Geographical Position of the District ‘Wayanad’
Wayanad district was formed on 1st November 1980 as the 12th district in the state of Kerala, adjoining Kozhikode and Kannur districts. Etymologically, the name ‘Wayanad’ is derived from ‘Vayal’ (paddy field) and ‘Naad’ (land); ‘Land of Paddy Fields’. Wayanad forms a part of the Western Ghats with an altitude of 700-2,100m MSL, between 110 27’ and 150 58’north latitude and 750 47’ and 700 27’ east. It is bounded on the east by Nilgiris and Chamarajnagar Districts of Taminadu and Karnataka respectively, on the north by Coorg district of Karnataka, on the South by Malappuram and the west by Kozhikodu and Kannur. Being on southern pinnacle of Deccan plateau its topography is interspersed with lofty ridges, dense forest, tangled jungles and deep valleys. The terrain of the district is rugged.
The biological diversity of the district is believed to be very diverse on habitat, species, genetic and cultural level with an impressive rate of endemism in various forms of life. The richness of the plant diversity in the district has evidenced by the occurrence of more 2000 sp of Angiosperms and several other animal species. It is estimated that over 200 sps of Angiosperms are highly threatened in the district due to various developmental pressures. The district bounds a minimum of 200 species of flowering plants which are endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats. It is rich in both floral and faunal biodiversity. According to experts the Wayanad district is one of the 29 biodiversity hot spots of Western Ghats.
The district has a total population of 7.1lakhs and with highest inhabitants of tribal community in the state that accounts for 17% of the population of the district. Till early 1960s the district was thickly forested with sparse human population. During 60s the district witnessed an influx of migrants from other parts of the state and brought complexity in culture and resulted in the erosion of value system and cultural practices especially in case of farming. Now it has become a highly pluralistic cosmopolitan society due to increased migration influx. The densely forested district with the fertile soil resulted in the extensive relocation of farmers from the plains to this plateau. Agriculture is the backbone of the region’s economy. 85% of the inhabitants solely depend on this endeavor directly for their livelihood. The district protected a wide range of agricultural crops ranging foods to cash crops as banana, paddy, coffee, pepper, tea, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, clove, ginger, turmeric, betel nut, areca nut and so on. The agriculture today in the district is undergoing a rapid transition encompassing problems in agricultural and natural resource management from traditional to technocratic, from subsistence to crash cropping from multiple to mono cropping.
The the indigenous community of the land are ‘Tribals’, the ‘Adivasis’, ‘Vanavasi’ and ‘Girijans’.based on their i) pre-existence, ii) non-dominance, iii) cultural difference and iv) self-identification as indigenous. The UN bases its reference to the issue of indigenous people on a working definition (Anita Cheriya et al.). ‘
Tribes in Wayanad
The ethnic diversity of the district is evidenced by five dominant tribal groups belong to ‘Adivasis’/‘Vanavasi’/‘Girijans’ are Kurichya, Kuruma, Paniya, Adiya, and Kattunaikka. These are the communities who still hold knowledge on biodiversity and follow traditional conservation practices. Many of them especially Kurichya and Kuruma conserve a wide array of crop varieties as rice, vegetables, ragi; varieties of root tubers like tapioca, dioscorea, yam and taros; legumes, leafy vegetables and a wide range of plantains. The food basket of the tribal communities in the district was rich but narrowed down to a handful of species.