The last mile: Using local knowledge to identify barriers to sustainable grain legume production

Barbara M. Smith, Alfred Gathorne-Hardy, Soumik Chatterjee, Parthiba Basu

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    Abstract

    Grain legumes (or pulses-annual leguminous crops that are harvested solely for their dried seeds such as lentils or chickpeas) are essential for sustainable cropping systems. They positively contribute to soil fertility and agricultural biodiversity and are a highly nutritious food source, yet they remain under-exploited across the world. In India-soon to be the world's most populous country and the world's largest importer, producer and consumer of pulses-they are substantially under-utilized and are the only major food group not to have increased in output since independence in 1947. Existing efforts to address low grain legume production have focused on the scientific and agronomic barriers, with little impact on productivity. In contrast, this project, using Tripura in India as a case study, recognizes the limits of imposing top-down solutions and instead focuses on the barriers to production as identified by the growers themselves. Working with 440 farmers from 19 non-tribal and 11 tribal villages in Tripura, NE India, we used facilitated discussion to identify their key barriers to pulse production, and facilitated pile sorting to identify the commonly consumed, grown and available pulses. Twenty-eight barriers to legume production were identified by farmers. The eight principal barriers were: insufficient water; lack of technical knowledge; unreliable seed supply; lack of processing units; soil fertility; financial constraints; limited fertilizer supply; and insufficient fencing material. These barriers are complex and overlapping and originate from system level failures to sufficiently prioritise grain legumes compared to cereals. However, recognizing the length of time it takes to address system level problems, in this paper we identify five immediately applicable mitigating strategies to help overcome the principle barriers identified here. Importantly, these will also create an improved environment to apply the technologically sophisticated grain legume R & D that has been carried out over the last 20 years but has yet to have a measurable impact on pulse production. Therefore understanding the wider socio-economic pathways to sustainable pulse production is essential to facilitate change on the ground. Our results, relevant to policy makers in India and around the world, demonstrate the value of listening to farmers when attempting to improve production, and emphasize the necessity of including the socio-economic systems surrounding pulse production, to complement the current emphasis on biological barriers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102
    JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
    Volume6
    Issue numberSEP
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2018

    Fingerprint

    traditional knowledge
    legumes
    soil fertility
    India
    seed
    food
    economic system
    sorting
    cereal
    cropping practice
    farmers
    pile
    village
    fertilizer
    socioeconomics
    biodiversity
    productivity
    down (feathers)
    crop
    world

    Bibliographical note

    Open access
    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other
    copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial
    research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be
    reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in
    writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way
    or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of
    the copyright holders.

    Keywords

    • Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF)
    • India
    • Indigenous technical knowledge (ITK)
    • Participatory inquiry
    • Pulse
    • Sustainable pulse production

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Ecology

    Cite this

    The last mile : Using local knowledge to identify barriers to sustainable grain legume production. / Smith, Barbara M.; Gathorne-Hardy, Alfred; Chatterjee, Soumik; Basu, Parthiba.

    In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 6, No. SEP, 102, 03.09.2018.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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