A recent NITI Aayog publication on shifting cultivation which is particularly practiced in the northeastern States has recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture should take up a “mission on shifting cultivation” to ensure inter-ministerial convergence.
Various authorities often have divergent approaches towards shifting cultivation. This creates confusion among grass-roots level workers and jhum farmers said the report.
Therefore, shifting cultivation fallows must be legally perceived and categorized as ‘regenerating fallows’ and credit facilities must be extended to those who practice shifting cultivation.
Land for shifting cultivation should be recognized as “agricultural land” where farmers practice agro-forestry for the production of food rather than as forestland.
Jhum cultivation, also known as the slash and burn agriculture, is the process of growing crops by first clearing the land of trees and vegetation and burning them thereafter. The burnt soil contains potash which increases the nutrient content of the soil.
This practice is considered as an important mainstay of food production for a considerable population in North-East India.
The report notes that between 2000 and 2010, the land under shifting cultivation dropped by 70 %. People are returning to fallow land left after shifting in a shorter span. Earlier the cultivators returned to fallows after 10-12 years, now they are returning in three to five years which has impacted on the quality of the soil.