Dialogue  April-June 2009 , Volume 10 No. 4

Land and Forest in the Eastern Himalayas: A Critique on Agriculture and Agroforestry in Arunachal Pradesh

Maitreyee Choudhury


Location of Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh is one of the ‘Seven Sister States’ in North East India. It is the easternmost state in India and borders three neighbouring countries. China in north, Myanmar in east and Bhutan in west. The Indian states of Assam and Nagaland border the state in the south and south east. The total geographical area of Arunachal Pradesh measures to 83,743 sq. km. The state covers a substantial portion of the Eastern Himalayas and is a part of the Eastern Himalayan Agro-climatic zone II along with Sikkim and Darjeeling. However, the three easternmost districts (Lohit, Changlang and Tirap) are part of the Patkai range. Arunachal Pradesh was administered as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) until 1972 when it became the Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh. It was given full statehood on 20th February 1987.


Arunachal Pradesh covers the easternmost part of the Himalayas, a portion of the Purvanchal Hills and some parts of the Brahmaputra Plains. By virtue of the presence of the Himalayas, it is obvious that the state has a mountainous terrain. Quite often the state itself is designated as the Eastern Himalayas2 since the Himalayas extend no further in the east beyond the state. The Himalayan peak called Namcha Barwa, located at the head of the Himalaya’s eastern syntaxial bend, marks the eastern end of the Himalayas. The highest mountain peak in the region is the Kangto Peak (7090m) near the northern border in West Kameng district. The elevation of the mountains in the state ranges from 100m in the outer Siwaliks bordering Assam plains to above 7000m in the Greater Himalayas bordering the Tibetan plateau. Several large rivers dissect the land into distinct segments, wide variation in climate and vegetation. The state has five physiographic regions, namely: i) The Greater Himalayan Ranges, ii) The Lesser Himalayan Ranges, iii) The Siwaliks, iv) The Purvanchal Ranges and v) The Brahmaputra Plains.

Starting from the west to east, the major rivers that drain the state are the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit, the Noa-dihing and the Tirap. The Siang river, the mightiest of them all, brings the waters of Tsangpo all the way from Tibet to India. After receiving the waters of Dibang and Lohit, the Siang becomes the mighty Brahmaputra in the Assam plains. The tall mountains, tortuous rivers, rugged terrain and formidable forests compose a difficult physiography and keep the state somewhat isolated from the rest of the country.


An inhospitable terrain largely unfit for human habitation has kept the population figures of the state consistently low. While the state shares 2.55% of the total geographical area of the country, its share in population is only 0.09 per cent, with a total population of 1,091,117 with the density of 13 persons per sq. km (census2001). The population of Arunachal Pradesh is largely tribal who constitute 65% of the total population. There are more than 100 tribal communities in Arunachal Pradesh, of which 20 are collective tribes having close affinities in language, culture and tradition. However, territorial isolation and difficulty in communication from one enclave to other have created distinctive tribal identities and great variations in language and social formation.

 The major indigenous tribes in Arunachal Pradesh include the Adi, Nyishi, Apatani, Bugun, Galo, Hrusso, Koro, Meyor, Monpa, Tagin, Mishmi, Tangshang, Nocte, Wanchoo, Tutsa, Yobin, Singpho, Sherdukpen, Khamba and Memba1. Each tribal group exhibits individuality in terms of language, social customs and tradition. However, there are affinities in culture according to territorial base along the major rivers and their tributaries that serve as the main and sometimes only links of communication. There has been a roughly lateral pattern of cultural affinity, having Tibetan influence in the northern belt, Burmese and Assamese influence in the southern belt, and indigenous, in situ culture in the central and eastern belt.


Land Ownership Rights in Arunachal Pradesh

Land is a primary resource for economy. In Arunachal Pradesh, only 5 per cent land is available for cultivation, with more than 60 per cent of land under forest. While the extent of forest is seen as the most valuable asset from the point of view of environment and ecology, the same can be of little advantage as far as agricultural development is concerned. Ownership of prime cultivable land and forests is important for the hundred-odd tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. There is no formal land tenure system in Arunachal Pradesh. The people exercise customary rights on land for jhuming, hunting, fishing, etc. They tend to exercise customary rights even in Unclassified State Forests (USF). There is no patta system in Arunachal Pradesh. The only document the people receive from the state government in regard to land ownership is the Land Possession Certificate (LPC). LPC is issued by the Deputy Commissioner for land up to 5 ha. The Land Act of Arunachal Pradesh has been passed only recently. The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are still governed by their own customary laws, and land ownership right varies from tribe to tribe. While some tribes allow individual as well as family ownership of land, others are in favour of clan ownership and still others recognize their villages or the community as the sole owner of land rights. Thus, on the basis of ownership rights, land in the state can be classified as follows:

