The jumia/jhumia are cultivators engaged in hillside agriculture which has been a traditional practice in Chittagong Hill Tracks in Bangladesh. Jum or shifting cultivation has been the only livelihood means for around 50% of the marginal and landless farmers living in the remote hills, which has been regarded by the government and some sectors as a harmful practice.
With the challenge posed by climate change and food insecurity, the jumia have to be resilient. The workshops conducted by Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha (TUS) were opportunities to learn about diversified jum crop production, traditional harvesting techniques and technology. Participants discussed cropping and harvesting seasons, crop storage, traditional seed and preservation techniques. The seeds brought by the participants were the focus of traditional knowledge (TK) in crop cultivation.
The jum crops were classified according to price and production rate to promote the importance of jum economy in the jumia’s overall livelihood status. Jum seeds were collected from the participants to encourage them to find options that will yield maximum output from the land and tools through traditional methods of cultivation. Towards resiliency and their survival as traditional Jum cultivators, they learned to combine high value and general crops while improving their economic status.
The women, youth, and the elderly, in a workshop on food and seed preservation learned about the existing practices of traditional seed preservation; local ethics and norms in the process of seeds exchange; community seed bank management; criteria in seed selection; improving seed quality; traditional seed storage methods; and traditional food preservation methods.
Women’s significant role and contribution in seed and food preservation and in upholding traditions was the focus in a separate session. Their task of gathering resources from the forest, and their spiritual and medicinal healing was recognized. There was a consensus that women have the right to participate in decision making, and they should be allowed to make decisions in their respective fields.
Traditional healers who shared their knowledge on traditional healing practices and forest medicines brought medicinal plants and a list of common diseases that they treat and discussed spiritual healing system. The medicinal collection and preservation methods were organized as a database to help the healers learn from each other and nurture TK. This database was used in a workshop focused on the history of traditional healing in the country and expected to help the healers practice the knowledge for the overall wellbeing of the indigenous communities. Biddut Lata Tripura, an elder and traditional healer reflected that they “…usually practice in our locality and rarely get a chance to meet other healers who have knowledge on hard to heal diseases and know the local names of many herbal plants we collect from the forests.” He was grateful to TUS for giving them the opportunity to share their knowledge.
The workshop for women, youth, and the elderly on Village Common Forest and Natural Resource Management focused on drawing a list of TK practices, beliefs, customs and rituals in the collection of resources and their usage. The examples cited can improve the TK based natural resource gathering system and livelihood as well as food security, traditional agro-forestry practices, and biodiversity.
In the workshop with Line Departments officials and experts, TK as an essential part of sustainable development practices was recognized in the fields of Natural Resource Management, local food and seed preservation, and traditional healing. Officers of line department and development boards expressed their interest to utilize some selected TK methods. Tarun K. Bhatcharya from the Directorate of Agricultural Extension stated that “TK is invaluable for the marginal hill farmers whose life skills and opportunities are managing forest resources and jum cultivation. TK can be utilized for their betterment.”
A jumia mused that “This is most probably the first and foremost initiative for, and with Jumias because no other organizations call us in this kind of workshops and work on our concerns.”
The project “Enhancing climate resiliency and increasing food security through traditional knowledge” was implemented by Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha (TUS) in January 2018 with the support of PAWANKA Fund.