Socio-Ecological and Religious Perspective of Agrobiodiversity Conservation: Issues, Concern and Priority for Sustainable Agriculture, Central Himalaya



A large section of the population (70%) of Uttarakhand largely depends upon agricultural based activities for their livelihood. Rural community of the mountains has developed several indigenous and traditional methods of farming to conserve the crop diversity and rejoice agrodiversity with religious and cultural vehemence. Traditional food items are prepared during occasion, festivals, weddings, and other religious rituals from diversified agrodiversity are a mean to maintain agrodiversity in the agriculture system. Agrodiversity is an insurance against disease and extreme climatic fluctuations, as a coping mechanism in times of scarcity, as a means to enhance overall productivity of farms, as a source of critical nutrition and medicine in the Himalayan region. The different traditional system of agriculture and indigenous method of maintaining soil fertility, socio-cultural and religious rituals has saved many crops that are under threatened category. But all these system and practices are ignored nauseatingly in hill agriculture policy, where more emphasis was given for plain areas. Less emphasis is being put on local systems that rely on existing natural, human, and social assets such as biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and social capital underpinning collective action to ensure food security. Of late, development planners have realized the importance of appropriate technologies and therefore have stressed the need for on-site training, and capacity building of user groups in rural areas of the region. Rural technology demonstration and training center have been supposed as a means disseminating technologies enabling improvement in the yield potential of farms, income generation from off-farm activities, and conservation and efficient use of natural resources. There is a strong need to bring desirable changes in the agricultural policy, research, and development in reference to mountainous regions. The present paper describe present scenario of agriculture, traditional, and socio-cultural practices of retaining soil fertility and agrodiversity, policy dimensions, and strategies for management of the Himalayan agroecosystems.


Agrodiversity Socio-cultural Indigenous knowledge Religious Policy Rural technology 



The authors are thankful to the Director of the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora for the facilities to undertake the study. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful comments.

Supplementary material

10806_2012_9386_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (335 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 334 kb)
10806_2012_9386_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (150 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 150 kb)
10806_2012_9386_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (240 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (JPEG 239 kb)
10806_2012_9386_MOESM4_ESM.jpg (151 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (JPEG 150 kb)


