Food habits alter among Adivasis

Current generation not keen on indigenous grains; aboriginals giving up cultivation of heirloom varieties of food grain

January 16, 2020 07:19 pm | Updated January 17, 2020 01:03 am IST - ADILABAD

Thodasam Hanmanth Rao, the village head man and his wife displaying an indigenous variety of paddy at Pullara in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

Thodasam Hanmanth Rao, the village head man and his wife displaying an indigenous variety of paddy at Pullara in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

Adivasis of former composite Adilabad district are slowly moving away from their roots, and how. The current generation children, especially students of residential-type institutions, have developed intolerance towards food made out of indigenous grains invariably grown organically.

This phenomenon will eventually result in the aboriginal people completely giving up cultivation of their heirloom varieties of food grain which, according to nutritionists, are the best in terms of nutrition. “What is the use of growing these crops when there is no one to consume,” lamented Thodasam Hanmanth Rao, the Raj Gond tribe patel or headman of Pullara village in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, as he talked of the changing trends in food consumption among ethnic tribes.

Adivasis used to grow different kinds of millets, the flagship variety being the persa jonna or big jowar and three varieties of rice besides a few types of vegetables as part of backyard farming. Elders swear that introduction of subsidised rice in the public distribution system (PDS) in the 1980s made the indigenous varieties seem irrelevant.

“Officials concerned told us to move away from cultivating our types of rice which, they emphasised, were of inferior quality owing to low yields and going by their ‘rough’ look,” the patel recalled the events in the 1980s when the Adivasis suffered some kind of inferiority complex growing their own crops. “The authorities compared the economic value of our crops with cotton to substantiate their contention,” he added.

“The local varieties of food grains have almost completely vanished from our kitchens and our children have grown up eating the subsidised rice supplied by the government,” pointed out Kanaka Lingubai while talking of the alienation of children from the organically grown grains. “We get stomach ache on eating the ragal perek or red rice,” observed Thodasam Anuradha, a Class XI student of Rasimetta Tribal Welfare Ashram School in the same mandal, as he summed up the intolerance for desi food among ethnic children.

The Adivasis now cultivate a few varieties of millets, sesamum and rice only to be used during religious rituals. “We are also on the verge of losing persa jonna ,” rued Marsakolla Gagru, another farmer. That’s much food for thought to policy makers and agri-experts.

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