Indigenous farmers in the Sikkim Himalaya have, through generations of innovation and experimentation, established a variety of land use systems to nurture a great diversity of both wild and domesticated plants and animals. Local agrobiodiversity features more than 126 landraces of cereals, including rice (77), maize (26), and millet (7); 18 cultivars of oilseeds; 34 cultivars of pulses/beans; 132 species of vegetables; 38 species of spices/condiments; 33 landraces of tubers/roots; and 64 species of fruit. Sikkim’s traditional system of cultivation also supports more than 200 species of wild edibles, 119 species of multipurpose agroforestry trees, 52 crops with high social and cultural value, and 69 species of plants sacred to indigenous communities. It also has a diversity of land uses, with 15 to 20 field types, and specific land use categories. Similarly, there is a high diversity of domestic animals, with about 21 different local and indigenous breeds. Homesteads on marginal farms make up 40–70% of Sikkim’s total landholdings and account for 50–80% of these households’ requirements. Homesteads are centres of agrobiodiversity and associated traditional ecological knowledge, are traditional sources of food and nutrition, and are important contributors to food and livelihood security among farming communities.
Agriculture in Sikkim contributes about 16% of the state’s GDP and supports more than 64% of the population, who sustain their livelihoods on the rapidly shrinking cultivable land available for farming.