          1.   Land owned by an individual

          2.   Land owned by a family

          3.   Land owned by the clan

          4.   Land owned by a village

          5.   Land owned by the community

The state is very sparsely populated and difficult terrain conditions have given rise to a kind of social solidarity and a sense of security among the tribal people residing in their own enclaves. The social solidarity of individual tribes necessitated communal farming and collective ownership of land. The abundance of land under forests prompted the tribes to adopt shifting cultivation Jhum. Almost all the tribes except the Apatanis, Khamptis, Sherdukpens and to some extent the Monpas, practice shifting cultivation. As a principle, the entire land owned by a tribe belongs to the clan or the village. The area of a village is determined according to traditional agreements with the neighbouring villages. The jhum cultivators belonging to a particular tribe are not allowed to fell trees in forested land beyond the jurisdiction of its own community. The practice of shifting cultivation makes the tribes semi-nomadic and their villages semi-permanent. Amongst the tribes of Arunachal, only the Apatanis are known to be settled agriculturists in permanent villages. They have three distinct categories of land ownership Viz: (a) The first category, i.e. individual ownership land comprises practically all cultivable land, irrigated rice fields, fields for dry crops, vegetable and fruit trees, groves of bamboos, pines and other useful trees, as well as sites for houses and granaries. (b) Clan land that consists of meadowland near the village used as pastures and burial grounds and tract of forest, where only the members of the owner clan have the right to hunt and trap. (c). Common village land, which is confined to one or two usually not extensive stretches of pasture and to forest tracts on the periphery3. It may be mentioned here that the previous NEFA government’s policy, which came into force in 1947-48, provided absolute rights to the tribe over their jhum land, under the Jhum Land Regulation Act, 1948.

 Individual ownership of land is usually found in permanently settled villages. When a member of a particular clan puts in his efforts to make a piece of land operational, and inhabits the area for a sufficiently long period, the ownership right of the land passes to him and his descendents. The outsiders in a village are not given land ownership right. A member from outside the clan may borrow land from the village council and settle in the area, but he cannot pass it to his descendents. The system of ownership of jhum plots varies from tribe to tribe. Among the Adis of Siang region, a land cleared by a particular jhum cultivator and the members of his family is customarily retained by him and his family for successive returns to the same plot. However, a different system of land ownership is followed by the Nyishis of Lower Subansiri and East Kameng districts who also practice shifting cultivation. In this case, the individual, who clears a patch of forest for jhum and cultivates the plot in the opening year, may not return back to the same plot. Any other member from his clan or community may take up the land for cultivation in the second phase. The Wanchos of Tirap district enjoy a kind of non-transferable ownership right of jhum plots. The Monpas practice both terrace cultivation and jhum cultivation. They recognize individual ownership right as well as common village ownership right. However, the forests and pastures are controlled by the village council called Mong-pa. Allotment of land to the individuals in exchange of taxes is also done by the village council. In some areas, share-cropping is also practiced, but this is not a very common practice. Land reforms programme and land demarcation programme are yet to be introduced in the state. The cadastral survey in the state is still incomplete. The first set of cadastral maps of Along in West Siang district have been published in 20054. Other districts are yet to publish their cadastral maps.

Forest Ownership Rights in Arunachal Pradesh

In absence of any land tenure system in the state, for all practical purposes, the Unclassified State Forests (USF) are treated as community forests and in certain cases, as private forests, where the people exercise their traditional rights of fishing, collection of fuel wood, small timbers, fodder, cultivation and ritual hunting as well as collection of medicinal plants. The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh exercise their customary right on forest areas for the purpose of protection as well as production. From the perspective of function, the forests of Arunachal Pradesh can be classified as:

a) Protected forests, and

b) Production forests.

