Shifting to settled cultivation: Changing practices among the Adis in Central Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India

Abstract

In the hilly tropics, although shifting cultivation is a widespread practice, government policies have attempted to replace it with other land uses. However, several factors determine whether farming communities can make the shift. We tried understanding the factors that facilitate or impede the shift to settled cultivation through interviews with the Adi tribe in north-east India. Although settled cultivation was initiated in the 60s, about 90 % of the families still practise shifting cultivation, observing 13 festivals associated with the annual agricultural calendar. Our results indicate that the economic status of a household determined whether a family undertook settled cultivation, while labour availability was important for shifting cultivation. Often, these nuances are ignored in the Government policies. We conclude that future policies should be mindful of cultural and socio-economic factors that affect the community and of the social-ecological resilience of the landscapes and not use a one-size-fits-all strategy.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Adit Jain Foundation, Rufford Small Grants Foundation, Idea Wild and ATREE Small Grants for Research in North-east India for funding a project on shifting cultivation of which this research is a part. We also thank the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department, Bittem Darang (Divisional Forest Officer), Kopang Takuk (Forest Ranger) for logistical help, Dunge Yalik, Durik Medo, Gekut Medo, Bamut Medo and Army Duggong for assistance with fieldwork, Anirban Datta-Roy for inputs to the research, Dr. Rohan Arthur for his contribution to the research and the manuscript and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments to improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Karthik Teegalapalli.

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Teegalapalli, K., Datta, A. Shifting to settled cultivation: Changing practices among the Adis in Central Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Ambio 45, 602–612 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0765-x

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Keywords

  • Swidden
  • Wet rice cultivation
  • Upper Siang district
  • Eastern Himalaya