Organic Farming | VOL.10, ISSUE 59, MARCH-APRIL 2010

Jhum

Focus: West Khasi Hills and Ri-bhoi districts, Meghalaya

Since the earliest phase of human existence, man has always been integrally associated with nature, and thereby with land and forests. Shifting cultivation, commonly known as ‘jhum’ is one of the most ancient systems of farming believed to have originated in the Neolithic period around 7000 BC. The system is regarded as the first step in transition from food gathering and hunting to crop husbandry and is still practiced in the hilly areas of the north eastern states and in certain other pockets of the country. Meghalaya Profile Jhum remains predominant among the rural population of Meghalaya and the estimated jhumia population of Meghalaya is 13.87 per cent of the total rural population of 18.53 lakhs in 2001. Although a clear decline may be noted from a steep 40.91 per cent engaged in this form of cultivation in 1971, yet its lingering significant proportion even after 30 years indicates problems that are more deep rooted. Rapid increase in human population has resulted in corresponding heavy pressure on land and the jhum cycle has reduced drastically over the last few decades to an average of below 10 years and in extreme cases such as that of Garo hills to as short as 3 to 5 years. In due course, this cycle may be scaled down even further. Without a sufficient period of recuperation and consequent capacity...

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