College of Agriculture, Vellayani, Kerala Agricultural University, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
In Kerala, adivasis constitute 1.1 per cent of the total population. Despite decades of development efforts they still constitute the vulnerable sections of the population of the state. They indeed had a rich agricultural heritage that was crucial in ensuring community food and nutrition security and conserving the diversity of agroecosystems. Unfortunately, this tradition and on-farm diversity, people’s knowledge, and innovations are quickly disappearing due to the obvious reasons of the state's changing cultural and developmental needs. Tribes who lived as part of nature exploited the agrobiodiversity, to meet their food and nutrition requirements. The ethnic tribal food sector was well developed based on experience and local belief in which all possible means for health were taken care of in their own way. But due to various reasons, the food habits of tribal communities have undergone a drastic change. The ethnic and other traditional communities have a long tradition of being custodians of genetic wealth, particularly landraces that often carried rare and valuable genes for traits like resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, adaptability, and nutritional qualities. But they are losing such valuable crops and varieties at an alarming rate. It is high time the state pitch in to take policy decisions for incentivizing the conservation efforts of the tribal farmers and ensure better markets to promote the cultivation of traditional crops/varieties. Commercialization that creates an economic stake in conservation must be promoted through Self-Help Groups, FPOs, etc. Thus, a community-oriented conservation continuum must be built with three links: In-situ conservation of habitats, In-situ on-farm conservation of diverse genetic materials, and ex-situ conservation of species of multiple values.