  1. Almekinders, C., & de Boef, W. (2000). Encouraging diversity: The conservation and development of plant genetic resources. London, UK: Intermediate Technology Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Altieri, M. (1995). Agro-ecology puts synergy to create self-sustaining agro ecosystem. Ceres FAO Review, 154(27A), 5–23.Google Scholar
  3. Amakele, T. (2005). Food security monitoring and early warning: An integrated analytical approach for food security monitoring, early warning and emergency need assessment based on the Ethiopian experience. (M.Athesis). Tufts University. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.Google Scholar
  4. Anane-Sakyi, C., & Dittoh, S. (2001). Agro-biodiversity conservation: Preliminary work on in situ conservation and management of indigenous rice varieties in the interior savanna zone of Ghana. PLEC News & Views, 17, 31–33.Google Scholar
  5. Anthwal, A., Shrma, R. C., & Shrma, A. (2006). Sacred groves: Traditional way of conserving plant diversity in Garhwal Himalaya, Uttaranchal. The Journal of American Science, 2(1), 35–38.Google Scholar
  6. Ashish, S. M. (1979). Agriculture economy of Kumaon hills: Threat to ecological disaster. Economic and Political Weekly, 14(25), 1058–1064.Google Scholar
  7. Bisht, I. S., Rao, K. S., Bhandari, D. C., Nautiyal, S., Maikhuri, R. K., & Dhillon, B. S. (2006). A suitable site for in situ (on-farm) management of plant diversity in traditional agroecosystems of western Himalaya in Uttaranchal state: A case study. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 53, 1333–1350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brush, S. B. (2004). Farmers’ bounty: Locating crop diversity in the contemporary world. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Brush, S. B., & Meng, E. (1998). Farmers’ valuation and conservation of crop genetic resources. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 45, 139–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cavatassi, R., Lipper, L., & Narloch, U. (2011). Modern variety adoption and risk management in drought prone areas: Insights from the sorghum farmers of eastern Ethiopia. Agricultural Economics, 42(3), 279–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. CBS. (1996). Nepal living standards survey report, 1996 (Vol. I & II). Kathmandu: Central Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
  12. Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S., & Baum, M. (2007). Participatory plant breeding in water-limited environments. Experimental Agriculture, 43(4), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chapin, F. S., Zavaleta, E. S., Eviner, V. T., Naylor, R. L., Vitousek, P. M., Reynolds, H. L., et al. (2000). Consequences of changing biodiversity. Nature, 405, 234–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cox, T. S., & Wood, D. (1999). The nature and role of crop biodiversity. In D. Wood & J. Lenné (Eds.), Agrobiodiversity: Characterization, utlization and management (pp. 35–57). Wallingford: CAB International.Google Scholar
  15. Cromwell, E., & van Oosterhout, S. (2000). On-farm conservation of crop diversity: Policy and institutional lessons from Zimbabwe. In S. Brush (Ed.), Genes in the field: Conserving crop diversity on-farm. New York, IDRC, Ottawa: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  16. Diaz, S., Fargione, J., Chapin, F. S., & Tilman, D. (2006). Biodiversity loss threatens human well-being. PLoS Biology, 4, 1300–1306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Engels, J. M. M., & Wood, D. (1999). Conservation of agrobiodiversity. In D. Wood & J. Lenné (Eds.), Agrobiodiversity: Characterization, utlization and management (pp. 355–385). Wallingford: CAB International.Google Scholar
  18. Farooquee, A. Nehal, & Maikhuri, R. K. (2009). Communities and their agrobiodiversity priorities for agriculture in Uttarakhand Himalaya, India. Outlook on Agriculture, 38(4), 383–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gairola, Y., & Biswas, S. (2008). Bioprospecting in Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand. Current Science, 94(9), 1139–1143.Google Scholar
  20. Gruere, G. P., Giuliani, A., & Smale, M. (2009). Marketing underutilized plant species for the benefit of the poor: A conceptual framework. In A. Kontoleon, U. Pasqual, & M. Smale (Eds.), Agrobiodiversity conservation and economic development (pp. 73–87). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Hajjar, R., Jarvis, D. I., & Gemmill-Herren, B. (2008). The utility of crop genetic diversity in maintaining ecosystem services. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 123, 261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackson, L. E., Pascual, U., & Hodking, T. (2007). Utilizing and conserving agrobiodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment, 121(3), 196–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson, L., van Noordwijk, M., Bengtsson, J., Foster, J., Lipper, W., Pulleman, M., et al. (2010). Biodiversity and agricultural sustainagility: From assessment to adaptive management. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2(1–2), 80–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jarvis, D. & Hodgkin, T. (2000). Farmer decision-making and genetic diversity: Linking multidisciplinary research to implementation on-farm. In S. Bush (Ed.), Genes in the field: Issues in conserving crop diversity on-farm. Washingtom DC: IDRC/IPGRI, Lewis Publishers.Google Scholar
  25. Jarvis, D. I., Myer, L. H., Klemick, L. Guarino, M., Brown, A. H. D., Sadiki, M., Sthapit, B. & Hodgkin, T. (2000). A training guide for in situ conservation on-farm. Version 1. Rome, Italy: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. Available by download at:
  26. Jarvis, D. I., Sevilla-panizo, R., Chávez-servia, J. L. & Hodgkin, T. (2003). Seed systems and crop genetic diversity on-farm. Proceedings of a Workshop, 1620 September 2003, Pucallpa, Peru. Rome, Italy: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute.Google Scholar
