Shifting Cultivation Study

Shifting Cultivation Study


The climate change policy as well as the general policy of environmental protection and management of natural resources increasingly treats deforestation consequent to shifting cultivation as an environmental challenge. In view of vast bauxite reserves lying underneath the shifting cultivation areas, the aluminium cartel having mining interest in eastern India has been lobbying for problematizing shifting cultivation to create opinion in favour of displacing the cultivators. Indigenous people practising shifting cultivation have been defending their ancestral domain against mining interests.

The study is undertaken with focus on three states of eastern India. Three districts from these states were selected with consideration of geographical, social and economic characteristics. Sample villages from these districts selected to cover different tribal communities engaged in shifting cultivation. Household survey of select families conducted to understand implications of shifting cultivation. Selection of districts and villages was done in consultation with National Adivasi Alliance (NAA) partners and local NGOs.

In this backdrop, the study conducted to bring together the work of many institutions and scholars in various disciplines on shifting cultivation. It document the techniques of shifting cultivation and its impacts on the environment apart from detailing the social, institutional and cultural aspects of the communities depending for their subsistence on this form of cultivation. The inquiry looks at state’s attempts to eradicate/phase out the practice through pressure/ incentives, peoples resistance and why shifting cultivation continues even today.

Discussions with a group of practicing farmers held covering a number of aspects; such as: nature/extent of shifting cultivation, conservation of the forests, consumption/ production pattern, role of state and mining lobby in weaning them away from shifting cultivation, relevant information on education, occupation, avenues of livelihood, customs, traditions, cultural practices, traditions relating to shifting cultivation of the sample household will be collected. A set of questionnaire was prepared and data was collected from 20 households from each of the three districts. Some respondents were also interviewed for their social, cultural and other practices related to shifting cultivation. Some local NGOs who have been working with the communities will also be specifically interviewed with the help of interview guidelines. Transect walk through the shifting cultivated fields were undertaken and observations were shared and triangulated with the farmers.

Forest sampling was done in the shifting cultivation plots, within each block systematic sampling was performed with fixed interval between plot to plot distance. The total sample plots measured were 4. A plot of size 20 m × 20 m was laid out within the field both the diameter and height were measured and recorded for all the individual stands (tree, pole and saplings, diameter at breast height > 5 cm) in each plots.

The study maps the changing trend in shifting cultivation in study areas and also examined the impact of attempts to replace shifting cultivation with sedentary agriculture. The study result highlights the experiences of shifting cultivation with a focus on positive and negative impacts in terms of environment, economy and health aspects. It is based on review of studies done so far and its synthesis, primary observations from field and perceptions of communities engaged in the practice, understanding of researchers, officials and social workers complement the study.