Editor’s note: This is the introduction to the “Gates to a Global Empire,” a report launched by Navdanya International.
Agriculture is the culture of the land. Respecting and caring for the land has sustained societies over thousands of years. Diversity of agricultural systems have evolved in different ecological climates and across diverse biomes — from mountains to coastal areas, from deserts to rainforests.
Food and agricultural systems have evolved from the land in diversity, sustainability and freedom.
Diversity and decentralization in living systems are the basis of freedom in nature and culture, in our seeds and agricultural systems, and in our food and knowledge systems.
Nature knows no monocultures. Cultures know no homogeneity and uniformity.
This was the agriculture we inherited before industrialization took hold.
Diversity, self-organization and freedom.
Diversity is sustainability.
Indigenous communities have evolved the most ingenious farming systems down the ages. Some examples follow.
Sixty thousand years ago, Australian Aborigines cultivated rice and barley, desert raisin, wild tomatoes, yams greens, cooper’s clover, grass seeds, Nardoo, bogong moths and bunya nuts and created “the biggest estate or garden on Earth.”
Diverse indigenous peoples of the Amazon were gardeners and agroforesters, who grew crops among trees. Jennifer Watling, archaeologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, finds evidence of millions of inhabitants in the Amazon who carefully managed the soil and biodiversity, leaving both richer. “It looks a lot like agroforestry — managing the landscape, encouraging palms and probably other useful plants as well …”
In the Andes, indigenous cultures were growing peanut, cotton and squash 5,000-9000 years ago. Andean peasants of Peru and Bolivia evolved more than 4000 varieties of potatoes, grown alongside corn, quinoa, squash, and beans. The Aztecs, in 1265 AD, created floating gardens in the lakes of Chalco and Xochimilco that surrounded Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire.