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Inventory of Peasant Innovations for Sustainable Development an annotated bibliography


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Paul Richards, 1986; 99, op cit
Harvesting/Semi-Arid Region
Harvesting is done with a knife, panicle by panicle. Handfuls are tied together into bundles for initial storage and drying in the farm hut. There are approximately 15 such bundles to a bushel. When convenient, the rice is taken down and ‘thrashed’ (a misleading term since the grain is removed from the panicle by a process of trampling). Although this kind of harvesting is slow and labour-intensive by comparison with harvesting by sickle, an implement used in some parts of northern Sierra Leone, it has the advantage of selectivity. It accommodates uneven ripening, and facilitates the rouging of off-types in the harvest. Not only is the purity of the seed stock better maintained thereby, but knife harvesting also allows for the ready identification and conservation of interesting new planting materials. (This kind of practice is followed probably in the deep low land areas in Bangladesh where the farmers use boats for harvesting the crop. Ed.).
Mazind Ahmed and Hallajian
Crop-livestock Interactions: Information from a Barley Survey in Syria (ICARDA Research Report 10). FSR-M16-1983, pp.28
Harvesting/Arid Region
In parts of Syria sheep are allowed to graze barley at its green stage during the winter months. It is then left to recover and is harvested later for grain and straw.
Grazing of the mature barley crop as an alternative to harvesting is another common practice. This may be likely in years when rainfall is low and especially in drier zones. (In Haryana, gram crop is allowed to be nibbled by sheep apparently to promote likening. Ed.).
Girija Prasanna Majumdar, 215, op cit
Reaping/Region Unspecified
The following maxims selected from among the rest contain directions for reaping the harvest.


  1. Corns ripen within 20 days after the first appearance of the ear, and one should cut and thresh the corn in 10 days.




  1. The corn ripens 30 days after the first appearance of the spike, 20 days after the first appearance of flowers and 12 days after the ears are down after the appearance of a hose’s head. Remember this, while making, buying and selling corns.




  1. During the last 8 days of Falgoon and first 8 days of Chaitra one should reap the ripe seasamums.




  1. Cut the hemp plant (for the fibre) as soon as it flowers; the jute when it is mature; and autumn paddy if reaped during the month of Pous proves profitable.


Walker in Dharampal, 1983; 237, op cit
Reaping/Region Unspecified
In some parts of India, hay is not made, in others parts it is a regular crop, stacked and preserved. This is the case in Gujarat, and some other pergunnahs. The hay is cut down not by the scythe but by the reapers hook. It is dried and brought home in carts. The stacks are generally of an oblong shape something like our own, but often of much larger dimensions than any that I have seen in England. The stack is not thatched merely, but covered and protected, by a moveable roof. In those parts of India where hay is not made and which are unfavourable to this kind of crop, the cattle are fed with the roots of grass, very like English fiorin, with straw, and especially with the straw of joaree, all of which are considered to be very nourishing food. (The roots of this grass are preferred by our own people in Karnataka today).
Hans Carlier, 1987; 22, op cit
Forestry/Humid Region


  1. Trees according to farmers in Andes must never be felled at new moon or the wood will be infested by woodworm. The same is applicable to bamboo and lianas.




  1. To obtain straight trunks that do not readily fall, it is advised to plant trees in the period between 7 days after new moon and before full moon.


Robert Chambers, 1983; 81, op cit
Forestry/Semi-Arid Region
In Kenya, the ‘MUKAU’ tree has long been recognized by the ‘Mbeere’ people as a valuable resource, pre-eminent among the local trees; it produces a pole that can be longitudinally split for house construction; poles which are relatively straight and have an untwisted grain wrap less than other woods and are moderately durable in the ground. Brokensha and Riely consider that has been deliberately encouraged and conserved on wide scale. The seedlings ‘which appear to germinate successfully once the seeds of the fruits are browsed by goats have been passed in their droppings, are, when found in clearing land for cultivation is protected and reared as individual property.’
Balasubramanian, A
Micro Climate and its Utilisation in Indian Farming

