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Inventory of Peasant Innovations for Sustainable Development an annotated bibliography

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Inventory of Peasant Innovations for Sustainable Development

an annotated bibliography

We have complied innovative practices from different parts of the world depending primarily on the published sources. Ancient sources of peasant knowledge from India and China have also been included. It is inevitable in any such effort that not claim about exhaustive coverage is made. AT the same time such a source book even having a very limited coverage may be helpful for the biological and the social scientists who are interested in either experimental validation, value addition or just the cross cultural comparison of the innovative ethic of peasants, artisans and pastoralists. We hope that the readers will reciprocate by sending publications or unpublished examples of peoples’ knowledge resource to the fires author. It is important to note that we can not certify the technical validity or even feasibility of some of these innovative practices. But that was not our purpose. Knowledge has been treated as a common property by the people. Whether, we the documenters will extract rent out of it for our private interest or use it for the good of disadvantaged people will depend upon our ethical and professional dispositions. There is not doubt that sustainable development can not take place unless we begin to systematically analyse the rich knowledge resource of otherwise poor peasants. Analysis will gain if we involve the generators of the knowledge as co researchers. Modern science and technology can enrich just as it can erode skill and knowledge of the people.

Anil K Gupta


Jyoti Capoor and Rekha Shah

IIMA 1990

Centre for Management in Agriculture

Indian Institute of Management

Ahmedabad 380 056

  1. Plant Protection

Balasubramanian A
Traditional Plant Protection Methods in Tamil Nadu in Biological Methods of Pest Control, Proceedings of the Southern Regional Seminar Edited by K. Vijayalakshmi, Nv.21-22, 1988, PPST Foundation, Madras, pp.34-38

  1. Agronomical Means of pest Control/Region Unspecified (pp.35-37)

  1. If rice is sown in ‘Avani’ month, the crop will be affected by the Gall Midge.

  1. If sorghum is sown beyond the third week of June the crop will be affected by shoot fly.

  1. Sorghum crop should be sown after heralding the whole village about sowing time. This indicates the importance of synchronised sowing, so that in the earhead stage, the earhead bug attack will be less in a unit area. (Similar practices as mentioned in point (i), (ii) and (iii) have been observed in Ahmednagar district regarding ‘Bajra’. Despite early rains farmers do not sow early, for the fear of bird’s attack in ear formation stage. Unless, few farmers do not start sowing the others just sit back. Pers. Commn. – Y.Mandavkar).

  1. Ploughing the fields after every receipt of rain during summer not only conserves the moisture but also controls the weeds. Wherever red hairy caterpillar is a menace in the peanut crops, the land is ploughed in the summer and the pupae of the insects are collected and destroyed. They are also exposed to be eaten by the birds. Sometimes small trenches are dug around the field to prevent insect spread.

  1. In rice fallows of Cauvery delta and other areas, digging the field bund and catching the rats during the summer is an age old practice. By such practice the rat damage to the young paddy crop during the next cropping season is reduced. The setting up of rat bows in rice fields during the crop season will further reduce rat damage. (Farmers of eastern Uttar Pradesh flood the field to drive away rats. Ed).

  1. Whenever mealy bug attack is found rice crops, the places of attack are demarcated. After harvest the stubble in that area is burnt to arrest the recurring pest in the next season. Further Calotropis leaves are applied to the filed as green leaf manure to control pest.

  1. Burning of the sugarcane trash before the next ratoon crop is also aimed at killing the insects and pathogens. (This practice is widespread in most sugarcane growing region of north-west India –ed.).

B) Plant Protection and Weed Control Though Water Management

i) For controlling thripes in rice, the whole nursery is irrigated so as t o submerge the whole plant for some time and the water is drained to wash away the insects.

    1. Frequent irrigation is provided to the sugarcane fields for controlling termites. (This practice is popular in sandy soil areas of N. India as well, ed.) (This is also applicable to rats. Pers. Commn. –G.S. Saha).

    1. Constant submergence of rice fields at certain stages helps in controlling the weeds.

    1. In clayey soils, where summer ploughing is not possible the field is irrigated and weed seeds are allowed to germinate. Then the field is ploughed and the weeds are incorporated into the soil. This is done before sowing or transplanting the rice crops. (Apart from puddling the irrigated or medium low land paddy fields, G.S. Shah reported during a workshop on local knowledge that a farmer in district Faizabad eastern Uttar Pradesh irrigated his field and applied fertiliser after preparing the field for wheat sowing in rabi (winter) season. The weeds would be allowed to grow for two weeks. The fields are ploughed and wheat is sown late. The weeds so ploughed add green manure. There is a trade off between yield decline due to delayed sowing or early sowing but weed attack. ed).

