Advantage of Podu (slash-and-burn) cultivation: Almost all varieties of cereals and vegetables grow in one plot – Odisha & Andhra Pradesh

In the lap of nature

A HORTICULTURE technique, some 10,000 years old and forerunner to the systematic cultivation of food crops, is still practised by tribal societies living on hills and mountains the world over and the hill areas of Visakhapatnam are no exception. Known as slash-and-burn cultivation, or Podu in Visakhapatnam, it involves clearing the jungle on the hill slopes, burning the trees and growing crops on the ashes. This method does not require fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides or insecticides. Organically grown, the products are naturally flavoured.

The Samanthas or the Khonds of the Visakhapatnam tribal hill areas are one of the few traditional horticultural communities that have made the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa their home. In the past, they cultivated a plot of land for six-seven years and then moved to a new slope, leaving the earlier plot fallow for some 10 years. But the restrictions on slash-and-burn cultivation and the growing pressure on land have reduced the fallow period to two-three years.

For the tribal people, slash-and-burn cultivation offers certain advantages over settled cultivation: the management is simple and farming requires no special inputs or implements. All that is needed is a hoe and human labour. Crop productivity is low but so is the cost of inputs – around Rs. 600 a year for three crops, less than one-tenth the amount needed to raise a single conventional crop. However, the tribal people do not set much store by either productivity or profits and are satisfied with what they get. The most remarkable feature of Podu cultivation is that almost all varieties of cereals and vegetables are grown in one plot. […]

Source: Frontline – India’s National Magazine
From the publishers of THE HINDU Volume 21 – Issue 15, Jul. 17 – 30, 2004
Date Visited: Mon Jul 04 2011 19:27:12 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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