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Participatory Approaches to the Agro biodiversity Conservation in Assam

Assam Agricultural University (AAU) in collaboration with Wageningen International,(WI) The Netherlands organized a district level Diversity Fair in association with GREEN HERITAGE at Gagaldubi under Boginodi block of Lakhimpur district on 25 October 2008. The Fair was organized under year long Tailor Made Training Programme of AAU and WI entitled, “Participatory Approaches to Agro biodiversity Conservation in Assam” to aware and train the farmers, women groups and students on conservation of rich diversity of indigenous agricultural germplasm / resources of the Lakhimpur district in particular and the state of Assam in general. 

 General Reflection: 

·         Diversity in rice crop and variety viz., Sali, Boro and Deepwater rice land races.

·         Diversity in indigenous fruit crops and few are endangered

·         Diversity in indigenous medicinal plants and few are endangered.

·         Depleting land resources due to flood problem and population.

·         Diversity in flood tolerant land races of Deep water rice.

·         Dynamism in using different Sali rice and vegetable crops.

·         Gender equality in agro biodiversity management. Female participation is more in Mising community.

·         Homestead garden provide the information about the farmer’s choice of growing indigenous fruits, medicinal plants, tree species and potentiality of the species for research and value addition.

  The tools used during the participatory diagnosis in Lakhimpur provide the above mentioned information as per expectation. The participants as well as felicitators found the tools easy to understand. The tools will definitely be useful for the team members’ in future professional life. 

Summary of analysis of participatory diagnosis

Matrix and SWOT Analysis:

     Nine participatory tools viz., Transact walk, map showing Historic trends, Time line, Farm Map,

 Simple ranking, Crop and variety diversity matrix, Venn diagram, Stakeholder identification Flow

Chart and Four-cell analysis were used to get information on Agro biodiversity conservation and use,

 Community based management and contribution of stakeholders in Lakhimpur district.

       Diversity in rice cultivation and homestead garden with diversified crop were prime area of

agro biodiversity conservation. Available rice land races and medicinal plants, active woman

Participation in homestead diversity management are the strength of the region as against fragmented

 land holding, poor economic conditions and flood are the major weakness and threat of the region.

Organic rice production promotional groups are the good opportunity for the farmer of the region.

Vision:

  •  Identification, use and conservation of suitable land races in suitable manner Assessment of home 
  • garden diversity, women empowerment  Agro biodiversity project objectives

Development objective: Facilitate a process towards community management of agro biodiversity in Lakhimpur 

district of Assam

Communities: Sonowal Kasari , Mising & General Assamese Community

Region:       Lakhimpur, Assam 

Specific objectives

Ø  To assess the most abundant and rare species in homestead gardens of the region

Ø  To facilitate women participation in integrated home garden management for livelihood 


    Agro biodiversity project activities

Activity1. Community workshop 

  •        A daylong workshop was organized in the Gagoldubi High school on May 22, 2008 to mark the International Biodiversity Day. The workshop was organized by Lakhimpur team in association with Dept. of Agriculture, Green Heritage and Donyi Polo Youth Society. The main objective of organizing the workshop was to inform the local govt. & bank officials, panchayt members, community members and other stakeholders about the purpose of the project. Forty farmers from Sonowal Kachari, Mising and other general community took part in the workshop. The impact of the workshop was; 
  • Built a rapport with participating farmers and stakeholders. Identified key contact persons and fosters the community participation.
  • Identified participating farmers from each community for PVS trial.
  • Documented rice variety available with each community for PVS programme.
  • Finalized venue of diversity fair after consultation with community members.
  • Discussed the role and responsibilities of each community, individuals and stakeholders in all the activities of the project. 

Activity 2. Students’ participation in agro biodiversity conservation 


 A district level essay competition amongst the school children of Lakhimpur district on the topic titled “Agricultural diversity of your locality” was organized. Sri Prandeep Deka of N.L Govt HS School was awarded best among all the participants 

A “Sit & Draw” art competition on the theme Homestead garden” was organized on the occasion of World Environment Day amongst the school children to make them understand the concept of agro biodiversity. More than two hundred students were participated in the event organized in two locations. 24 participants were awarded in class wise category and arts were exhibited in the diversity fair. The activity sensitised the school children and their parents about the concept of agro biodiversity.

Activity3: Street Drama 

 A street play titled “ Bononi” was performed in different locations of Lakhimpur by “KIRON”, a socio-cultural NGO to create awareness about the use and importance of conserving indigenous medicinal plants. 

Activity 4: Diversity fair 


 Green Heritage and Donyi Polo Youth Society jointly organized an agro biodiversity fair for Lakhimpur region jointly at the campus of Gagaldoobi LP School, Bogeenadi on October 25 2008 in association with Dept. of Agriculture, teachers of the school and local people. Lakhimpur team under TMT programme supported the event. To discuss concept, purpose and financial support for diversity fair an interaction meeting was organized to interact with local community members, farmers’ groups, women SHG, gaon panchayt members and teachers of the locality. A strong fifty-two members organizing committee was constituted for wider sharing and community level planning of the diversity fair. The responsibilities of organizing committee and sub-committees were defined in the meeting held on 11 0ctober 2008. Wide publicity was done through local print media and distribution of leaflets. 


            An exhibition and competition on indigenous fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants was organized in the diversity fair. About 20 different species of local type of citrus fruits, variety of leafy and other vegetables, banana cultivars, more than 50 species of medicinal plants and 44 different local rice varieties were exhibited at the fair which was participated in by 22 women SHG and 40 individuals. A bulletin entitled “Agro – biodiversity of Assam – Awareness and Conservation was also published on the occasion. Best participants in different categories were awarded. The impact of the fair can be reflected as;

·         During the diversity fair in Bogeenadi, Lakhimpur improved the understanding and added awareness on value of biodiversity of local plant genetic materials specially the need of home garden management.

·         The diversity fair deeply enlightened the women SHG, local policy makers (Panchayt members), students and media persons when they were exposed to rich biodiversity and its diverse value.

·         Mass awareness was achieved through wide publicity of the event in local print and electronic media. 

  Activity 5: Traditional food fair 

               Agro biodiversity conservation and cultural diversity are interlinked. Traditional food fair is a powerful public awareness tool for wide range of people. An exhibition and competition on food items made of rice including rice beer and the herbal ingredients of six different ethnic communities viz., Kachari, Mising, Khamti, Deori, Bodo and Ahom was organized along with the diversity fair. 35 different local dishes made of rice and a unique food item”PASA” of Khamti community. Pickles, jam, jelly squash made of local fruits were also exhibited where 22 women SHG took part. 

                                   Agro biodiversity project conclusions 

            Tailor made Training Programme on Participatory approaches in the conservation of

Agro biodiversity in Assam focused primarily on educating farmers about the value of local crop

 Diversity, fostering the sense of pride in their cultural heritage of local diversity. The activities

 Under the project achieved the objectives by providing information regarding agricultural

Biodiversity and its conservation in the state of Assam. The message of usefulness of conserving

 Agricultural biodiversity disseminated to all levels of stakeholders, including extension workers,

 Researchers and policy makers through different activities like Diversity fair, Competition

among school children, street drama, PVS etc. PVS programme sensitized the farming communities

 for participating in research activities to have desirable rice varieties

 

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