    1. If a garden is heavily infested with weeds, particularly nut grass, the land is converted for two or three years into a wet land for rice cultivation. Afterwards the field is turned into garden land.

C) Inter Cropping and Border Cropping for Pest Control

  1. Poulichai (Hibiscus cannabinus) seeds are sown with rice in upland dry rice fields for controlling termite attack. The red variety is considered better than the green variety.

  1. An intercrop of onion and turmeric crop also prevent termite attack on turmeric rhizomes.

  1. Planting castor as a border crop around chilly crops not only provides a microclimate for preventing flower droppings but also acts as a trap crop for Prodenia. Intercrop of castor in cotton also serves the same purpose.

  1. Cowpea is grown with peanut crop as an intercrop. The cowpea crop attracts aphid reducing the attack on peanut crop.

  1. Innovative Use of Common Chemicals/Botanicals, (plant extracts)/Region Unspecified

  1. A decoction of equal parts of asafoetida, turmeric and the tubers of kanthal malar (Gloriosa superba) are sprayed by neem leaves for rice diseases like leaf spot and pyricularia.

  2. Tobacco decoction is used for control of insects.

  1. For controlling rhinoceros beetle, fermented castor oil cake and water is used. The emulsion is poured into earthen pots and these pots are kept at various places in the affected garden. The insect is attracted by the smell and killed.

  1. In rice fields neem cake is applied as basal manure which helps to protect the rice crop from brown plant hopper at the latter stage.

  1. Gram seeds are stored with dried neem leaves. Sesamum seeds are stored and mixed with ash. Bitter gourd seeds are placed inside cow dung and dried after plastering on the walls. (The use of neem leaves and ash is quite widespread in many other parts of the country. ed.)

  1. A peculiar practice of storing seeds of short term rice crop is found in Thanjavur district. It is called the ‘KOTTAI METHOD.’ The seeds are harvested during September-October and dried and stored in gunny bags. These seeds will absorb moisture during the north-east monsoon. The seeds are then sun dried during Jan-Feb. This reduces the moisture so as to prevent insect attack. Afterwards the seeds are stored in tight containers which are plastered with cow dung paste. This practice is called ‘Kottai.’ The Kottai will be stored till the next sowing season. The cow dung plastering prevents the seeds from insect attack but will not hinder the biological activity of the seed inside. (in several other parts of India, farmers keep the seeds in earthen pitchers sealed by mud and cow dung. Ed).

E) Biological Pest Control/Semi-Arid Region

  1. In parts of Thanjavur and Trichy districts, ducks are allowed inside the fields after the harvest of the short term rice crops. The ducks not only eat the snails or small fishes but also feed on insects found on the boundary. The next crop is thus saved form pest.

  1. In some localities swine are allowed in the field to eradicate the nut grass. By allowing the swine to move in the field for two or three years and with other agronomic practices the problem of nut grass is solved considerably.

F) Biological Pest Control/Coastal Region

  1. In certain coastal villages in India, cranes, terns and green shanks feed on the insects in the transplanted rice crops. Villagers do not allow anyone to shoot/disturb these cranes, as they believe that the above sign indicates a bumper crop.

G) Use of Trap Crops/Arid Region

    1. Use of a trap crop is another method wherever striga is a menace in Sorghum. Trap crops like cowpea, field bean, castor, etc. are sown well in advance and the weeds are allowed to germinate. Then these weeds are destroyed by inter-culture in the standing crop.

Silva and Sashi

Control of the Red Hairy Caterpillar through Community Efforts in Biological Methods of Pest Control, proceedings of the Southern Regional Seminar, edited by K. Vijayalakshmi, November 21-22, 1988.

PES Foundation, Madras, pp.1-4.
Mechanical Pest Control/Semi-Arid Region (p.3)

  1. In Dhule district of Maharashtra, the control of red hairy caterpillar was done by understanding the life cycle of the caterpillar and attacking it at all stages, i.e., eggs, larvae and adult.

  1. The farmers came up with the idea that moths could be killed by hanging by hanging a broad mouthed vessel filled with water and a little kerosene near electric lights. They also collected and burnt all the egg laden leaves.

  1. Adult caterpillars were physically picked from the roots of the seedlings and destroyed by burning.

Schrimpf and Rainer

Cooperating with Farmers on natural Crop Protection

ILEIA, October 88, 4 (3) – 24
Biological Pest Control/Arid Region (p.24)
Farmers in N.W. and S.W. provinces of Cameroon use different plants for pest control.

