Why in news?
=>A recent NITI Aayog publication on shifting cultivation which is particularly practised in the northeastern States, has recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture should take up a “mission on shifting cultivation” to ensure inter-ministerial convergence.
=>The report is titled, “Mission on shifting cultivation: towards a transformational approach”.
What’s the issue?
=>Central as well as State government departments of forests and environment, agriculture and allied departments often have divergent approaches towards shifting cultivation. This creates confusion among grass-roots level workers and jhum farmers.
=>The document that calls for policy coherence, said land for shifting cultivation should be recognised as “agricultural land” where farmers practise agro-forestry for the production of food rather than as forestland.
=>The publication notes that between 2000 and 2010, the land under shifting cultivation dropped by 70 %.
=>The report quotes data of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education published in Statistical Year Book-2014 by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, which points out that from 35,142 sq km in 2000, the area under jhum cultivation dropped to 10,306 sq km in 2010.
=>The Wastelands Atlas Map shows a reduction in shifting cultivation in north-eastern States from 16,435.18 sq km to 8,771.62 sq km in two years.
=>It suggested that shifting cultivation fallows must be legally perceived and categorised as ‘regenerating fallows’ and that credit facilities be extended to those who practise shifting cultivation.
Food & Nutritional security:
=>It also addresses the issue of food and nutritional security of communities involved in jhum cultivation during transition and transformation by broadening the public distribution system (PDS) to ensure widespread access to cereals and other basic food items.
=>This can be done by enlisting well-established and well-performing SHG cluster federations already established in several of the NE States.
Reasons for reduction in shifting agriculture:
=>There is an increase of aspirations among the communities practising shifting cultivation. While the practice ensures food security it does not provide adequate cash for the families and thus they are shifting to regular agriculture, particularly to horticulture. The MGNREGA has also had an impact on reducing dependency of people on shifting cultivation.
=>One of the issues jhum cultivation was that people were returning to fallows, land left after shifting cultivation in a shorter span than was earlier practice.
=>Earlier the cultivators returned to fallows after 10-12 years, now they are returning in three to five years. This has impact on the quality of the soil.
Why there is need to focus on transforming shifting agriculture?
=>Managing transformations in shifting cultivation areas is fundamental to agricultural development in the uplands of northeast (NE) India and an important element of the Act East Policy. Transformation of shifting cultivation is therefore key to the thrust for agricultural transformation in the region.
=>At the field level, promotion of home gardens (and extended home gardens) by the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP) has resulted in positive outcomes, improving food and nutritional security and incomes for women, while gradually reducing dependency on shifting cultivation. Such initiatives must be encouraged and further supported.
=>Products from shifting cultivation fields and fallows have market demand and are being sourced for trade through the unorganized sector. State agencies; agricultural marketing, forest development corporations of concerned states should take steps to formalize, promote and organize marketing of such products.
=>Steps should also be initiated in full earnest for value addition of such products, ensuring opportunities for large scale involvement of rural youth and women. Under-utilised crops from shifting cultivation have potential for being developed and promoted as health foods.
=>Products from fallows can be used for the development of vegetable dyes and other high value products linked to weaving, a strength of upland women. This will address income generation and youth employment while providing a comparative advantage for such products, contributing to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Some of the key elements of the road map to manage transformation in shifting cultivation are:
How it will help State Agencies?
=>The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to burning of vegetation and emission of CO2 from the soil due to cultivation will be substantially reduced. This will help achieve the national commitment on carbon emission reduction. With reduction in area of jhum, the frequency of forest fires may also reduce thus reducing the emission of GHGs and degradation of forests.
=>The restoration of lands degraded due to shifting cultivation will also contribute to India’s commitment to the Bonn Challenge.
=>Transformation of shifting cultivation will end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture and contribute the achievement of SDG Goal 2.
=>The migration of people from rural to urban centres will be substantially reduced, which will check unregulated growth of cities and towns.
=>Transformations in shifting cultivation will also contribute to the achievement of SDG Goal 15, i.e. reduce poverty, enhance ecosystem services, and forest cover. Better standard of living in rural areas will increase demand for manufacturing goods which will increase industrial growth and create more jobs in the secondary sector.
=>Reduction in poverty will cause a reduction in social conflict and political unrest emanating from unhealthy competition for natural resources.
=>The history of shifting cultivation can be traced back to around 8,000 BC in the Neolithic period, which witnessed a remarkable and revolutionary shift in humankind’s mode of food production – from hunter gatherers to food producers.
=>In the hilly region of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, shifting cultivation, locally known as jhum, continues to be a dominant mode of food production and the economic mainstay of many rural households.
=>Shifting cultivators in general practice mixed cropping but the composition of crops varies from tribe to tribe within the region.
Other names worldwide:
=>It is jhumming in north-eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland; Pamlou in Manipur, Dipa in Bastar district of Chhattishgarh, and in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
=>The ‘slash and burn’ agriculture is known as ‘Milpa’ in Mexico and Central America, ‘Conuco’ in Venzuela, ‘Roca’ in Brazil, ‘Masole’ in Central Africa, ‘Ladang’ in Indonesia, ‘Ray’ in Vietnam.
=>In India, this primitive form of cultivation is called ‘Bewar’ or ‘Dahiya’ in Madhya Pradesh, ‘Podu’ or ‘Penda’ in Andhra Pradesh, ‘Pama Dabi’ or ‘Koman’ or Bringa’ in Odisha, ‘Kumari’ in Western Ghats, ‘Valre’ or ‘Waltre’ in South-eastern Rajasthan, ‘Khil’ in the Himalayan belt, ‘Kuruwa’ in Jharkhand, and ‘Jhumming’ in the North-eastern region.
Pic courtesy:Down To Earth
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