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23 Feb 2017 | Blog

Management of local crop diversity: a concern

Dallekh is a village in Khar Village Development Committee, Darchula, Nepal. People here grow potato, barley, maize and wheat, and although most youngsters now head off to foreign countries in search of better lives or join the Nepali civil service, a majority of the population still depends directly on agriculture.

“When I was growing up, we used to plant finger millet, amaranths, fox tail millet, proso millet, and several other varieties of grain,” says Jaymati Badal, a 77-year old Dallekh local. Badal has spent her whole live in Darchula, and recalls a time when a typical meal in her village was more likely to feature these traditional varieties of grain than rice. “Everyone loved finger millet bread, barley, and maize back then,” she says. “Things are just not the same now.”

 

Kamal Aryal

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Jaymati Badal with her grandchild

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI), with support from the District Agriculture Development Office, organized a local crop diversity fair in the village in 2016. Badal is part of a women’s group that collected seeds, fruits, and other plants to display at the fair, the first of its kind organized in the village. Her group won third prize for having collectedly maintained high crop diversity on their farms.

Several varieties of grains and legumes are becoming increasing hard to find in Dallekh. The kalo (black) and seto (white) sotta (beans) from Badal’s childhood are disappearing. Varieties of barley such as jhuse jaau (hairy barley), thaang jau (local barley) and kalo jau (black barley) are hard to find, and maize varieties such as baktado and ragase are rare. Badal is worried that these older varieties will be lost forever, and says not many people are interested in agriculture these days.

She pointed out that villagers have started planting more maize these days, and buy rice from the market as road access has increased its easily availability. “Eating rice is considered modern, while eating millet is taken as a sign of backwardness,” she added. Planting and weeding local varieties of crop is also very labour-intensive, she said. She also talked about the climatic changes that have taken place in her lifetime. “When I was young, it would snow throughout January and February,” she said. She pointed out that heavy winter snow meant irrigation was better facilitated then.

Still, Badal remains hopeful about the future of Dallekh’s local crop diversity. She said the fair surprised her because several varieties of crop that she thought were no longer around were displayed at the exhibition. She said that she got to learn about crop variety, and exchange knowledge and information related to the same at the event. “I hope programmes such as this one will help us preserve traditional seeds. Perhaps my grandchildren will be able to utilize these crops in the future,” she said. As future managers of local genetic resource, youngsters do need to be made aware of its importance. More needs to be done in this regard to ensure proper management of local crop diversity.

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