  1. A herb called Chenopodiums ambrosoides which is very effective in driving away many kinds of ants. It has a very strong scent and is particularly effective against termites (White Ants).

  1. A plant called Lobelia columnaris that grows only in highlands above 1600 m. It has worked very well against most insects including stemborers. It is a herb that grows up to a height of 2/3 m high with a candle like influoroscence with blue flowers. It has to be soaked in water for a cay with soap and limestone before it can be used.

  1. A tall shrub by the name of ‘KINDZEM’ (in Banso language), is of 1-2 m height with greenish-red stem and red flowers. It is used against weevils. It also rids fowls of lice when put in the laying nest.

Schrimpf Berthold

Natural Crop Protection: Pest Control

(Booklet of Presbyterian Rural Training Centre Mfonta, Bamenda/Cameroon). 1989, pp.1-14

A) Innovativeness of Farmers/Semi-Arid Region (pp.II)
A good example where farmers improved a given recommendation comes from Babanki Tungo. Farmers were spraying the cabbage seedlings in the nursery with the ‘Gods Tobacco’ spray against aphics. When they saw that this was not very effective, they adapted the method in the following way: Gods Tobacco spray was prepared and kept in a bucket. Immediately before transplanting the cabbage seedlings, the stems and leaves (never the roots) were soaked in this spray. In this method all the insects are touched and killed and the farmers have healthy crops.
B) Innovative Use of Common Chemicals/Semi-Arid Region (p.14)
After the maize is harvested it is well dried and shelled. It is then mixed with ash – the mixing can be done on any slab which is clean. It is important to mix the ash very well with the maize. For twenty kilograms of maize, one kilogram of ash is required. When using jute bags, one big bag (100 kg) of maize is mixed with one bucket (5 kg) of ash. For this method the best ash to use is ‘cow dung ash,’ if there is enough cow dung available, (Ash is very widely used in different parts of the country for storing pulses and cereal seeds. ed).
C) Mechanical Pest Control/Semi-Arid Region (p.15)
Rodents, especially rats, are causing a lot of damage to crops in the fields and in stored grains. Author reports a successful way of controlling this pest with a simple ‘bucket-trap.’ The top of a twenty litre oil drum is removed and the open drum (a bucket or a container of similar size can also be used) is set in the ground so that the top edge is level with the surface. The container is then half filled with water. It is covered with some tiny sticks and grass, and an attractant (something the rodents especially like, for example maize or groundnuts) is sprinkled in the centre of t his cover. In case no container is available, it is also possible to dig a hole of the size of an oil drum in the ground. Plaster it with mud or cement in order to hold the water. With this method, up to six rats per one trap per night were caught. It is important to check the traps daily, remove the trapped rodents and set the trap anew.
D) Cultural Method of Pest Control/Semi-Arid Region (p.16)

  1. The coffee stemborer is a beetle which in its caterpillar stage causes damage by boring holes and eating the inside of the lower coffee stem and the roots. Farmers try to detect the damage early to prevent severe damage. Holes are worked for at the lower part of the stem with saw dust coming out. The holes should be blocked immediately with either mud, bee wax or a piece of cotton dipped in kerosene. It is also possible insert a small wire to kill the borer directly – but the hole should always be blocked afterwards, usually three to five caterpillars are in one stem.

  1. The banana stemborer is a beetle causing wilting in young suckers, whereas older plants are weakened and easily pushed down by the wind. Cultural and sanitary practices to reduce the attack are: allow no breeding places (old stems which are still fresh) for the borers; when harvesting, the stem should be cut as low as possible and covered with soil; the upper part has to be cut in small pieces, so that it can dry fast.

Upawasa, G.K.

Lessons from Traditional Sri Lankan Agriculture in Biological Methods of Pest Control. Proceedings: pp.39-48.

    1. Cultural Method of Pest Control/Humid Region (pp.45-46)

  1. In Sri Lanka (Chena village), whenever a leaf eating caterpillar damage is observed, the farmer at sunset takes a round section of young plantain stem which is fixed to a stick driven into mud forming a small receptacle or platform about 6″ in diameter. Cool rice, pulses, flowers and a lighted wick dipped in coconut were placed at a few spots distributed over the affected and the adjoining area. Pest damage is controlled within 2 days in this method. What actually happens is that birds are attracted from far away places by the light. When they perch on the unstable platform, whole things fall on to the paddy field. When the birds pick the fallen food, they see the leaf-eating caterpillars which are a greater attraction to them.

  1. To control paddy bugs, several ‘RECANUT’ flowers are hung in different places of the paddy fields.

B) Innovative Use of Common Chemicals/Humid Region

Farmers in Sri Lanka use certain plants for pest control in growing crops/as well as in stored grains.

