A pilot SALT (Sloping Agriculture Land Technology) project has been initiated in village Aben of Manipur during the 2017 monsoon season as an alternative to shifting cultivation for the coming years till 2020.
Shifting cultivation (slash and burn jhum) is widely practiced by farmers in the hill regions of the north-eastern states. Though implemented in a sustainable way for generations, this system of subsistence agriculture is now facing many challenges and there is an urgent need to identify suitable alternatives.
The SALT approach when suitably adapted to the local conditions has the potential to offer the hill tribes with an alternative method of agriculture, which while being climate smart, will also provide the farmers with a means of sustainable livelihoods.
Under this pilot project, goatery, fishery, duckery and apiculture will be incorporated into the model for added benefit. The project will adopt the Farmer Field School approach to develop the model and scale up to at least five surrounding villages by 2020. Over the longer term, there is great potential to adapt the model wherever shifting cultivation is being practiced in the north-east hill zone.
Awareness generation in the form of farmer meetings, seminars, video presentations on SALT, Apiculture, Goatery etc., was undertaken in village Aben between October 2016 – March ’17 to make the community aware about the challenges faced by practicing jhum and to discuss the various alternatives which could be tried.
The project will follow the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach for developing and refining the model and scaling-up in surrounding villages. One FFS group would be formed for each village comprising women and men farmers. Optimum size of each group would be between 15 – 25 members. The FFS groups would monitor and assess the positive and negative effects and take corrective action for implementation during the next year.
It is planned to replicate the model in Aben and 5 nearby villages by 2020.
Aben and surrounding villages have informally elected bodies or Village Development Committees (VDCs) which are responsible for overseeing the various development activities such as water supply, agriculture, education etc. There is a sub-committee for each sector. The VDCs will work in close consultation with the village authority which is the body formally recognized by the government for availing benefits from government programmes. The VDC will be the primary agency at village level responsible for the project with the agriculture sub-committee responsible organizing the FFS and implementing the Demonstrations and Replications.
An NGO, Peoples Endeavour for Social Change (PESCH) will support the VDC with project implementation, monitoring, reporting, liaison and financial management.
The Aben VDC is also looking to partner with Mrida Group for developing viable business models for production and marketing of organic produce including millet, turmeric and honey.
The Rongmei Naga Baptist Association will deal with thematic issues like sustainable natural resources management and livelihood, food security, women empowerment, engagement with youth, renewable energy and education.
The project will be led by David Gandhi who is a development practitioner with over 30 years of experience.
The project villages are located in Tousem sub-division of Tamenglong district of Manipur. The area forms part of the Patkai hill range situated along India’s north-eastern border with Myanmar.