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Three-day training on jhum cultivation

Jorhat, Feb. 24: The Rain Forest Research Institute (RFRI) at Lahdoigarh here will start a three-day training programme from tomorrow on shifting cultivation practices vis-ŕ-vis livelihood opportunities in the Northeast.

The institute director, N.S. Bisht, said in the hilly regions of the Northeast shifting cultivation was practised by over 100 indigenous communities, as dominant land use since time immemorial.

“Even today jhum is the main source of livelihood for most communities of this region. On an average, 3,869 square km area is put under shifting cultivation every year. An estimated 4,43,336 households earn their livelihood from this practice,” Bisht said.

The director said it was a matter of concern that because of population increase, the earlier 20-year jhum follow cycle had been reduced to two to three years, which in turn had resulted in large scale deforestation, soil and nutrient loss and degraded land mass.

“The productivity of these lands has also reduced significantly, which is a major threat to mankind and the environment. The indigenous biodiversity has been affected to a large extent. The area under natural forests has declined, fragmentation of habitats, disappearance of native species and invasion of exotic weeds and other plants are other ecological consequences of shifting cultivation,” he said.

Bisht said despite these impacts, shifting cultivation was still considered to be the most appropriate land-use practice to protect and save the gene pool of a large variety of crops. Most importantly, the products from shifting cultivation are organic and can be marketed at high prices.

The training will highlight the available scientific and eco-friendly inputs of sustainable land and eco-system management, how returns from shifting cultivation can be improved through use of bio-fertilisers, vermicompost and integrated nutrient and pest management technologies along with incorporation of cash crops.

“The training will also focus on capacity building of the jhumias by helping in value addition to their products,” Bisht said.

The training will be held under the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education Sustainable Land and Ecosystem Management Country Partnership Programme project.

About 25 trainees from various government departments, including universities and institutes, state forest and agricultural departments, NGOs and other public bodies and representatives of civil society, will take part in it.