Two days workshop on

“EMPOWERING JHUMIAS WITH SECURE LIVELIHOOD – A CHALLENGE OF ECOLOGICAL GOVERNANCE”

 

A  speaker  sharing his knowledge on the alternative of Jhum

 

           The Directorate of Environment, Government of Manipur organized a two days workshop on “Empowering Jhumias with secure livelihood – A challenge of Ecological governance” on 10th and 11th March, 2018 at Trade Centre, Moreh, Tengnoupal District, Manipur. The workshop was organized in view of the current scenario of indiscriminate destruction of natural resources and how to provide alternative means of secure livelihood to the Jhumias especially in Tengnoupal District of Manipur. The output of the workshop would be incorporated in policies and programmes for revision of the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) and preparation of the State Climate Change Policy (SCCP).

In most of the hill areas of Manipur, the means of livelihood is restricted to the forest- lands for jhum cultivation which is in fact the only source for survival. However, this traditional practice is contributing to deforestation, land degradation and other negative environmental consequences due to indiscriminate exploitation of the natural resources particularly forests. The number of families relying on jhum cultivation remains unabated even though the productivity of jhumming is on the decline. The annual area under shifting cultivation is estimated at 90,000 hectares accounting for 36% of the cultivated land of the State. Being situated in a fragile ecosystem and jhum cultivation still widely practiced in the state, climate change will hit hard on the livelihood of the farmers like the Jhumias in particular. As a result the Jhumias are on the verge of suffering from the impacts of climate change on the one hand and degradation of the environment on the other hand. Therefore sustainable management of ecosystem, biodiversity and livelihood requirements must go hand in hand with climate friendly practices and adaptation to the dynamic situation.

The workshop was inaugurated by Shri N. Bankim Singh, ADC, Tengnoupal by the lighting of lamp. The gathering was welcomed by Dr. T. Brajakumar, Deputy Director, Directorate of Environment, Government of Manipur who gave the key note address highlighted the main purpose of the workshop especially in Tengnoupal district. In his speech, Shri N. Bankim Singh addressed the august gathering to focus on the factors for preserving biodiversity and role to be played by the villagers. Prof. N. Mohendro Singh, former member, NER vision 2020, in his presidential speech, stressed the need for creation and destruction to go hand in hand for development in Manipur.

Representatives from various local organizations and NGOs of Moreh, Chandel, Churchandpur and Tamenglong along with media persons from most of the leading newspapers, local channels (ISTV, IMPACT TV), DDK Imphal and All India Radio, Imphal attended the two days workshop along with experts from Forest Department, Manipur University, NABARD, Agriculture Department, ICAR etc. who spoke on various topics related to the Jhumias. The major areas which were deliberated during the Workshop are:

  1. Jhum Cultivation: Prospects and Challenges with reference to critical relationship between ecology and economy.
  2. Development Policies and Globalizations with reference to development experience of occupation, income and employment of Indo-Myanmar Border Trade, 1995.
  3. Jhum cultivation and environment degradation with a focus on climate change and economic hardships in Manipur.
  4. Alternatives to Jhum cultivation in Manipur especially Tengnoupal District with reference to Integrated Horticultural Initiative, Animal Husbandry, Poultry and piggery farms and other micro-enterprises- An attempt for better resource management.

On the second day, Shri Kh. Raghumani Singh, IAS, Deputy Commissioner, Tengnoupal, Manipur graced the workshop for the closing ceremony. He spoke on the pace of development versus destruction of the natural resources which should be steered at a sustainable pace. Many of the participants came forward to voice their views and recommendations and a very fruitful discussion session on the various aspects covered by the workshop was carried out. Some of the farmers also shared their experiences and practices of soil conservation which can be encouraged like the use of poles, logs and bamboos across the slope areas as a contour bund to check soil erosion in the Jhum fields. Cash crops like cucumber, ginger, yam, banana, chilly can also be cultivated in the contour bunds for ensuring food security as well as economic livelihood subsistence for the Jhumias.

Based on the discussions of the participants, experts and panelists, the recommendations which were made during the workshop are:

  1. Protection of the vulnerable sections of the society through inclusion of participatory resource management strategies and securing their livelihood options.
  2. Appropriate land-use planning through sustenance of the traditional practices, sustainable management of natural resources and skill development.
  3. Promotion of sustainable livelihood by better management of non timber forest products and encouraging ecotourism and agro-forestry based development.
  4. Development of market strategies and network such as cold storage, food processing units and marketing policies.
  5. Proper management of forest fire by improving the communication facility, fire detection and warning systems ,creation of fire lines in fire prone areas and imparting fire fighting training to staff and people.

If the recommendations are implemented with wholehearted public investment by instituting a more participatory model of development planning in consultation with the communities at the grass root level, then the agricultural systems, food security, and way of life of the hill people is sure to improve to a great extent in the near future. In order to curb the indiscriminate destruction of natural resources particularly forests and wildlife and also to restrict the practice of jhum cultivation in the forest land, the provision to provide an alternative source of livelihood through one of the State missions can be considered. The workshop will be an eye opener to the participants especially the Jhumias about the various alternative options which they can avail to secure their livelihood. By focusing on the people’s needs and avoiding the ‘one size fits all’ approach the workshop will also be a step towards sensitizing governmental agencies to the special needs of the Jhumias and take up policies and programmes which appeals to the  various traditional farming systems. To develop ecologically sound, economically feasible and culturally acceptable alternatives to jhum cultivation would be the solution to improve the socio economic conditions of the Jhumias as well as to ensure a sustainable environment for our future generations.