JHUM & TERRACE CULTIVATION
Many of the tribes and the sub-tribes in North East India still practice the primitive burn-and-plant method of agriculture.
JHUM CULTIVATION: MIGRATION MOTIVATION
Mentionably, most of the tribes and sub-tribes of North East India have migrated from different parts of South Asia at various times.
These tribes and sub-tribes came here in search of settlement where they can cultivate and rear cattle for their livelihood. Basically, their migration revolved around the pivotal point of sustenance.
As most of the areas in North East India are the foothills of the Himalayan ranges, the tribes and sub-tribes settled on the hills and the slopes of the hills. In fact, migration of mankind in North East India in particular and anywhere across the globe has been always in search of greener pastures.
JHUM CULTIVATION: A DESTRUCTIVE PROCESS
This is a destructive and time-consuming strategy. This system of cultivation is known as ‘Jhum’ cultivation.
It is destructive because the hill or its slopes where the vegetation is slashed and burned for cultivation of crops – only for a certain period – remain devastated for several years. The peasants use the burned ashes as compost manure. They get a bountiful harvest. Then they migrate to a nearby hill.
JHUM CULTIVATION: THE ROOTS
The practice of Jhum cultivation is traced to the hoary days when our forefathers started cultivation.
This realization evolved over a span of time. It was basically a trial-and-correction process.
The modus operandi of the peasants is rather simple.
Natural cultivation is possible either near valley near a river system or atop a verdant hill. This was the hard realization of the human race.
In fact, this consciousness is at the very basis of the migration of Man.
The logic behind ‘Jhum’ cultivation is that a virgin area of a tropically fertile hill top is quite ideal for cultivation.
Usually, they plant seeds on the earlier hill before moving onwards.
SLASH-&-BURN CULTIVATION: THE OUTCOMES
This slash-and-burn strategy evolving spontaneously served in a multi-pronged way.
First, the other tribes and sub-tribes that happen to reach such a barren hill having the tell-tale signs of the familiar cut-and-slash demonstrates to them that another group of people has already been on that route before them.
Secondly, the replanted seeds and saplings once again make the hills verdant, albeit after a few months or years.
Thirdly, the tribes and sub-tribes have realized through the observation method that cultivation is best done during the rainy season. They learnt to store the rain waters in excavated land areas and even in tubs prepared form tree trunks and other natural items.
TERRACE CULTIVATION: ROOTS IN JHUM
This was also the beginning of terrace cultivation. Since the swift flowing rain waters carry away the top alluvial soil, the peasants started cutting rows or terraces on the hill faces. The terraces served to store some of the top soil being washed away by the downward flowing gushing showers.
This also worked wonders in another way. The entire faces of the hills were managed professionally.
JHUM CULTIVATION: SOCIAL CHANGE ON THE ANVIL
It is a positive Indication that the youth force today has realized the negative aspects of Jhum cultivation. This is a result of the concerted efforts of the concerned governmental departments. The authorities concerned have involved the non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and the women as well as the young people in the process.
The agricultural and horticultural departments along with the financial institutions (FIs) have been rendering various support bases to enthuse the public.
The consequence is that the young generation of Manipur is taking to self-employment endeavors and entrepreneurship activities in a big way.
In the process, the hills of Manipur are spared of the atrocities of Jhum cultivation. Moreover, the mission ahs also been able to give gainful employment schemes to the youths – be they be educated or semi-literate or illiterate.
In the long run, the entrepreneurs are able to give employment to others. The already saturated is spared the rush of employment. Above all, the strategy has been able to give birth to a generation of entrepreneurs.
There are copious instances of the new generation of the populace of Senapati district taking to these innovative schemes.