  1. The well dried harvested rice and pulses are protected by little ash and lime leaves. (In eastern Uttar Pradesh India, farmers put ‘Mahua’ flowers/onions in t he wheat grains to prevent weevil attack in storage and pulses are stored by mixing mustard oil. Pers. Commn. –G.S. Saha).

  1. The thripes attack in paddy during early seedling stage is controlled by placing a few chopped pieces of euphorbia with latex at the point of impounding water.

  1. Grillicedia leaves are crushed and spread over the crop. Possibly it may be acting as an insect repellent. The flowers are used to eradicate rats.

  1. A creeper called ‘KULUWEL’ is crushed at the place of impounding water is very effective against hoppers.

C) Mechanical Pest Control/Humid Region

  1. In Sri Lanka, sand from the sacred ‘BO’ tree is applied to paddy crop. Insects fall into the water to be eaten by the fish.

  1. A rough large broom made of twigs is used to clean paddy after threshing. It is dragged over the crop. The insects are either crushed or fall into the water.

  1. It had been a practice to work on water wheel made of bamboo which produces a continuous beat. This sound, according to some research in Japan, causes disturbances to mating among insects. It causes reduction in pest population.

  1. Sometimes two wasted momoties are also tied together and hung.

Chambers Robert

Rural Development: Putting the last First 1983, Chap,IV, pp.75-103, Longman Inc. London
Biological Pest Control/Region Unspecified (p.98)
Kaba farmers are reported to have analysed ‘ZONOCERUS’ problem by reference to rainfall fluctuations but in many cases accounted for its specific appearance on their farms due to colonization of neighbouring thickets by the herbaceous weed, Eupatoriumodoratum. These thickets appeared to provide favourable breeding or feeding sits. Many farmers anticipated advice on control of Z. Variegatus by cutting down Eupatorium and in one or two cases marking out and digging up egg-laying sites.
Zehrer Wolfram

Traditional Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management

ILEIA, November 1986, 6, pp.4-6
A) Innovative Use of Water and Ash/Arid Region (p.4)

  1. In the drier regions, babara nuts and beans are shelled and mixed with ash.

  1. At times wet maize seeds are mixed with ash. The dark colour prevents the seed from being found by fowls and birds.

  1. Another method is to soak maize seeds in water mixed with need leaves. The germinated seeds absorb some of the bitterness and become unattractive to termites, birds and fowls.

B) Agronomical Means of Pest Control/Semi-Arid Region

  1. In the cocoa growing areas of S-E Togo, the cocoa is not planted in lower parts of the field because the fruits of the cocoa trees turn brown in these areas (Black pod disease caused by Phytophthora palmivora).

  1. Maize-bean intercropping. Maize suffers less from steam borers and beans are less affected by thripes.

  1. In N. Togo, farmers plant mixtures for 6 months, millet for 4 months, millet and beans for several consecutive years. This type of mixed cropping and crop rotation helps in controlling a serious weed Strirga spp. To overcome this, a rotation of millet or sorghum in the first year would be followed by single cropped legume in the second year.

  1. To prevent the incidence of maize stem borer farmers try:

    1. Suitable crop rotation, (b) and mixed cropping (maize-cowpeas). In S.E. Asia, the combination of maize and sweet potato yielded good results, and (c) the simultaneous planting in a large area.

C) Stored Grain Pests/Semi Arid

  1. In North Togo harvested of millet is dried on the field. The granaries are sealed by soil mixed with straw.

  1. Farmers use neem leaves to mix with their stored product (a very wide spread practice in different parts of the world including India).

  1. In N. Togo, beans are mixed with fine sand (1:2 in volume). It is pounded lightly so that the beans are completely surrounded by sand. This results in a situation where beetles cannot move enough to copulate. The sand damages their shields causing them to dry up.

  1. In S. Togo, traditionally small open granaries are used for storage of maize. T he principle in use is the need for good ventilation for the often wet-harvested maize.

Gupta, Anil K

Scientific Perception of Farmers Innovation in Dry Regions: Barrier to Scientific Curiosity. (IIM W.P. N.738, 1987 presented at International Conference on Farmers Participatory Research, July, 1987 Modified Version Presented at International Sociological Association Italy, June, 1988), pp.1-18

A) Agronomic Means of pest Control/Arid Region (P.83E)
Early sowing of sorghum (with pre-monsoon rains in May) is carried out to avoid the problem of shoot fly and a kind of bug in the red soils of Telengana region, Andhra Pradesh, India.
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