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International Research and Training Centre for below Sea Level Farming, Kuttanad

Kuttanad being a coastal low-lying area in Kerala with long stretch of backwaters, canals and stream networks in the west coast of India in South-central Kerala has unique physical features and cultivation practices. Its agro ecosystem is suggested as a model farming system in dealing with climate change and demonstrations to combat and react positively. A major portion of the area forms flood planes on the upper reaches of the lake Vembanad estuarine system is the largest of its kind in India where rivers originating from the eastern hills of Western Ghats confluence into the Vembanad backwaters. Due to its distinct location and the geographical peculiarities, Kuttanad agro ecosystem in Kerala is suggested as a model farming system for studies on adaptation farming in climate change scenarios.

The Kuttanad area of Kerala was declared by FAO as a GIAHS (Globally important Agricultural Heritage System) on the basis of a proposal prepared by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation MSSRF. Kuttanad is also a Ramsar site and a reputed destination for water tourism. Over the years, the Kuttanad ecosystem has deteriorated considerably due to human interventions, flooding and other ecological disasters. This has resulted in this area being included among agrarian distress districts and a detailed project was prepared to restore the Kuttanad ecosystem and to further develop the below sea level farming techniques standardized by farmers over 150 years ago. This agricultural system was developed with the ingenious knowledge of the intricate functioning of natural systems at the same time ensuring to derive the benefits from the unique and diverse biodiversity endowments. The project has the approval of both State and Central Governments & envisages the rejuvenation of the earlier system of farming based on both flood control and salinity management.

The Government Kerala is the first state in Indian Republic to establish a Center for Research and Training on climate resilient farming. International Research and Training Centre for below Sea Level Farming, Kuttanad (IRTCBSF) is launched by Government of India to open up new vistas for international research in agriculture. With this initiative it is also expected to attract more international attention to the ecology of Kuttanad, thus ushering in vibrant agriculture tourism.

The research conducted at the centre is aimed to utilise traditional knowledge developing appropriate technologies to help the farmers to optimise yield. It is also aimed to share this unique knowledge system with other countries faced with the prospect of sea level rise due to global warming effect.

The Institute will be integrating research capabilities from all areas of the partner institutes and countries to tackle the challenges of climate change and the environment, through which it will work to offer practical, scientific and technical knowledge of the highest quality. It will also act as a forum to bring together leading international scientists, policy-makers and stakeholders, to explore the key role of interdisciplinary science and innovation for sustainable farming development, Green economy and Poverty eradication in the context of global climate change.