On October 15, 2016, Debal Deb and D. Bhattacharya conducted a workshop on agroforestry, culture, and food security at Badsudha farm in Odisha, India. In this one-day workshop composed of 13 tribal youth from Gondh community of Bissam Cuttack Block of Odisha, participants were motivated to revive their forgotten food production practices and their traditional food culture. This workshop trained youth on principles of agroforestry and soil conservation in shifting cultivation. Additionally, discussions took place on topics including:

  1.         Multi-species multi-tier agroforestry, incorporating wild trees, vines, domesticated crops, and hedgerows;
  2.         An introduction to forest ecology – with a practical session for mensuration of tree density and diversity;
  3.         Rotational polycropping in shifting cultivation;
  4.         Multi-variety rice and millet farming to control pathogens and pests;
  5.         Principles of maintenance of prey refugia as “sacred groves” and “safety forests” in all indigenous societies;
  6.         Open seed exchange as a resistance to the corporate seed market;
  7.         Agroecological practice to stop synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and;
  8.         Heuristic learning of fire control in the swidden farms, with an aim to conserve soil and biodiversity.

The youth were encouraged to record their traditional and forgotten customs and observe the consequence of all such customs. The participants were also encouraged to compare the different parameters of forest and water resources in their own forests with those of a degraded forest in urbanized/ industrialized areas. Each participant was able to leave the workshop with a number of takeaways including:

  1.         An understanding of the importance of biodiversity in provision of food and material culture;
  2.         Technical knowledge of sustainable forestry;
  3.         An empirical understanding of the ecological integrity and complexity of agroforestry;
  4.         A growing knowledge of forest ecosystem services – water retention, nutrient recycling, albedo effect reduction, and provision of food, fodder, fuelwood and structural materials to the villagers and;
  5.         Recognition of the internal as well as the external factors for deforestation, cultural erosion, and the disintegration of communitarian ethos.