Jhum cultivation is one of the oldest cultivation practices of India. Jhum cultivation is generally practiced in the north eastern state of Indian (Arunanchal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya etc).
Jhum cultivation is also known as shifting cultivation because farmers in jhum cultivation, shift to the new location when the old location loss the soil fertility due to continues cultivation on the same field for the several years. In this cultivation, the plants and the forest on the land covering is cleared from the cultivation.
It is generally practiced on the hilly and slope regions. The farmers who involved in such cultivation is called Jhumia.
It mainly involves the clearing of forest which covers the land, drying and burning it before the starting of monsoon and then after cropping process begin. This land is left follow and forest regeneration is allowed on it after the harvesting, till the field become reusable for the cultivation in the next time as cycle. Between this duration, the process of the cultivation repeated on the new land.
The cycle of jhum cultivation is very long and ranged from 25 to 35 years. But today’s, the cultivation method get advanced and jhum cultivation reduced in last 5 to 6 years due to the increasing of human population and increasing pressure on land forest.
Jhum cultivation is the local name. Simply we can say that slash and burn agriculture practice is called Jhum cultivation. In the North India mainly Arunanchal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam follow the jhum cultivation by the local tribal groups.
After the few years, the field start losing the fertility and then a new region is chosen. In this cultivation, the main reason behind the burning is to increase the potash content in the soil because burnt soil contains the potash. It is the agriculture practices which typically uses little technology.
Jhum cultivation is the form of cultivation in which a minority of land are in cultivation and majority are in various stages of natural re-growth at any specific point of time. A previously cultivated land will be cleared of the natural trees and plants and planted the crops again on the same.
Effect of Jhum cultivation on Environment
During the jhum cultivation a lot of biomass get lost because of burning of vegetation in a large emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and other harmful gases. The emission has been produced by taking up rice and maize cultivation in the same field.
The harmful effect of jhum cultivation which is also include rapid soil erosion due to the cutting of trees of hilly tops and slopes and high runoff of velocity of rivulets and valley. This harmful effect also decreases the jhum productivity because of soil erosion from that region.
Cutting and felling down of trees, plants etc. for the jhum cultivation also reduces oxygen level in the environment and burning of them pumps harmful carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide in to the environment.
Process of Jhum cultivation
Jhum cultivation has different process and firstly it need to select the region or plot. After selecting the plot the next step is to slash or cut the trees and plant etc. from the plot, to stump level in the month of December January in the North East part of India.
Dryng and burning of forest for making it clear however it is almost ready to cultivate the crops with the help of simple instruments such as dibbing stick. Holes are made by stick on the field for sowing seeds on different crops.
The digging and sowing of seeds are done by farmers. After the weeding and proper growth, harvesting process start in the third month and then it continued for the several years.
This cycle of activities is completed after several years but because of the continued farming on the same field will cause the bed fertility of the soil and soil become exhausted and then yield falls down.
This will force the farmer to change the location into a new area leaving the previous field and they follow the same process of the splash and burn and then after several years when cycle get completed then farmers can change the location and shift to the new location. So that, the this cultivation is also called shifting cultivation.
In the jhum cultivation, the cultivation in a particular region is practices for several years and after some years when the fertility of soil decreases then farmers needs to move into other area and again returning to the first area for cultivation, complete the cycle. Thus the number of years between the two consecutive jhum cultivation constitut jhum cycle.
Cropping system in Jhum cultivation
In the jhum cultivation, the farmers follow a mixed land use pattern for rising the various type of crops together and hence when farmers follow mixed cropping they produce large variety of crops from the same field and this include food grains, vegetable and other crops.
Jhum cultivation in India
Over 5 lakh tribal families in the North India are dependent on jhum cultivation. The region has the largest area under jhum cultivation in India. In a report, there are total 33 million hectares of area and about 3 million hectare are under cultivation and out of this 2.6 million hectare land are jhum cultivation in the north part of India.
Advantages of Jhum cultivation
1. It is organic farming.
2. It does not use pesticides or any chemicals.
3. Jhum causes only short time loss of forest
4. Corporation, after jhuming the field distributed among farmers.
5. It uses forest natural matter.
6. During the cultivation cycle the forests provide forest produce to the tribals.
7. Forest regenerates quickly.
8. Contrary to the monoculture plantation causes permanent loss of forest due to chemical input.
9. Jhum cultivation done in steep hill, slopes where sedentary cultivation not possible, so it is the reflex good character of the north east part of India.
10. This cultivation is productive and ecologically sustainable.
Disadvantages of Jhum cultivation
1. In this cultivation, family is also suffer from food, fuels and fodder problems.
2. Jhum cultivation is leading to poverty and malnutrition.
3. North east forest are major carbon sinks, it must be protected as it is home of biodiversity of India.
4. Now a days farmers restart farming on the same field continuously that is why the fertility of soil loss.
5. It will take 10 years to regenerate the forest but farmers come back in 5 years and it is not enough time for the forest to regenerate.
6. Huge number of biomass get loss due to the burning of plants and trees.
7. Because of burning the trees it leads to higher carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and other harmful gases which pollute the environment.
8. Jhum cultivation leads to higher runoff of water, hence draught, drinking water shortage.
9. So many important spieces are getting lost in the region, this erodes the biodiversity of the region.
10. It lead to soil erosion, siltation is damage in them.
Problems related to Jhum cultivation
In the jhum cultivation it need to clear the forest. The cutting the trees, plants, shrubs etc and then burning however it accelerates the soil erosion and affect the rainfall which may lead to draught or flood.
The ecosystem loss their resilience. The impact of jhum cultivation on biomass and soil erosion is very bad. It may be observed that cycle of jhum cultivation become shorter and the biomass on which the humus of soil depends, are decline and the biodiversity get reduced.
In the Arunachal Pradesh, Shillong, Assam etc. the forest have been transeformed into deciduous shrubs and grasses. Thus jhum cultivation is gradually reducing the forest wealth and it damaging the ecology in the North part of India.