Indigenous people are native to the land and deeply understand and connect with it. It is estimated that 370 million Indigenous Peoples on Indigenous lands make up 20% of the Earth’s territory but contain 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity (Recio & Hestad, 2022). The sustainable practices of the Indigenous contribute to the longevity of Earth’s biodiversity, and much can be learned from them. This article will discuss different Indigenous farming practices used to mitigate food insecurity and the effects of climate change.
Indigenous Farming Practices
One prominent practice that the Indigenous in North America use is planting the Three Sisters. Growing the Three Sisters, also known as companion planting, combines squash, corn, and beans simultaneously (Marsh, 2021). By planting these three crops beside each other, the crops help each other grow, leading to a more productive and bountiful harvest. The corn and the beans are planted together in a mound, with the squash planted in between the mounds (Marsh, 2021). The stalk of the corn acts as a structure for the beans to climb, the beans produce excess nitrogen that benefits the other plants, and the squash leaves provide shade for the soil (Marsh, 2021).
Similar to planting the Three Sisters, there is also the practice of polyculture, which requires planting multiple different species of plants together simultaneously in a way that mimics nature as opposed to using monoculture, the planting of one thing at a time (IndigenousClimateHub, 2021). Polyculture also called a form of intercropping, creates rich and nutritious soil that continues to produce greater yields every year (IndigenousClimateHub, 2021).
Another Indigenous farming practice is agroforestry. This entails strategically combining the planting of various plants. Planting shrubs, trees, and crops near each other mimics a forest and its own ecosystem (Hoffner, 2019). The plants benefit each other by providing shade, different nutrients, and protection, producing a greater yield by benefiting the soil’s fertility and moisture and having crops that bloom at different times (Hoffner, 2019). It is hard to determine the exact origin group of this method, but it is currently practiced internationally in places like Thailand, Honduras, Indonesia, and El Salvador (Hoffner, 2019). Other than those methods, Indigenous people have previously practiced low or no soil tilling (The Climate Reality Project, 2022). Although there are benefits to plowing and tillage, it erodes and disrupts the soil (The Climate Reality Project, 2022). Low tilling allows for healthier soil and more resilient environments for crops to grow in (The Climate Reality Project, 2022).
Although there are some ways individuals can be more sustainable or even start their own small gardens in mason jars, Indigenous people should be the guide. The Indigenous practice many regenerative farming practices because they understand the benefits of treating the environment respectfully and establishing a reciprocal relationship. For centuries before colonization, they managed and protected the land, and we should follow their ways.
Hoffner, E. (2019, July 15). Agroforestry: An ancient ‘indigenous technology’ with wide modern appeal (commentary). Mongabay Environmental News. https://news.mongabay.com/2019/07/agroforestry-an-ancient-indigenous-technology-with-wide-modern-appeal-commentary/
IndigenousClimateHub. (2021, August 3). How Indigenous sustainable farming practices mitigate the impacts of climate change. Indigenous Climate Hub. https://indigenousclimatehub.ca/2021/08/how-indigenous-sustainable-farming-practices-mitigate-the-impacts-of-climate-change/
Marsh, E. (2021). The three sisters of indigenous American agriculture. Usda.gov. https://www.nal.usda.gov/collections/stories/three-sisters
Recio, E., & Hestad, D. (2022, April 22). Indigenous Peoples: Defending an environment for all. International Institute for Sustainable Development. https://www.iisd.org/articles/deep-dive/indigenous-peoples-defending-environment-all
The Climate Reality Project. (2022, September 22). Love regenerative agriculture? Thank indigenous peoples. The Climate Reality Project. https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/love-regenerative-agriculture-thank-indigenous-peoples