Mizoram districts to move from ‘jhum’ to ‘green’ farming with FAO help
Aizawl, March 20 (IANS): To shift the farmers from the unscientific “Jhum” or slash-and-burn method of cultivation to viable and environment friendly farming, the “Green-Ag” project of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is being implemented in Mizoram, ensuring conservation of biodiversity and forests.
The project is being implemented in two Mizoram districts — Mamit and Lunglei — to improve the rural livelihoods and meet the food and nutrition security of the farmers and rural people by ensuring conservation of biodiversity and forests.
Lunglei’s District Agriculture Officer C. Malsawmkima said that the “Green-Ag” project would harmonise priorities and investments between India’s agricultural and environmental sectors. This will be done so that national and global environmental benefits can be fully realised without compromising India’s ability to provide and develop rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security and social (particularly gender) goals.
“Various technical and other formalities, awareness and motivation have been done since the government decided to implement the “Green-Ag” project in Mizoram three years ago. The actual implementation of the project would start within the next two to three months,” Malsawmkima told IANS.
He said that the FAO funded “Green-Ag” project is expected to fulfil all the basic requirements including foodgrains of the farmers and the rural people and to shift the farmers from the unscientific “Jhum” cultivation to viable and long-lasting farming.
Tribals in the northeastern states traditionally practice the “Jhum” or slash-and-burn method of cultivation, which greatly harms the forests, environment and the soil of the mountains.
This shifting form of farming usually involves cutting down entire forests in the hills and allowing the slashed vegetation to dry on mountain slopes prior to burning. Rice is grown along with vegetables, maize, cotton and mustard, among others.
Tribals constitute 27 per cent of northeast India’s 45.58 million people and they are the majority (70 to 95 per cent) in four of the eight northeastern states — Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
The development of sustainable agriculture practices like organic farming in place of “Jhum” cultivation would lead to a “Green North East”, said environment expert Apurba Kumar Dey.
Dey told IANS, A “Green-Ag project-like mission could serve a dual purpose — meet the food and nutritional requirements of the rural people and protect and prosper the forests and environment.”
The “Green-Ag” project is being implemented under the GEF-6 cycle of the FAO in five Indian states — Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttarakhand.
Malsawmkima said that a virtual meeting of the FAO, “Green-Ag”: Green Landscape Implementation Unit’s Technical Support Group (TSG) was held on March 16 under the Chairmanship of Lunglei Deputy Commissioner Kulothungan A.
Officials of the New Delhi based Green-Ag National Project Management Unit (NPMU), as well as officials from the Mamit and Lunglei districts discussed ways and means to execute the project.
The Annual Work Plan and Budget for 2022-2023 were discussed in detail at the virtual meeting and approved. The meeting also approved the High Priority Areas in Mamit and Lunglei districts, where the project will be implemented.
Malsawmkima said that five things — sticky rice, Mizo chilli, sesame, maize and piggery — were selected to take forward under the project.
The project will cover 1,45,670 hectares of land in 35 villages in two Mizoram districts — Lunglei and Mamit. The project also includes two protected areas – the Dampa Tiger Reserve and the Thorangtlang Wildlife Sanctuary.
The main aim of the “Green-Ag” project is to reduce the emissions from agriculture and ensure that the agriculture practices are followed, keeping in mind sustainability and growth.
A project profile of “Green-Ag” said that it has been designed in such a manner so that it covers a large area of land up to 1.8 million hectares in Mizoram, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttarakhand and provide environmental benefits at a global level.
The areas covered under this project in five states have a different land-use system. The project aims for sustainable usage of the land and the management of water efficiently.
An official document said that the government has planned the project for five years and it will end on March 31, 2026 in all five states.
Meanwhile, according to the India State of Forest Report 2021 (ISFR 2021) released earlier this year, forest cover in the 140 hill districts of the country has shown a decrease of 902 sq km (0.32 per cent) with all eight states of the northeast region also showing a decline.
Arunachal Pradesh, that has 16 hill districts, has shown a loss of 257 sq km forest cover compared to the 2019 assessment, Assam’s three hill districts (- 107 sq km), Manipur’s nine hill districts (- 249 sq kms), Mizoram’s eight hill districts (- 186 sq km), Meghalaya’s seven hill districts (- 73 km), Nagaland’s 11 districts (- 235 sq km), Sikkim’s four districts (- 1 sq km), and Tripura’s four districts (- 4 sq kms).
The total forest cover in the northeastern region is 1,69,521 sq km, which is 64.66 per cent of its area.
The ISFR 2021 assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 1,020 sq km (0.60 per cent) in the region.