60 varieties of tubers found in the region to be conserved
Edavaka in Wayanad, the first grama panchayat in Kerala to prepare a biodiversity register, has taken up a novel initiative for the conservation of the rich diversity of tuber crops in the region.
The two-year programme, launched with funding from the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB), will be implemented through the Biodiversity Management Committee of the panchayat. It seeks to conserve the 60 varieties of tubers found in the region.
The panchayat has taken up organic cultivation of tubers on 1.73 acres of public land on the slopes of a hill, with labour provided by workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As many as three homestead farms and four schools in the panchayat are also growing tubers to support the participatory programme.
A massive awareness campaign has been launched with the help of the local community radio named Maattoli and a community newspaper Naattuvettam. A school-level campaign targeting students has also been taken up. The Ferns naturalist society based at Mananthavady is extending technical support to the project.
Panchayat president H.B. Pradeep said the programme was aimed at conserving biodiversity and promoting tubers as a rich source of affordable food. “Over the years, many tubers have disappeared from the common man’s diet because of lifestyle changes. This has contributed to nutritional deficiency, especially among tribal communities. A few of the local tubers are also known to have medicinal properties. By encouraging people to include tubers in their diet, we hope to revive local health traditions.”
Oommen V. Oommen, chairman, KSBB, said the programme would try to conserve all the 60 varieties of tubers recorded in the Edavaka panchayat biodiversity register, including the wild ones and the types cultivated solely by the tribal communities. He said efforts were on to multiply and propagate the tubers. The Edavaka panchayat is home to 20 varieties of arrowroot tubers and as many types of yams and wild tubers.
The project also envisages the conservation of medicinal plants in the panchayat.
K.P. Laladhas, member secretary, KSBB said the germ plasm collected for the tuber conservation programme would be stored for long-term use. Tubers, he said, could be preserved for long periods in fields. “Storing such resources in the ecosystem will help to create a food reserve.”