Creation Care in India
Sense of place. Caring for the spot of the Earth that the Lord gave your family. Making it a better than when you started. That’s a feeling many have but don’t know how. Sometimes they are too poor to even own the land they farm.
That’s the case of many farmers in NE India. In the Patarkhama region where World Renew has partnered with the North East India Commission on Relief & Development, the poorest people farm the hillsides of the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. In their traditional way they would cut the trees, plant for a couple of years, and then let the forest grow back for 10 or more years. The rest-in-forest restored the fertility, eliminated the weeds, and kept the rivers clear. But, now there are too many people to allow the 10-year rest time for the land.
In their pre-colonial system the land belonged to the king of the Khasi people, even though other ethnic groups also lived among them. Without clear land ownership for individuals and for the non-Khasi groups, there was not clear incentive to care for the land.
For the past 15 years World Renew has worked with NEICORD and the people of Patarkhama, and for the past 6 years the Foods Resource Bank has supported us to develop ways of restoring the soils of the hillsides. It has taken a lot of persistence. But, now, finally, the farmers are seeing soil that used to wash away in the rainy season get trapped behind contour rows of nitrogen fixing trees. It’s curious that the farmers even call the trees: “NFTs.” (Actually, the genus of the trees they are using is Tiphrosia.)
It’s satisfying to see the soil building up behind the lines of trees and to hear the farmers say that this method is helping them have better crops. It’s great to hear farmers give thanks to God for this blessing.
And, it’s great to hear the farmers who own little parcels of flat land tell how the system of rice intensification has helped them….but that’s another story. And, it’s great to hear about how now that they are organized into self-help saving groups and have their own umbrella organization, called a peoples’ federation—that they have all sorts of access to government services that they did not have before. The government clinics’ records show that malnutrition is way down! It’s a great community development story!