Shifting Cultivation to Settled Agriculture: Land Ownership Rights and Cropping Pattern in Meghalaya, Northeast India

Dipriya R. Lyngkhoi , S. Basanta Singh , Ram Singh and Bhanita Baruah


The traditional shifting cultivation areas in Meghalaya have been undergoing changes in their agricultural landscape along with the rest of the North Eastern Hill Region (NEHR). This study from ten villages of Meghalaya analyses the land ownership rights and cropping patterns of the shifting cultivators vis-à-vis settled agriculturists. Overall, signifi cant diff erences have been observed in the land owned, total area cultivated and the type of crops between the shifting cultivators and settled farmers. This establishes the transitions in the jhum landscape and their increasing dependence on the market economy whilst also throwing light on infl uence of the land tenure on the choice of land use system. The cropping pattern indicated that settled farmers who had higher tenure security as compared to shifting cultivators reduced the acreage under subsistence crops and preferred to grow high value cash crops. With the support of various schemes and programmes on cultivation of marketable crops, it is inevitable that the jhum landscape would be dominated by monoculture of commercial crops, hence, provisions should be made with a community-led approach or participatory consultation for settled systems so as to promote multi-cropping system whilst building the resilience of the sedentary cropping system. Notably, harmonization of common property regime under traditional customary tenure arrangements with individual rights in settled agricultural systems is indispensable to ensure transition is inclusive of landless farmers. Key words : shifting cultivation; Land ownership; Cropping pattern; Meghalaya.

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