About Us

Fostering Climate Resilient Upland Farming Systems in the
Northeast  (FOCUS)

Nagaland  is  one  of  the  eight  states  in  the  North  Eastern  Region (NER) of India, a  biodiversity  hotspot  where climate  change adaptation  is of critical  importance for the largely rural population. With a hilly terrain, low population density, shallow soils and high rainfall l, farmers have adopted a shifting cultivation system known  as  jhum.  This  largely  self-sufficient  system  has adequately  met  the  various  needs  of  rural  communities,  including  food,  fibre  and  energy,  but  is  now  getting disrupted due to shortening  jhum  cycles  as a result of increasing population, focus on high value crops  for  cash  income,  soil  fertility  degradation  and  top  soil  erosion  on  account  of  decreased  fallow cycles. Changing climate patterns is further exacerbating these disruptive trends.

In Nagaland the jhum  system covers 60 percent of the area under food grain cultivation, and about half of rural households are engaged in jhum cultivation, with about 100,000 ha of forest being cleared for  cultivation each year. Rice is the staple food, and upland paddy is the main jhum crop, grown mixed with other crops. Jhum land and forest-fallows also meet most community firewood and timber needs, and are also sources of wild foods and medicinal plants, as well as catchment areas of local streams.

Jhum  is  a  way  of  farming  poor  upland  soils  by  utilising  fertility  accumulated  in  the  forest-fallow period. It maintains more bio-diversity than conventional farming. The practice of burning controls weeds  and disease  pathogens. Almost no external inputs  are used,  and  the system is naturally organic. The  mixed  cropping  with  traditional  varieties  reduces  risk  and  supports  traditional  food  habits  linked  to  distinctive  local  cultures.  On  the  other  hand,  jhumias  widely  held  to  be  a  destructive  farming  system,  causing severe soil erosion, atmospheric pollution, damage to soil biology and loss of biodiversity. The  system is increasingly  becoming unsustainable  as  jhum  cycles are becoming shorter,  with less time to  restore soil fertility and biodiversity.  Jhuming  is labour-intensive, with no potential for mechanisation, and most work is done by women. With low crop yields, not much is produced per day worked, and production  usually does not meet household food needs or generate much needed cash income.

Rural Poverty in the project area.

The poverty analysis conducted as part of the project design, shows that poverty in Nagaland has multiple dimensions in the rural areas of the state, namely in terms of access to basic services, connectivity and low incomes. It is closely associated with the agriculture and natural resources based livelihoods of the rural households: the low productivity, the high inputs of family labour for agriculture, the limited options to diversif y livelihoods, and the high cost of living in the State, trap households in poverty and render them vulnerable to price shocks on the one hand and to climate change  on the other. As per census data, the incidence of rural poverty in  the state has doubled from 2004 to  2012  and stood at 19.9%  in  2011-2012 equivalent to  280 000 persons. The qualitative wealth ranking exercise conducted in sample villages suggests that on average 16% of rural households earn less  than  75,000  INR/year  which  puts  them  close  to  or   below  the  poverty  line. The poor rely on a production  system  comprised  of  jhum  cultivation,  terrace  cultivation  and  livestock  rearing,  and  their landholdings are typically less than 1 ha of  jhum and 1 ha of terrace cultivation. Landlessness is less than 10% of rural households.