ILEIA, October 87, 3 (3)-9
Micro climate/Region unspecified (p.9)


  1. The betel vine lants require cool climate and high humidity during the whole span of 2-3 years. The farmers manipulate the climate in the garden to provide the necessary coolness. They dig deep and long trenches two and half feet depth and two feet wide. The space between two trenches is 3 feet. In the edges of the trenches they plant ‘AGATHI’ (Sesbania grandiflora). After the plant has grown to 6 ft. they plant betel wine cutting by the side of the ‘AGATHI’ plants which provide a canopy of diffused sunlight. The trenches is impounded with 2 ft. deep water which is splashed to provide water to the betel vines and to keep the soil moist and the water in the trenches increases the humidity within the garden.




  1. For summer irrigated peanut crop, irrigation is given by splash method during the night. The reason attributed by the farmers is that it will increase the humidity and create cool climatic condition which is suitable for the peanut crop.




  1. In dry farming tracts, a shallow ploughing is done in the summer after every receipt of summer rains. It prevents soil moisture evaporation and stores the soil moisture so that the next crop may utilize this.




  1. In some parts of Kerala, both coconuts and areca nuts are grown mixed to get good yield from areca nuts. Areca nut as a sole crop does not give a good yield.




  1. In Cauvery delta, black grain and green gram are relayed in paddy fields after the long duration rice crop. Farmers sow the gram seeds in standing rice crop just one week before the harvest of the long duration rice crop. The micro-climatic condition, for example, moisture level and soil condition in the standing rice crop will be optimum for the generation and establishment of the young gram seedlings.




  1. In certain pockets of Thanjavur delta in India, peanut is sown in late December immediately after the harvest of the rice crops. This peanut is grown without irrigation. It meets its water requirements form the soil moisture stored from the previous rice crop.




  1. The available micro-climatic conditions in the bunds of the paddy fields are utilized for growing crops like pulses, vegetables, etc.




  1. In Thanjavur delta the early paddy rice crop sown in June-July will be ready for harvest in September or October. If cloudy weather is prevalent during this period, the micro-climatic at the root zone will be conducive for the multiplication of brown plant hoppers, so the farmers will deliberately disturb the microclimatic conditions at root zone by drawing the water and drying the fields.


Paul Richards, 1985; 47, op cit
Rainfall/Semi-arid Region


  1. In parts of Southern Nigeria, farmers assess the approach of the rainy season by noting the timing of fresh, red leaves on the tree known in ‘Yoruba’ as ‘EKI’ (Lophina alatas).




  1. In Central Sierra Leone the flowering of ‘ghota’ (Antrocaryon micraster) conveys the same message.




  1. Farmers from Igboho in the Savannas of western, Nigeria rely on the following signs that rain is near and planting should begin.




    1. Leafing of ‘IROKO’ (Chlorophoraexcelsa) and ‘BAOBAB’ (adansonia digitata).




    1. Sky signs example, first the sky shows red and in a few days or a week, clouds will begin to form.




    1. Shift in wind direction and cloud formation example, rising heat (i.e., convection), distant thunder.




    1. Bird song indicators, e.g., the call of the dove ‘KONKOTO’ (Sreptopelika semitorguata) ceases. (In Harnaul, Dt. Mahendragarh, in our study, Mandaukar and Hiranand observed the behaviour of Kunj bird being used by farmers as a signal for moving time of certain crops like gram – ed).


Khana’s Maxims quoted in Girija Prasanna Majumdar’s Essay
Rainfall/Region Unspecified (pp.211-212)


  1. The year in which it rains cats and dogs on the ninth day of the full moon in the month of Asha, the crane will walk over the very bottom of the sea (i.e., absolute drought will visit the land); if it drizzles on that day it will be followed by a heavy shower of rain throughout the whole year to the extent of making the fish inhabit the tops of mountains (i.e., whole country will be, over flooded). If it rains now and then throughout the year the very earth will not be able to bear the weight of the harvest. If the sky remains clear at the setting of the Sun the farmer will have to sell his bullocks in the market, i.e., the corns will not grow at all.