Protection Forests: Some forest areas in Arunachal Pradesh are traditionally protected and preserved as sacred groves. Such forests are closed to any human interference like jhuming or hunting. All the major tribes in the state, namely the Adis, Nishyis, Apatanis and Monpas customarily keep patches of pristine forests untouched and treat them as sacred as spiritual lands and abodes of deities. The Monpas of Tawang district believe that the jungle deity, Singye Lama resides in forest. Some forests in the district are owned by the monasteries (Parmang or private ownership of forest) and religious sanctions are there for felling of trees. Elsewhere, some forested parts are left untouched from the belief that they are the domains of evil spirits. For example, the Adis living in high altitude areas leave some forests untouched because they believe that certain trees (of ficus spp.) in those forests are abodes of evil spirits. In both cases, the forests are spared of human interference deliberately and are treated as protected forests.

 Production Forests: The production forests are the areas where shifting cultivation is practiced by the tribesmen. These forests are considered as the village common land or the community forest areas, where the local tribesmen also exercise their traditional rights to the forest produces. There are common lands of clan ownership or community ownership for practicing shifting cultivation. The production forests are demarcated by the natural features, chiefly by the water divides or valleys. Usually the traditional village council deals with the overall management issues of the production lands, such as distribution of land among the villagers, opening of land for new cultivation, community hunting, and exploitation of the forest produce on commercial line and so on. The produce from the common forest tracts is shared by every individual on the basis of respective needs. They have the absolute right over the forest produce for meeting their domestic requirement of timber or Cultivation/jhum. The other demand-based requirements like firewood, fodder, etc. are also met from the common forest tracts.

From the legal perspective the forests of the state have been classified as:

                i) Reserved Forest (RF), (ii) Protected Forest (PF), iii) Wildlife Sanctuaries (WLS), iv) National Parks (NP), v) Anchal Reserved Forest (ARF) and vi) Village Reserved Forest (VRF).

The ownership right of these forests is vested with the state and has been legally notified. However, in case of Anchal Reserve forests, land is given to the communities with the understanding that 50 per cent of forest produce is to be utilized by the communities and rest should go to the government. The Unclassified State Forests (USF) are yet to be properly surveyed and demarcated. Unclassified State Forests are under the dual control of the Revenue Department and Forest Department. The Revenue Department issues land possession certificate (LPC), while the Forest Department deals the matters related to transit

 Table 1.

 Distribution of Legal Forests (in sq km.) in the Districts of Arunachal Pradesh, 2002.

 Sl.    District           Reserved       PF          ARF           VRF           WLS         NP           USF        Total

No.                          Forest

1.   Tirap                   —-                1.04          1.94            217.99         —-      1985.24       228.63      3235

2.   Changlang         653.48             —-        133.18            13.5           —-         —-                                         

3,4.Lohit & Anjaw 4233.53            —-        180.44            68.75        783         —-           1879.28     7145

5,6.Dibang & Lower 515.96           —-           —-                 —-       4430.5       —-          3213.54     8160

      Dibang Valley

7.   West Siang          249.91        538.5          —-               —-          —-           —-          9698.58   10487

8.   East Siang           467.83         148            7.25              —-         190            —-         3826.92     5123

9.   Upper Siang          —-             —-          —-                 —-          —-           483                                          

10. Upper Subansiri   672.2           —-            2                  —-          —-           —-            2943.8    3618

11. Lower Subansiri   347.05         —-          —-                —-          337           —-          5062.13    6697

12. Kurung Kumey      —-             —-          —-                —-          —-           —-                                         

13. Papumpare          810.5           —-          —-                 —-        140.3         —-                                         

14. East Kameng     1063.86        0.27         —-                 —-        861.95       —-            555.44  2481.52

15. West Kameng     708.35         0.51        4.57                —-        317            —-          3557.07  4593.48

16. Tawang                 —-            5.98         —-                 —-         —-           —-                                        

      Total                 9722.69       694.3     329.38           300.24    7059.75   2468.24    30965.39  51540.00

 Source: Arunachal Pradesh State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, 2003.


and trade of forest produces. These unclassified State Forests are again claimed variously as private, clan or community forests and have remained traditionally under the control of communities. The USF area is not under the control of Forest Department because the land does not vest with the state. In Arunachal Pradesh, there is no well-defined land revenue regulation Act. In general, the forest areas are under collective ownership of the tribal communities with exception of private ownership system such as the Parmang of Monpas, or ownership rights reserved by the tribal chiefs of Noctes and Wanchos. The distribution of forests according to their legal status in various districts in Arunachal Pradesh is given in the following table:

 PF   – Private Forest

ARF – Anchal Reserved Forest

VRF – Village Reserved Forest

WLS – Wild Life Sanctuary

NP – National Park

USF – Unclassified State Forest



Agricultural Practices in Arunachal Pradesh

According to the state Department of Agriculture, the total area under agricultural operation in the state is 3,43,719 ha (2005-06), while the net sown area is 2,03,600 ha, which accounts for about 2.5% of the total geographical area of the state. Due to diverse physiographic and agro-climatic factors the agricultural practices in the state differ from other states in India.

