Hmar tribe of Assam teaches lessons on traditional, climate-friendly pineapple cultivation to scientists – Gaonconnection | Your Connection with Rural India – Gaon Connection English

Scientists of the department of ecology and environmental sciences, Assam University, find that the traditional agroforestry practices of the Hmar tribal farmers go a long way in safeguarding the environment and the biodiversity. Details here.
The Hmar farmers border their pineapple fields with trees that protect the land and prevent soil erosion. All photos: By arrangement
Reverting to traditional forms of cultivation is perhaps a step forward in tackling environmental degradation and protecting biodiversity. The scientists of Assam University, in Silchar, came to this conclusion after studying the traditional agriculture practices of the Hmar tribal farmers in villages in Cachar district in the foothills of the Barail mountains, a sub-Himalayan mountain range.
The Hmar tribal farmers cultivate pineapples using age-old traditional methods and this has enhanced the environment and biodiversity in the area.
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“Pineapples are cultivated in a huge swathe of the northeastern states of the country. The Hmar tribes of south Assam have always grown pineapples using traditional wisdom. We studied their methods of cultivation and found the pineapple agroforestry system allows the cultivation of the fruit amongst big trees,” Arun Jyothi Nath, associate professor, department of ecology and environmental sciences, Assam University told Gaon Connection.
“We found that the carbon footprint of their traditional growing methods was far less when compared to jhoom cultivation,” Nath added.
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The study, which began in 2016, by the department of ecology and environmental sciences of Assam University is supported by the Indian government’s department of science of technology under its climate change impact programme.
The Hmar farmers follow the agroforestry system while cultivating pineapple. They border their pineapple fields with trees that protect the land and prevent soil erosion and also provide shade with their canopies.
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The associate professor informed that these tribal farmers grow areca nut and banana trees besides medicinal trees such as the shirish (Albizia lebbeck). They also grow papaya, lemons, guavas, mangoes and litchis alongside the pineapples.
These traditional farming methods are the best for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and reduces the felling of trees, noted the study of the Assam University.
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In sharp contrast to the agroforestry method of cultivation, in jhoom cultivation (also known as slash and burn), trees and shrubs in the area to be farmed are burnt before seeds are sown there. The land is cultivated for two to three years and then allowed to lie fallow while the cultivators move to another plot of land to grow produce.
“Burning of the trees and shrubs in the area leads to the loss of biodiversity and the emission of a lot of carbon,” Nath, who headed the study, explained.
The study by Assam university has recorded the changes in the environment of Cachar district that lies in the foothills of the Himalayas and is a biodiversity hotspot. It has documented the consequences of jhoom farming in the area on the indigenous trees that grow there, and measured carbon emissions.
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Read the story in Hindi.

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