  1. Drought in Jaishtha and shower in Ashar lead to the growth of corn too plentiful for the earth to bear.




  1. If wind blows from the north-east at the beginning of the year it is sure to have a good shower according to khana.




  1. Khana says this to the cultivator that if fleecy cloud be followed by wind in the full moon in the month of Kartik the winter crops will grow too plentiful for the earth and if there be both cloud and rain at night it is altogether useless to go to the field, i.e., the crops will not grow.


Bnhat Samhita and Krsi Parasara

(Quoted in Ajay Mitra Shastri’s paper on Textual Evidence Bearing on Rainfall in Ancient India, pp.409-418)
Rainfall/Region Unspecified (pp.414-415)


  1. The sun with dazzling brilliance and burning with intense heat at the zenith of the sky is an indicator of approaching rainfall.




  1. Tasteless water; sky having the complexion of cow’s; uncontaminated directions; moisture of salt; absence of wind; fishes coming to the banks; repeated croaking of frogs; cats scratching earth with nails; accumulation of rust on iron; construction of bridges on the streets by children mountains appearing like heaps of collyrium; haloes of the colour of cock’s eye round the moon; ants shifting their eggs without any apparent cause; cows looking above at the sun; reluctance of domestic animals to go out of the house and their shaking ears and hoofs; dogs barking continuously looking at the sky; lightning flashing from the north-east during the day-time; appearance of mock sun and moon; cool breeze blowing from the east (BS. Ch. XXVIII; Sadyovarshalaksana); excitation of cats, mongoose, snake and other animals living in marshy places; rutting of young elephants; aquatic birds beginning to dry their wings; so on and so forth [Krsi Parasara, verses (63-68)].


Chhelbhai, J Shukla, 1989; 5, op cit
Prediction of Rainfall/Semi-arid Region


  1. Rain is forecasted by looking at the sight where crows lay their eggs.




  1. Rain can be forecasted by looking at sight of burrow of ants.




  1. Rain is associated with cuckoo’s singing (bird which is supposed to live only on rain drops).


Raja Basava, Sivatattava-Ratnakara in ‘Agriculture in Ancient India’ S.P. Raychaudhuri, 1964, Chap.ix, pp.109-115).
Agricultural Meteorology/Region Unspecified (p.109)

Clouds of all colours are seen floating in the sky separately. If the clouds are white or yellow, then there is rain at some places and drought at others.


There are sixty such practices enumerated in the above chapter of t he monograph. The chapter also discusses the auspicious moment for cultivation and cycle of sowing. There are extracts from various ancient texts like Dipika, Bhima Parakrama, Rajamartanda and Devala.
Gupta, Anil K

Communicating with Farmers (Cases in Agricultural communication and Institutional Support Measures, coordinated by Prof. Kuldeep Mathur, District Planning Project, assisted by D.M. Sharma, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi), 1980, Chap.9, pp.1-18
Rainfall/Arid Region (pp.12-13)
Farmers of Mahendragarh have developed specific ways in which they speculate about the changes in weather and crop production. An interesting account of the above is enumerated below. Whether the details given reflect mere superstitious or clever symbolic insights, one would need to explore further. However, they deserve a serious look:


  1. About the rainy season, guess was made by listening to the voice of fox in the month of Kartik (vernacular names), Aghan, Paush or Magh.

In case, fox voice was heard prominently in the first fortnight of Kartik, it will rain in the beginning of Ashar (July). If the voice was heard in both the fortnights (or Lunar cycles), it was expected to rain throughout the month likewise, the fox’s call in Aghan sounded rain prospects for savan, in paush for Bhadon and in Magh for the quar (September).




