Conservation of Traditional Agro-biodiversity and Securing Livelihoods by Modi (Jheri) Biodiversity Management Committee, Telangana


Modi (Jheri) village in Asifabad District of Telangana represents the Deccan peninsular region and is surrounded by hillocks covered with forests, that are inhabited by a variety of flora and fauna. It is spread across 700 acres with approximately 500 households. The ‘Komaram Bheem’ dam situated near the village, supports wetland birds such as common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), rose ringer (Psittacula krameri), long billed vulture (Gyps indicus) etc., along with aquatic biodiversity consisting of species such as Anabas testudineus and Labeo fimbriatus. The village majorly comprises tribal communities (Gond and Kolam), with agriculture as their main occupation. They mainly cultivate cotton, cereals and millets, vegetables, tubers and pulses on their lands. Agricultural ecosystems such as this, provide food, forage and bioenergy along with regulation of soil and water quality, carbon sequestration, support for biodiversity and cultural services.

Need for the Initiative

Over the past few decades, the cultivation practices had shifted towards commercial and hybrid crops varieties, such as Bt cotton and maize and cultivation of traditional varieties of crops and vegetables became scarce. Not only did these new varieties demand additional input, in terms of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, but cultivation of these varieties emerged as a major threat to the native germplasm. The region was faced with other challenges, such as frequent forest fires in the summer season and unsustainable harvesting of gums and other NTFPs from surrounding forests.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

In accordance with the mandates of the Biodiversity Act (BDA) 2002 and to conserve the local biological resources in the region while securing livelihoods for the local communities, the Modi (Jheri) Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) was constituted in 2011, with 7 members, including Sarpanch of the Panchayat as the chairperson, a secretary and women representatives. The State Biodiversity Board (SBB) provides provides regular training to the BMC members on good practices in conservation and management of biodiversity. Since its establishment, the BMC has initiated projects for preservation of the agricultural biodiversity, campaigning for sustainable utilization of biological resources and rearing of traditional breeds of livestock. The BMC revived the traditional agriculture practices by encouraging the cultivation of traditional varieties of crops. Presently, the agricultural biodiversity comprises 34 native varieties of crops including oil producing seeds. Several traditional varieties of pulses such as,Urad, Modh, Moong, etc., are grown across approximately 200 acres of land including Toor (Cajanus cajan) pulse variety which is being sown in the region since more than 100 years. These are interspersed with traditional varieties of sorghum (100-150 acres), rice varieties (50 acres) and traditional oil producing crop varieties such as Alphi, Til, Ambadi, Groundnut etc. The BMC also maintains a community seed bank comprising native varieties of crops which are distributed to the farmers.[1] The BMC has encouraged farmers to plant trees (Azadirachta indica, Saraca asoca, Tectona grandis) in their farmland and as a result every 5 acres of agricultural land is interspersed with 0.5 acres of such plantations. The saplings are provided to the Panchayat and farmers, by the State Government and the Forest Department. The SBB distributed indigenous variety of cattle, poultry and fish to farmers under the NAIP-ICAR project and provided training for an integrated farming system, comprising fisheries, poultry, horticulture & agriculture, along with developing infrastructure for the same. Two water harvesting ponds, a portable carp hatchery with a culture pond, a water tank and an enclosure with a shed was constructed to propagate fisheries in the BMC area. A demonstration site was constructed in order to elucidate various components of an integrated farming mechanism. The dams in the village also serve as fishery site for the community. The BMC carries out regular patrolling of the reserve forest area near the village and inhibits illegal, commercial and unsustainable harvesting of NTFPs and conducts awareness programmes regarding management of wildlife in the reserve forest. The local biological resources and the associated traditional knowledge have been documented in the People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR), in line with the mandates of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, with assistance from community members and the government and research institutions such as the Forest Department, Fisheries Department, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources and National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources. In the process of developing the PBR, a unique variety of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) locally known as ‘Erra Machhala Kandi’, was identified and was registered under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority along with a sorghum variety, locally known as ‘Vayunowka Jonna’.[2] The SBB organized an exposure visit to Modi village, for other BMCs in the district, in October 2017 for disseminating the best practices on conservation of agro-biodiversity and integrated farming system[3].

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards

The Modi (Jheri) BMC received special mention in the India Biodiversity Award under the category ‘Best Biodiversity Management Committee’ in 2018.

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