The short cultivation phase lasts on average for two to three years, during which crops are grown in mixtures for subsistence or sale. The cultivation period on the particular land is often terminated when the soil reveals any sign of exhaustion or when the plot is overrun by weeds. In this way, a short cultivation phase is alternate with a long period of fallow which allows the soil to restore its fertility. During such time, the fallow land is rapidly replaced by forest, bush and woodland. As a result, many who practice this type of farming still consider the system to be stable, ecologically sound and efficient farming and land use systems. Many people still prefer this type of farming due to its better resistance to drought and flood. Besides they consider that it is less labour intensive with much lesser investment.
However as the population increases couple with rampant commercialization, the fallow period is reduced drastically. This has resulted in to loss of soil organic matter and topsoil through erosion, deterioration of the physical characteristic and nutrient status of the soil, changes in number and composition of soil micro-flora, and multiplication of pests and diseases and rampant weed growth. Besides, in Manipur tropical humid type of climate where most vegetations especially the trees and shrubs are abound with deep-rooted natural or planted and farmers still practice traditional way of farming, they prefer herbaceous leguminous cover. With drastic reduction of the fallow period trees and shrubs are unable to keep pace with the jhum rotation which, on most cases, needs more than five years to become established. As a result, although green vegetations cover may seem to be more or less stable, the actual lost of forest could be much higher.
So far, the main alternatives put forth by the establishment have been conversion of jhum area to settled agriculture through terrace construction or establishing plantations and orchards but that has been limited due to high cost intensive and dependent on external inputs and technology beyond the reach of the hill farmers. In order to address the problem faced by the Jhumias, one of the best approaches could be adopting Sloping Agriculture Land Technology or Small Agro-Livestock Land Technology or in short known as SALT so as to provide the farmers a viable and climate-smart alternative which, of course, is their main project objectives. Instead of restricting the method of Jhum cultivation which has a deep social and cultural attachment for the people, we should find a means to improve it. One good way to start with could be encouraging the people to start practicing agro forestry in which both crops and trees are cared by the people simultaneously. In places where fallow period become too short, new varieties of crop or commercial tree species can be grown as an additional crop to increase the soil fertility and at the same time reduces soil erosion.
As an adaptive measure, high priority should be given to small farmers with low input technology. They should be assisted in breeding for resistance to diseases and pests as well as on minimizing fertilizer use through increasing its efficiency by teaching them about the usefulness of crop rotation. One very important thing we need to keep in mind is that whatever measures we may take up for the farmers, the cropping systems should satisfy both subsistence and commercial needs. It may be well noted that as the situations vary from region to region, so does the solutions. Therefore, it is pertinent that the people of the region to be contacted and collaborated in whatever plans or measures that are to be taken up.