In Hindi, ‘barah’ means twelve, and ‘anaja’ is grains. These crops include not only food grains, but also oil seeds, pulses, vegetables, and spices
Baranaja (literally meaning twelve grains) is a traditional mixed farming system widespread across the rain fed Garhwali agricultural regions in Uttarakhand. In the baranaja system, there is intercropping of twelve, or sometimes more, crops. Cereals, lentils, vegetables, creepers and root vegetables are grown in this companion planting system. All crops are planted together on the same terraced fields in the kharif / chau masa or monsoon season.
The twelve crops are selected such that they can grow in harmony with each other. The creepers of legumes use the stems of grains/plants as a natural support, while the grain roots grip the soil firmly, preventing soil erosion. Due to their nitrogen fixing abilities, legume crops return to the soil nutrients which are used by other crops. Besides, plants grow at different levels or storeys much like a natural forest, thereby utilising multiple levels of space on the same terrace. No external chemical inputs are used and pest control is achieved through the use of leaves of the walnut and neem, and the application of ash and cow’s urine.
Among the grains (cereals and millets), there is usually mandua (finger millet), ramdana (amaranthus), kuttu/ogal (buckwheat), jowar (sorghum) and makki (corn). Pulses and beans include rajma, lobia, bhatt, gehat, naurangi, urad and mung. Oilseeds like til, bhangjeer, sann, bhang and vegetables like ogal, chollai, kheera, lobia are also grown. Spices include jakhiya and til (sesame) and fibre plants include sann and bhan.Pulses, lentils and beans are planted on rocky lands while mandua, lobia and ramdana thrive on fertile lands. Different versions and combinations of this essential concept are planted across large parts of Garhwal, according to local conditions and community and farmer preferences.
The concept of the twelve grain system is scientific and sustainable. This system helps maintain ecological balance, and enables farmers to benefit from certain varieties even if some crops are damaged. Hence, it is not possible to plant different staple food crops separately. Different crops harvested at different times of the year provide security against food shortage, as well as against drought and crop failure in a small piece of land. Diversity in crops also helps in maintaining soil fertility and replenishing nitrogen, besides providing nutritional security.
By – Assistant Professor –
Department of EVS
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital