Nauri’s farm at Korandiguda village in Rayagada district is looked over by the Niyamgiri hills, the place where the Kondhs sent packing the bauxite mining project of multinational Vedanta Resources in 2013. He also belongs to the Kondh tribe but unlike those in Niyamgiri who indulge in ‘slash and burn’ or shifting cultivation, his forefathers learnt to work on permanent fields in the plains. They regularly used manure, ploughed, irrigated, removed weeds and mulched. Even today, they continue to grow crops on small untilled pockets of the lower hills called dongar.
But what keeps the tribals connected to their roots is the diversity their fields possess despite inroads made by commercial and chemical agriculture in the last 15 years.
Nauri grows 72 varieties of crop on his two acre farm mainly to reap the health and nutrient benefits of mixed cropping but in the last five years, he has also realised that the farm has greater resilience to the changing skies. “The benefit of mixed cropping is that even in extreme weather events, we get something out of the field. Some crops work well in drought, others in flood. Compare this with mono cropping which won’t even yield enough to eat in severe drought”, he explains.