  1. The drought prospects are also judged by watching closely four days after ‘Holi’ festival. First day signals for Ashar month, second for seven, third for Bhadu and fourth for Quar.

Whichever day, sky is clear the rain will be good and so will be the crops in the corresponding months. In case of hard winds with dust and clouds, the drought effect was forecasted in the corresponding month.




  1. The setting of moon if it takes place before ‘Hiroi’ starts in third day of the second fortnight of Baisakh severe drought is forecasted along with some mishap or other tragedy. Third day is called ‘Akhetari.’




  1. In the beginning of the month of Ashar or end of Jyestha (June), if trees start branching, and new leaves start sprouting, then the rains are not expected in July. In case the branches show dryness and leaves turn yellowish, rains are expected.




  1. Ants are credited with having quite a developed sensitivity towards environment. It is said that if ants come out from the holes they dig in the ground, along with eggs and start running fast here and there, or start climbing walls, rains were sure to come. However, if they throng their eggs just outside the hold, only 50 per cent chance exists for the rains to come.


Vasumati Shankaran, 1988; 7, op cit
Implements/Material/Semi-arid Region
A wooden plough is used by the Grasia tribe in Gujarat which penetrates only about nine inches and this shifts the soil cover. It is considered quite appropriate by them for the soil and crop conditions.
Harm S. Robert, Dr.

Local Knowledge of fishing along the middle Zaire (presented at the workshop on Indigenous Knowledge at International Sociological Association, Italy, June, 1988, Coordinated by Dupre and Gupta, LTK-H-01, 1988, pp.16.
Implement/Region Unspecified (p.15)
New techniques of catching certain kinds of fish wish nets made of ‘NKOSA’ plant.
Basant, Rakesh

Indigenous Knowledge and Technology Diffusion: A Case of Agro-Mechanical Technology in Gujarat, India. (Presented at the Workshop at International Rural Sociological Association, Italy, June ,1988) LTK-B1-1988, pp.28.
Implement/Design/Arid Region (p.14-15)
Local artisan and farmers in Gujarat have solved the cost problem by modifying existing seed drills and blade hoes to enable them to serve multiple functions. Simple changes effected were:


  1. Use of three coulter seed drill after removing the middle coulter.




  1. Use of wooden pegs to reduce the distance before coulters.




  1. Making two passes with a small blade hoe between crop rows sown by wide seed drills.




  1. Purchase of seed drills and blade hoes with new specifications.


N.K. Sanghi, 1987; 10, op cit
Implements/Arid Region
Farmers in Telangana (Andra Pradesh, India) could design four alternative methods to achieve fertilizer placement (cost is reduced). It can be fitted to the existing plough. Two tubes are attached behind the country plough so that intercultural operations can be done. One tube also is attached behind the country plough.
Anil Gupta, 1988a; 83 E, op cit
Implements/Mode of Use/Arid Region


  1. Use of blade hoe in villages of Hisar and Sisar for preparation of seed bed.




  1. Use of ‘NAFE’ (desi) plough for deep sowing of gram.


Robert Rhoades, 1988; 4, op cit
Implements/Design/Humid Region
The Andean foot plough, the ‘Chaquitaclla’ is a tool extremely efficient on rugged slopes which are top steep for oxen or tractors. It is idea for turning grassy sods in fields which have been fallow for several years and impenetrable by drawn plough. Planting with the ‘Chaqui’ involves a form of minimum tillage, an ancient Andean practice. (The farmers of eastern Uttar Pradesh use a mould broad plough for fields having greater infestation of grasses. Ed).
Harbans Mukhia, 1989; 7, op cit
Implement/Materials/Region Unspecified


  1. The plough of course had many variations. The Rig Veda speaks of a plough (‘SIRA,’ ‘LANGALA,’ not the ‘HALA’) which was apparently a simple and light apparatus usable in the light soils of the Indus-Punjab region to which the Rig vedic vision has been extended.

