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Exploring Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Practices (ILKPs) in Traditional Jhum Cultivation for Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Case Study from Zunheboto District of Nagaland, India


Globally, shifting cultivation is known to be an important driver of tropical deforestation. However, in this paper, we argue that it can be sustainably managed if the environmental boundary conditions, laid by the traditional customs and practices, are fully respected. We narrate an empirical study from the Zunheboto district of Nagaland, India, where we deployed a mixed research method to explore the Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Practices (ILKPs) associated with shifting cultivation (aka Jhum), particularly concerning farm-level practices, forest and biodiversity conservation, and disaster risk reduction measures. The research method included analysis of primary data obtained through Focus Group discussions (FGDs), key informant interviews (n = 21), and a questionnaire survey (n = 153) with Jhum farmers from two different age groups, i.e., below 50 years (middle-aged farmers) and above 50 years (older farmers). From the qualitative inquiry, we identified 15 ILKPs, which were then validated from survey responses. We used the Mann–Whitney U test to examine differences in agreement between two groups of framers. Based on this analysis, we conclude that upholding of the ILKPs holds strong potential for the local implementation of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly, SDG-1(No poverty), SDG-2 (Zero hunger), and SDG-15 (Life on land). However, eight of the identified ILKPs showed a statistically significant difference between older and middle-aged farmers, underlining a declining trend. Finally, we suggest suitable policy measures to mainstream ILKPs to balance the trade-offs in food production and biodiversity conservation, and to ensure the future sustainability of Jhum cultivation in the region and beyond.

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  1. According to the last census conducted in 2011. The next census report is due in 2021.

  2. Niti Ayog, formerly known as Planning Commission of India is the highest planning body of India


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The work was supported by the Global Environmental Facility’s (GEF) Satoyama project and the Strategic Research and Development Area (JPMEERF16S11510) project financed by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan (ERCA). The authors, in addition, would like to extend their sincerest thanks to the Sukhai Village council for their help, support, and involvement during the field survey.

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Correspondence to Rajarshi Dasgupta.

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Dasgupta, R., Dhyani, S., Basu, M. et al. Exploring Indigenous and Local Knowledge and Practices (ILKPs) in Traditional Jhum Cultivation for Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Case Study from Zunheboto District of Nagaland, India. Environmental Management (2021).

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  • Agricultural Heritage
  • Landscape sustainability
  • Conservation
  • Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
  • Food security