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As climate changes, Himalayan farmers return to traditional crops

Source(s):  Down To Earth

By Krystyna Swiderska

Our new report, Smallholder Farming Systems in the Indian Himalayas, shows that farmers in the eastern and central Himalayas have experienced increasingly erratic rainfall, drought and floods, higher temperatures, and a rise in crop pests and diseases, leading to lower yields.

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But as our report shows, farmers in both regions are coming up with new – and old – ways to improve food security, climate resilience and incomes, while maintaining crop diversity. In the central Himalayas, this ranges from developing more intensive mixed cropping systems closer to homes to reduce their vulnerability to wild animals, to creating structures to harvest rainwater runoff to cope with water shortages.

Farmers in the east have developed new cardamom cropping systems outside forests to avoid disease, and are changing when they plant and harvest paddy, millet and maize. They are dedicating more areas to perennial drought-tolerant crops such as broomstick grass and cardamom, which they are intercropping with food grains and vegetables. Broomstick grass, which was domesticated by farmers to reclaim degraded land after a major landslide in 1968, has become a key cash crop in the region.

In both regions, farmers have reintroduced or enhanced cultivation of resilient traditional crop varieties, such as millet and mustard. Communities have also started reviving dryland paddy, which is important for adapting to climate change. And farmers have developed new or improved crop varieties that have higher yields, and new bio-pesticides.

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  • Publication date 30 Aug 2018

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