The Atharya Veda, however, mentions heavy ploughs drawn by 6 to 8 oxen; these were perhaps used for breaking heavy virgin soil. The Kathak Samhita refers to the yoking of as many as 12, and even 24 oxen. Still later, Panini mentions two types of ploughs-hali and Jitya. The big plough of Paini was perhaps identical with the brhaddhala mentioned in the stone inscription of ‘CAHAMANA VIGRAHRAJA’ dated 973 A.D. Such a plough should have been appropriate to the Ajmer and Jaipur region. The celebrated early medieval text on agriculture the Krsi Parasara, recommends the normal yoking of 8 oxen to the plough and 6 for ordinary use. The yoking of 4 oxen amounted to cruelty and 2 to actual cow killing. It is, however, unclear whether the Krsi Parasara is speaking of yoking all the oxen simultaneously to one plough or doing so by turns so as to relieve the animals.




  1. A more recent observer had noted considerable variation in the weight of the plough in different region of India in the early 20th century. The Bengal Plough, drawn by the puny bullocks which was required merely to scrape the fertile surface, weighed a maund and a quarter; but in the Bundelkhand region the plough weighed three and a half maunds. There were at times variation even in he same region. Two sets of plough in Punjab itself have the heavier maunna and the lighter hal each drawn by different species.


Albert Howard, 1949; 15, op cit
Implements/Design/Unspecified
Cultivation is generally superficial and is carried out by wooden ploughs with an iron point in Britain. Soil inverting ploughs used in the west for destruction of weeds have never been designed by Eastern people. The reason for this appears to be three (a) soil inversion for destruction of weeds is not necessary in hot climatic where the same work is done by the sun; (b) Preservation of the level of the fields is essential for surface drainage for preventing local waterlogging, and for irrigation; (c) the store of nitrogen in the soil in the form f organic matter has to be carefully conserved. Top much cultivation and deep ploughing would oxidize this reserve and balance soil fertility should soon be destroyed.
Walker 1797 in Dharampal, 1983; 242-243, op cit
Implement-Design/Region Unspecified
The drill husbandry, as an invention of the Hindoos; that of transplanting which has the same object in view, is equally useful and beautiful. It gives the field the regularity f a garden, and every vacant space is filled up. The operation of transplanting is calculated to afford one fourth more of produce than the broadcast method of cultivation. Many of the details of Hindoo husbandry are curious and original.
Harbans Mukhia, 1949; 9, op cit
Implements/Region Unspecified
Two drawings of the seed drill done by Lockwood Kipling at Khangaum in March 1872 have survived. This drill was perhaps made from his drawing, there is evidence of its use in South and North West India, and Bihar.
Walker in Dharampal, 1983; 251, ibid
Implements/Coastal Region
The people of Malabar have two sorts of ploughs; one is heavier than the other, but they both have the same simple construction. The Malabar ploughs have only one handle. It is curious that his is the case also with the plough of the south of France, that of Suffolk, and the Shetland Islands. This is one of those resemblances which belongs to taste and fancy, rather than to imitation. We may be surprised that people who live so remote from each other, and under such different circumstances, should have come to adopt the same apparently feeble and inconvenient structure of this indispensable instrument.
Walker, 1797 in Dharampal, 1983; 257, ibid
Implement/Region Unspecified
Drill husbandry is universally practiced in the Innacondah district, in the culture of all grains, except horse-grain, and is also used in the culture of tobacco, cotton, and the castor-oil plant. In the practice of this husbandry they have two other ploughs in use here, exclusive of the drill plough, and the common plough; one of these has a horizontal share, and immediately follows the drill plough at work. It is set into the earth about the depth of seven or eight inches, and passes under three drills at once. It operates by agitating the earth so as to make the sides of the drills fall in, and cover the seed-grain, which it does so effectually as scarcely to eave any traces of a drill. The other plough alluded to, is used after the corn is about eight or ten inches high. It cuts up the weeds between three drills at once, and earths-up the roots of the corn at the same time.
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