Conservation Project Triggers Food Security Crisis: Attappady Hills, South India

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Prominentenzimmer (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Deepa KOZHISSERI, Indian Institute of Technology, India
This paper argues that large funded projects for environment conservation among farming communities could have an adverse impact on agriculture and food security.  This is especially true if livelihood generation and eco restoration divert agriculturists to wage labour.  In 2013 there were 31 infant deaths and high malnutrition among the indigenous communities in Attappady hills in South India. This was immediately after Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project a state run project with assistance from Japan Bank for International Cooperation just wound up in 2012 after running for 16 years.  This paper posits that while this project contributed to the growth of secondary forests it weaned away a large chunk of the indigenous population away from their lands affecting their food security.  Afforestation, soil and water conservation activities were undertaken in which the indigenous communities found employment. Many small agriculturists turned to these activities for wages moving away from farming coarse millets which formed their traditional diet.  They began to be completely dependent on the public distribution system and market for rice which replaced millets in their diet. They also sold off their livestock in keeping with project goals which denied them access to draught animals. The project brought in large flows of money and the state wanted this to be spent to ensure the project continues. Contractors were recruited to keep the project going. By the last phase of the project buildings had come up, numerous vehicles plied and an entire parallel development economy flourished in this indigenous belt. When the project stopped the tribes were severely cash strapped and their agriculture was also neglected. The menace from wild animals, water scarcity and lack of timely subsidies deterred them from agriculture. Only those indigenous farmers growing millets for their own use, without pesticides, have been secure.