  27. Kala, C. P. (2003). Indigenous uses of plants as health tonic in Uttaranchal Himalaya. India. Annals of Forestry, 11(2), 249–254.Google Scholar
  28. Koirala, G. P., Thapa, G. B., (1997). Food security challenges: Where does Nepal stand? Research Report Series No. 36. Kathmandu: Winrock International.Google Scholar
  29. Kumar, B., Chandra, S. Bargali, K. & Pangtey, Y. P. S. (2007). Ethnobotany of religious practicies of Kumaun (Havan) (1–137). Dehradunm: Bishan Singh Mahendra Pal Singh.Google Scholar
  30. Le Coeur, D., Baudry, J., & Burel, F. (2002). Why and how we should study field boundary biodiversity in an agrarian landscape. Agricultural Ecosystems and Environment, 89, 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lipper, L., & Cooper, D. (2009). Managing plant genetic resources for sustainable use in food and agriculture: balancing the benefits. In A. Kontoleon, U. Pascual, & M. Smale (Eds.) Agrobiodiversity, conservation and economic development. Routledge, Abingdon, UK: 27 39.Google Scholar
  32. Louette, D., Charrier, A., & Berthaud, J. (1997). In situ conservation of maize in Mexico: Genetic diversity and maize seed management in a traditional community. Economic Botany, 51, 20–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Louette, D., & Smale, M. (2000). Farmers’ seed selection practices and traditional maize varieties in Cuzalapa, Mexico. Euphytica, 113, 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maikhuri, R. K., Rana, U., Semwal, R. L., & Rao, K. S. (2000). Agriculture of Uttarakhand: Issues and management prospects for economic development. In M. C. Sati & S. P. Sati (Eds.), Uttaranchal statehood: Dimensions for development (pp. 151–167). New Delhi: Indus Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  35. Maikhuri, R. K., Rao, K. S., & Saxena, K. G. (1996). Traditional crop diversity for sustainable development of Central Himalayan agroecosystems. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 2, 1–24.Google Scholar
  36. Maikhuri, R. K., Rao, K. S., & Semwal, R. L. (2001). Changing scenario of Himalayan agroecosystems: Loss of agrobiodiversity, an indicator of environmental change in Central Himalaya, India. The Environmentalist, 21, 23–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Maikhuri, R. K., Rawat, L. S., Phondani, P. C., Negi, V. S., Farooquee, N. A., & Negi, C. (2009). Hill agriculture of Uttarakhand: Policy, governance, research issues and development priorities for sustainability. The Indian Economy Review, IIPM, 6, 116–123.Google Scholar
  38. Maikhuri, R. K., Semwal, R. L., Rao, K. S., & Saxena, K. G. (1997). Eroding traditional crop diversity imperils the sustainability of agriculture systems in Central Himalaya. Current Science, 73(9), 777–782.Google Scholar
  39. Mellas, H. (2000). Morocco. Seed supply systems: Data collection and analysis. In D. Jarvis, B. Sthapit & L. Sears (Eds.), Conserving agricultural biodiversity in situ: A scientific basis for sustainable agriculture (155–156). Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
  40. Nabhan, G. P. (1989). Enduring seeds: Native American agriculture and wild plant conservation. San Francisco, CA, USA: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  41. Nair, P. K. R., Kumar, B. M., & Nair, V. D. (2009). Agroforestry as a strategy for carbon sequestration. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 172, 10–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nangju, D. (2003). Developing sustainable mountain agriculture in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya Region. In T. Ya & P. M. Tulachan (Eds.), Mountain agriculture in the in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region (pp. 37–41). Kathmandu, Nepal: ICIMOD.Google Scholar
  43. Nassif, (2000). Morocco: Policy, extension and education. In D. Jarvis, B. Sthapit, & L. Sears (Eds.), Conserving agricultural biodiversity in situ: A scientific basis for sustainable agriculture (pp. 219–220). Rome, Italy: IPGRI.Google Scholar
  44. Nautiyal, S., Bisht, V., Rao, K. S., & Maikhuri, R. K. (2008). The role of cultural values in agrobiodiversity conservation: A case study from Uttarakhand, Himalaya. Journal of Human Ecology, 23(1), 1–6.Google Scholar
  45. Nautiyal, S., & Kaechele, H. (2007). Conservation of crop diversity for sustainable landscape development in the mountains of the Indian Himalayan region. Managment Environmental Quality International Journal, 18(5), 514–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nautiyal, S., Rajan, K. S., & Shibasaki, R. (2005). Interaction of biodiversity and economic welfare-a case study from Himalayas of India. Journal of Environmental Informatics, 6(2), 111–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Negi, V. S. (2009). Studies on ecological and economic assessment of a cluster of villages in Rawain valley of central Himalaya (Uttaranchal): An ecosystem approach. Ph.D. thesis, HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar (Garhwal), India.Google Scholar
  48. Negi, C. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Rao, K. S., & Nautiyal, S. (2002). Nanda Raj Jat-Mahakumbha of Uttaranchal: A socio-ecological and religious perspective. Man in India, 82, 341–357.Google Scholar
