The tribal community of Koraput, Odisha has been chosen by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for recognition under its Globally Important Agricultural Heritage sites programme.

A decade ago, Raita Muduli, a tribal woman from the Koraput district, was introduced to a nature friendly farming system, which not only changed her condition but also got her tribe the UN recognition.

It all started after the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation – run by eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan – introduced them to organic farming.

Muduli, along with Chandra Pradhan, another member of her Porja tribe inspired other people in the village to take up the system and now almost eight-nine villages are involved in the environment-friendly agriculture system.

Earlier, they were using a large amount of chemical fertiliser for farming. But then they shifted to organic methods. They are using cow-dung for manure. For preventing crops from getting infected, they prepare insecticides in a traditional manner using neem leaves and other plants found in the forest that have medicinal qualities.

The tribe produces several varieties of rice, wheat and cumin seeds. This green method of farming has almost quadrupled the annual yield in the last few years, while the profits have risen several times.

Muduli, along with Pradhan, were felicitated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 99th Indian Science Congress at Bhubaneshwar for practising the ‘Koraput Traditional Agricultural System’.

It may also seen as the recognition of tribal peoples’ contribution to biodiversity and knowledge systems, whilst increasing attention to their natural and cultural heritage.