Paddy Field at the Thanal Agroecology Centre, Kerala, India (Photo Credit: Dr. Jayeeta Sharma)  

Thanal, a grassroots organization established in Kerala, India, began as a small group of individuals dedicated to raising environmental awareness. Thanal has launched numerous programmes throughout the course of a long history, including the Save Our Rice Campaign, the Climate Action Campaign, and many others. They are actively involved in agrobiodiversity conservation, ie, the conservation of variety and variability of plants, animals and microorganisms in agricultural systems and conservation of genetic resources in agricultural species. Thanal has established an Agroecology Centre, with land in Wayanad, Kerala, which focuses on indigenous seed conservation. Part of that land is dedicated to the conservation of traditional rice varieties, ie heirloom rice, or rice landraces.  

Agroecology supports food system reforms that diversify agroecosystems and respects the value of local communities’ social, economic, and environmental rights by embracing multiple ways of perceiving and living in the world. This agricultural strategy goes beyond a set of techniques and marketing strategies by tackling systemic causes that perpetuate inequities and marginalize disadvantaged individuals and communities. Respecting diverse agricultural models necessitates going beyond the goals of maximizing yield efficiency through industrial, monocrop food production models that degrade the environment, indebt farmers, and reduce nutritional diversity. Through the Thanal Agroecology Centre (TAEC), the organization provides agroecology and agrobiodiversity training and research, and raises awareness about conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity, so that communities can self-determine land use, diets, and food systems in ways that care for their environment, their families and future generations. 

The Thanal Agroecology Centre, Kerala, India (Photo Credit: Dr. Jayeeta Sharma)  

The Thanal Agroecology Centre, showcases a rich tapestry of biodiversity. It grows over 300 indigenous rice varieties, each carrying with it a unique story and cultural significance. These rice varieties are the living heritage of generations past, representing the diversity and resilience of traditional farming practices. It is home to a remarkable assortment of over 100 wild edible leaves and medicinal plants, each harboring a wealth of traditional knowledge and healing properties. These precious botanical treasures are a testament to the wisdom of local communities and their deep understanding of the natural world. Dragonflies, butterflies, and other insects dance among vibrant flora, forming an intricate web of interdependence. These buzzing, fluttering creatures are not just symbols of beauty but also essential pollinators and indicators of a healthy environment. Their presence serves as a constant reminder of the intricate connections between species and the importance of maintaining a harmonious balance in nature. 

The Thanal Agroecology Centre, Kerala, India (Photo Credit: Dr. Jayeeta Sharma)  

At the heart of it all, the TAEC stands as a beacon of conservation and cultural heritage, upholding the essence of biodiversity. It serves as a space where people can immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, learn from the indigenous knowledge keepers of Wayanad who operate the TAEC, and gain a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life forms. In all these ways, Thanal and the  Thanal Agroecology Centre contribute to the broader mission of safeguarding our planet’s biological heritage for future generations.