Biodiversity loss exacerbated by climate change puts Indigenous food systems at risk of slow erosion, if not sudden collapse. Sustainable farming practices, such as regenerative agriculture, intercropping, and polycultures are several ways that Indigenous peoples sustain the gifts of Mother Earth, such as soil and water, while growing crops to feed people. These farming practices are also being put into place by non-Indigenous farmers for sustainable development.
Regenerative agriculture is about revitalizing, rather than, degrading soil through farming. Regenerative practices promote energy sequestration in the soil and offsets greenhouse gas emissions. Planting the Three Sisters (i.e., beans, corn, and squash) is a form of intercropping, a practice where certain plants are sown and grown next to each other to build symbiotic relationships rather than competitive relationships with each other for water, oxygen, and soil. Polyculture contrasts with monoculture and industrial, commercialized farming practices whereby different crop species are planted next to each other at the same time to increase soil nutrients and reduce the risk of pests and rampant disease. Intercropping is a form of polyculture too. Together, these practices also combat food insecurity among Indigenous peoples, which is historically the result of land dispossession due to colonization.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has pointed to the importance of including Indigenous voices and agricultural practices in policy and planning. As noted in the FAO’s recent report, “the world cannot feed itself sustainably without listening to Indigenous Peoples.”
By Leela Viswanathan
(Image Credit: Doan Tuan, Unsplash)