One of the pressing issue, the coastal region are facing is Climate Change. With sea level rising, the farming community in the coasts are at higher risks. It impacts their livelihood drastically. Plus, flooding and rainfall force them to migrate, which only creates major problems. Facing such issues, farmers of Kuttanad region in Kerala, use an innovative solution to tackle rising sea level. Kuttanad comprises of Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts which are famous for their backwaters, brackish lagoons. In these lagoons, farmers cultivate rice below sea level on the draining delta swamps in brackish waters. Coastal areas face major issues from rising sea levels like lack f soil availability, increasing salinity, and flooding. Below sea level farming plays an important role as it is an efficient method, and it is the only style of rice plantation used in India.
Basically, in Kuttaland system, the agricultural and is divided into three structures:
- Wetlands used for rice cultivations and fishing
- Garden lands, which are used for coconuts, and other crops
- Water areas for fishing and shells
Such structure is formed by creating polders- pieces of low lying lands bound by bunds. Bunds are created by clay and coconut husks. Depending on the level and force of water, these bunds are created. Then, bunds are dewatered, and rice is cultivated. Also, bunds are drained at regular intervals for rotation. People use adapted technologies like elective motors for dewatering. This is the case of a mix of traditional knowledge and techniques which have become crucial in the present times.
These structures also lead to the formation of different landscapes that cater to various wild and agrobiodiversity. Different species of rice, coconut, crops, vegetables are grown, which helps both wild and domestic animals like ducks, wild birds, fishes, and turtles to get food supply and natural habitat to live. The system has created a repository for many endemic plants, and animal species here supported biodiversity.
The mail benefit by the process is food and livelihood security. These systems are not only of self-consumption but also for revenue. 25% of the rice cultivated in Kerala comes from here. Fishes, clams are sold too. Plus, it provides duck farming as well. Once when rice is harvested, ducks are brought into the wetlands, which provide manure to the soils.
Finally, the system represents the values and culture of the people. Spotting wild plants, making mats out of the raw materials present in the place, has become the culture and the heritage of the place.
With tourism and pollution, this fragile ecosystem is getting damaged. In the last thirty years, fish diversity has reduced. But steps are taken to undo it. If you visit the Kuttanad region, you’ll be able to see a remarkable landscape of remarkable landscapes of fragmented lands with ponds, estuaries, land patches at various heights. As aesthetically pleasing it looks, it is very functional and sustainable. Have a cultural walk along the paddy fields of Kuttanad and get insight into the culture of the Kuttanad agrarian community.
Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems