Article on Barahnaja

V.P. Sati
Mountain Forum Bulletin
July 2009

India’s Garhwal Himalaya is an agrobiodiversity hotspot. The traditional system of cultivating “Barahnaja” (literally, ’12 seeds’) together in cropped land is a centuries-old practice: a cropping pattern involving 12 or more food crops grown in “synergetic” combinations (Singh and Tulachan, 2002). This is practiced under a “Sar system” of crop rotation that characterises the cropping pattern together with a vertical distribution of crops — in valley regions, mid-altitudes and highlands — and supports the maintenance of agrobiodiversity. Three quarters of the people in the region depend on this system for their livelihoods. The traditional agricultural systems are the reservoirs of many crops and cultivars, most of which are still little known to mainstream societies and are better adapted than modern agricultural systems to environmental and social conditions (Altieri, 1995; Ramakrishnan and Saxena, 1996). Recently changes in the cropping pattern have taken place as “Barahnaja” has decreased, particularly in the mid-slopes and low-lying areas. [more]