As land rights issues are highlighted by Ekta Parishad in their forthcoming October march and a Delhi exhibition opening on September 27th, I remember an explanation of the importance not only of securing rights to land, but of securing rights to the land owned and cultivated by many generations of the same family.
Sentimental? No, hard-headed.
Winin Pereira, who studied village and tribal farming methods by living amongst tribal people, became aware that each field had its own microclimate – indeed that areas as small as a few square feet within the field could have different conditions. These would be created by temperature, humidity, soil composition, terrain and solar radiation and have different vegetation, micro-organisms, insects, birds, fish and animal species.
Experience handed over from generation to generation by informal training, enables the microclimate to be utilised skilfully. Winin Pereira explained that there is a large diversity of ecological micro regions in India which require a large diversity of crops.The larger mammals birds and sometimes fishes are connected to their micro region and affect its agriculture . . . Grain banks which mix up seeds from a large number of farmers destroy the selection for particular farmers’ fields . . . The creativity which produced tens of thousands of different traditional crop varieties adapted to numerous eco niches is being destroyed by the multinational producers of special seeds.
He noted that though the locally saved and exchanged seeds did not yleld so heavily as the latest commercial varieties, they stood up to adverse conditions, such as drought, far better.
Displacement renders this site-specific knowledge useless. Forcible removal, even to another forested area, means that it can no longer be used and transmitted to the next generation.
Some of those uprooted are given land elsewhere as ‘compensation’, but no sum of money, irrigated farm plot or job in industry can compensate. Many pine and die early.