disseminate this essential data to those who need it.
Western Ghats tribals, traditional flood predictions, adaptation strategies