How SALT Approach is Transforming Farmers’ Lives in NE India
Image Source: The Logical Indian
Shifting cultivation is being practiced for a long time in the north-east region of India. However, it isn’t a productive way to achieve optimum production. Often the land is left abandoned for months and years. Also, the burning of jhum results in excessive carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Either way, it isn’t a sustainable model for farmers. There’s a need to look for suitable alternatives. This is where the SALT approach could work wonders for hill tribes of northeast India by overcoming the challenges of shifting cultivation.
Let’s find out what SALT approach is and how it could benefit farmers who still rely on shifting cultivation.
What is SALT Approach?
SALT is the abbreviation of Sloping Agriculture Land Technology that if opted by local tribes could help farmers earn a sustainable livelihood. Practicing it won’t cause any pollution unlike shifting cultivation. Being a climate-smart alternative, it helps make land resources utilized to the optimum. This approach has transformed the lives of farmers in South and Southeast Asia. It is perfect for sloping lands where the soil loss is high. The strategy involves the creation of vegetative barriers that help put a tab on the loss of soil during rainfalls.
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The hedgerows are grown along the contours while the crops get cultivated on the strips between them. Usually, these hedgerows are nitrogen-fixing plants that help maintain the nitrogen levels in the soil to boost its crop-yielding productivity. Animal dung is used to supply nutrients to the soil. Altogether, this is a sustainable method that is less labor intensive.
The Current and Proposed Actions Taken to Help Become SALT a Ritual
Increasing SALT's Awareness in the Community:
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The Naga community is practicing shifting cultivation for the past many generations. However, with a few awareness camps, they could get to know the disadvantages of this practice. It could be done by video presentations on SALT, regular farmer meetings and various other means. In fact, a pilot study on SALT has been conducted in Aben during the period 2016 to 2017. It has received a positive response from the community and farmers’ perceptions have changed. Various SALT Demonstrations have been proposed to help create awareness in the society about the positive impacts of SALT.
Farmer Field School:
The project has been proposed to follow the Farmer Field School approach to let people in villages know about the benefits of SALT. In each village, there will be one FFS group of about 15 to 25 members involving men and women. The group will help spread the awareness about SALT and would take measures to effectively implement SALT in the designated regions.
The Benefits of Implementing SALT Approach
Thousands of hectares of the forested area get deforested every year to set afire for the jhum. The SALT approach has been assumed to reduce the deforested area by 600 hectares each year. It will help preserve the ecosystem.
Cut Down the CO2 Emissions
According to IKAP estimates, the amount of CO2 emissions from the jhum in a projected area (10-year cycle) counts to as high as 20330 tons. But if farmers opt to SALT instead of the jhum, the emission levels are estimated to be cut down by 60 percent.
Increase in Food Production from Forest Areas
The forests account for a large amount of food production, mostly mushrooms and fruits, for the Naga community. However, due to shifting cultivation, the forest area is being replaced by bamboos which are affecting the forest food supplies. If they consider SALT, there would be more land available for the forest development. It would eventually increase the food supplies from the forest.
Helps Earn a Sustainable Livelihood
The SALT model is one of the most easy-to-adapt models that will hold the interest of youth. It will provide the young generation in Naga community to earn a livelihood without the need to move out to metros.
The SALT will have tangible effects on the lives of people offering hill tribes in Northeastern India a chance to earn a sustainable livelihood. As soon as people will realize the negative impacts of shifting cultivation, this generation old practice would become a thing of the past.