Shifting agriculture: The changing dynamics of Adivasi farming in the forest-fringes of a tiger reserve in South India

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 21st November 2016


Authors Seema Mundoli, Gladwin Joseph and Siddappa Setty worked on this paper that examines trends in farming and livelihood activities among forest-dwelling Adivasi farmers (Soligas) in a tiger reserve from 2008 to 2015. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted in two contrasting, but representative villages. Results of the study indicated that traditional mixed-crop farming was being replaced by cash crops such as coffee, maize and cotton. Access to state-subsidized food supply, increasing cash income through wage labor, coupled with increasing depredation of food crops by wild animals were some causes for the shift to cash crops. Declining supply of non-timber forest produce (NTFP) and the subsistence cash it provided has also impacted farmer livelihoods and indirectly contributed to this shift. The changing aspirations of younger Soligas and inadequate state support for mixed-crop farming also could be contributing factors. Soligas consistently maintained that increasing wildlife depredation of food crops, reduction in supplies of wild foods, and the decline in NTFP was because of poor forest health. The transition to cash crops improved cash flows but exposes the Soligas to market risks. While food security has also improved, the nutritional quality of diet declined. Soligas are adopting new farming practices, diets, and livelihood strategies, and importantly, leveraging rights historically denied to them, all a reflection of their social resilience.

About the speaker

Dr. Siddappa Setty has been uniquely dedicated to work in tribal areas in South India for the past 22 years, working with the indigenous Soliga tribal community on sustainable use of forest resources, community and conservation, agroforestry, participatory resource monitoring and forest restoration and related issues. He secured his Ph.D. from University of Mysore on Sustainable use of some non timber forest products. He is with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) and currently working as a Fellow and Programme Leader under Forest and Governance Programme. A Fulbright Nehru fellow in 2009 with Oregon State University USA and is currently coordinating project funded by USAID (Western Ghats) on Managing India’s Forests for Biodiversity and Human Well-being in the Face of Global Environmental Change. His research interests are poverty alleviation in biodiversity rich areas through sustainable use of forest resources and bringing scientific knowledge and approaches with traditional knowledge.