  49. Negi, V. S., Maikhuri, R. K., & Rawat, L. S. (2011). Non-timber forest products (NTFPs): A viable option for biodiversity conservation and livelihood enhancement in Central Himalaya. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20, 545–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Negi, V. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Rawat, L. S., & Bahuguna, A. (2009). Traditional agriculture in transition: A case of Har-ki Doon Valley (Govind pashu vihar sanctuary and national park) in Central Himalaya. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 16(5), 313–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Negi, V. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Rawat, L. S., & Phondani, P. C. (2010a). An inventory of indigenous knowledge and cultivation practices of medicinal plants in Govind Pashu Vihar wildlife sanctuary, Central Himalaya, India. International Journal of Biodiversity Science Ecosystem Services and Management, 6(3&4), 96–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Negi, V. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Rawat, L. S., & Vashishtha, D. P. (2010b). The livestock production system in a village ecosystem in the Rawain valley, Uttarakhand, Central Himalaya. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 17(5), 431–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Negri, V., Maxted, N., & Veteläinen, M. (2009) European landrace conservation: An introduction. In M. V. Veteläinen, V. Negri, & N. Maxted (Eds.), European landraces: on-farm conservation, management and use. Bioversity Technical Bulletin No.15. Rome, Italy: Bioversity International.Google Scholar
  54. Palni, L. M. S., Maikhuri, R. K., & Rao, K. S. (1998). Conservation of the Himalayan agroecosytstems: Issues and priorities. Technical Paper V. In: Eco-regional co-operation for biodiversity conservation in the Himalaya (253–290). UNDP.Google Scholar
  55. Pascual, U., & Perrings, C. P. (2007). The economics of biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes. Agricultural Ecosystems and Environment, 121, 256–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Phondani, P. C., Maikhuri, R. K., Rawat, L. S., Farooquee, N. A., Kala, C. P., Vishvakarma, S. C. R., et al. (2010). Ethnobotanical uses of plants among Bhotiya Tribal communities of Niti valley in central Himalaya, India. Ethnobotany Research and Application, 8, 233–244.Google Scholar
  57. Rana, R. B., Gauchan, D., Rijal, D. K., Khatiwada, S. P., Paudel, C. L., & Chaudhary, P. (2000). Social, cultural and economic data collection and analysis including gender: Methods used for increasing access, participation and decision-making. Nepal. In D. Jarvis, B. Sthapit, & L. Sears (Eds.), Conserving agricultural biodiversity in situ: A scientific basis for sustainable agriculture (pp. 54–59). Rome, Italy: IPGRI.Google Scholar
  58. Rawat, L. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Negi, V. S., Rao, K. S., Agarwal, S. K., & Sexena, K. G. (2010). Managing natural resources with eco-friendly technologies for sustainable rural development: A case of Garhwal Himalaya. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 17(5), 423–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Reid, W. V., & Miller K. R. (1989). Keeping options alive: The scientific basis for conserving biodiversity. Washington D.C.: World Resources Institute.Google Scholar
  60. Rijal, D. K., Rana, R. B., Tiwar, R. K., Subedi, A., & Sthapit, B. R. (2000). Enhancing on-farm conservation of local taro diversity through market promotion: A case of value addition in Kaski eco-site, Nepal. Paper presented at the National Workshop from 24–26 April 2001 held at Lumle, Kaski, Nepal.Google Scholar
  61. Sen, K. K., Rao, K. S., & Saxena, K. G. (1997). Soil erosion due to settled upland farming in Himalaya: A case study in Pranmati. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 4, 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sen, K. K., Semwal, R. L., & Rana, U. (2002). Patterns and implications of land-use/cover change: A case study in Pranmati watershed (Garhwal Himalaya, India). Mountain Research and Development, 22, 56–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shalini Misra, Dhyani Deepak, & Maikhuri R. K. (2008). Sequestering carbon through indigenous agriculture practice (pp. 21–22). Leisa India.Google Scholar
  64. Shiva, V., & Vanaja, R. P. (1993). Cultivating diversity: Biodiversity conservation and seed policies. Research Foundation for Science Technology and Natural Resource Policy (p. 130). Dehradun, India: Natraj Publishers.Google Scholar
  65. Sthapit, B. R., Upadhyay, M. P., Baniya, B. K., Subedi, A., Joshi, B. K. (Eds.), 2003. On-farm management of agricultural biodiversity in Nepal. Proceedings of a National Workshop, NARC, LI-BIRD and IPGRI, Lumle, Nepal, 24–26 April 2001.Google Scholar
  66. The State of Food Insecurity in the World (2004), Published in 2004 by the (FAO) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. ISBN:92-5-105178-X.Google Scholar
  67. Thijssen, M. H., Bishaw, Z., Beshir, A., & Walter, S. (2008). In M. H. Thijssen, Z. Bishaw, A. Beshir, & W. S. de Boef (Eds.), Farmers, seeds and varieties supporting informal seed supply in Ethiopia (p. 348). International Quality: Wageningen.Google Scholar
  68. Tilman, D. (2000). Causes, consequences and ethics of biodiversity. Nature, 405, 208–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Toky, O. P., & Ramakrishnan, P. S. (1983). Secondary succession following slash and burn agriculture in north-eastern India. I. Biomass, litterfall and productivity. Journal of Ecology, 72, 735–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Trupp, L. A. (1996). Linking biodiversity and agriculture (pp. 1–13). New York: World Resource Institute’s Publication.Google Scholar
  71. UNDP. (1995). Agroecology: Creating the synergisms for sustainable agriculture. New York: United Nations, p. 7, citing C. A. Francis, (Ed.). (1986). Multiple cropping system. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  72. Zardhari, V. (2000). “Barah anaaj”-twelve food grains: Traditional mixed farming system’. Leisa India, 2(3), 25.Google Scholar
  73. Zimmerer, K. S. (1991). Managing diversity in potato and maize fields of the Peruvian Andes. Journal of Ethnobiology, 11, 23–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and DevelopmentKosi-Katarmal, AlmoraIndia
  2. 2.G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and DevelopmentSrinagar GarhwalIndia

Personalised recommendations