300 million farmers is a whole lot of famers. India is their home, making it the country with the largest number of small-scale food growers in the world. Most of these farmers own less than 2 acres of land and are highly vulnerable to climate change and rising input costs. Increased crop failures and indebtedness are pushing a lot of farmers in India out of farming. But in the Tehri Garwal region of Northern India, farmers continue to farm sustainably using a traditional rain fed farming practice called Baranaja.
Baranaja is a Hindi word comprising of two words – Barah, which means twelve, and Anaja, which means grains. It is a practice of growing twelve or more native crops in a synergistic combination. These crops not only include food grains, but also oil seeds, pulses, vegetables, and spices.
All of the seeds used are indigenous and climate resilient. Only organic manures and fertilizers are used and the practice of mixed farming and crop rotation ensures better soil health. All this helps farmers keep their costs low and harvest bumper crops even during extreme weather conditions. Thanks to ‘Save The Seeds’ movement started by Vijay Jadhari in 1980s, farmers in this region are less susceptible to debt and crop failures.
The concept of Baranaja elucidates how traditional knowledge and organic farming can spell sustainability for millions of small-scale farmers working in climate sensitive communities across the globe.