 The prevalent agricultural practices in Arunachal Pradesh include both shifting cultivation (jhum) and sedentary agriculture. Jhum cultivation is the predominant agricultural practice in the state and is more widespread in the upland areas. Though the socio-economic and cultural background of the communities practicing jhum cultivation is far from homogenous, the system of cultivation is more or less same everywhere. The method of cultivation is antiquated and there has hardly been any change as far as traditional system of jhum landholding is concerned. The crops cultivated in jhum lands include food grains, vegetables, root crops and fruit species5. Settled agriculture is mainly found in lowland river banks and in the Apatani settlements in Ziro plateau. The latter is particularly well known for integrated wet-rice cultivation and pisciculture. The number of operational holdings under sedentary cultivation in the state is increasing, albeit at a very slow pace. In some upland areas, the tribes are combining shifting cultivation with settled terrace cultivation, which is again subject to water availability. While wet-rice is cultivated in terraced fields, dry upland crops like maize and millet are cultivated in jhum areas. Some upland tribes like the Monpas and Sherdukpens are more in favour of terrace cultivation near permanent villages while others are content with traditional jhuming and fallowing of forest lands.

The agro-ecosystems in Arunachal Pradesh include jhum, wet cultivation, horticulture, plantations and home gardens. Of these the last three are of much significance as far as agroforestry is concerned.

Brief description of each of the above agro-ecosystems is given below:

The Jhum Ecosystem

Jhum cultivation is the most common and traditional livelihood of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. The abundance of forested land has made the tribes compulsive jhum cultivators. Jhum has become an integral part of the life and society of the people in the state. Usually, after selecting a forest patch for jhum cultivation, all tall trees are slashed. The stumps of trees are usually left on the ground. The undergrowth is burnt for blanket cleaning as well as for keeping the nutrients captivated in forest remnants in situ. Once the land is cleared, the soil is lightly hoed and the seeds are dibbled in lined holes. All these are done by manual labour with the help of indigenous tools. Use of animal power and ploughs to till the land is unheard of. Since rain is rather copious in the state, the crops do not need irrigation; neither the farmers have to do much except occasional weeding till the crop matures. No external fertilizer is used to enhance crop yield. The crops are harvested as and when they mature. Harvested crops are stored in small granaries that are raised much above the ground to keep the crops dry. The granaries are usually made of bamboo and mud that stand on bamboo poles and are thatched by local palm leaves.

The Jhum cultivators, who are locally known as jhumias, are supposed to be self sufficient as far as their food requirement is concerned. They grow cereal crops, vegetables, root crops and fruits in separate patches and sometimes, mixed with cereals. While the main crops cultivated are rice, maize, and millets, the subsidiary crops include arum, ginger, chili, mustard, vegetables and fruits such as orange, papaya, banana and pineapple. Some tribes prefer to cultivate only food crops and annual vegetables and are not in favour of planting fruit trees since those plants may not bear fruits during their stay in a particular plot. But there are others who return to a plot repeatedly and so plant fruit trees in the hope of future gain.

The jhum ecosystem is based on a cycle of forest-agriculture-forest. The cycle may be repeated two or more times in a single plot depending upon the pressure of population. Traditionally the jhumias cultivate a plot for one to two years or as long as they get sufficient yield, and leave the area in search of fresh plot in another section of forest as and when they feel it necessary. Earlier, when the number of jhumias was less, many of them never returned to a plot second time. Secondary forests regenerated in those plots and the soil nutrients lost due to human interference were restored by natural process. Even if the jhumias returned to the same plot, it was not usually before a gap of ten years. By that time, the trees were tall enough to give the area an appearance of forest and the soil too was in better shape. The shifting communities used their traditional knowledge of forest fallowing to take the advantage of repeat visit. As in any other shifting agriculture system, “the jhum system is based upon capitalizing upon the soil fertility build-up during the natural forest fallow development, without any human inputs into its management”6.

However, situation in a major part of the state forest is rather critical at present. The pressure of increasing population is felt everywhere. Arunachal Pradesh is no exception. The density of population in the state though still very low by Indian standard (13 persons per sq. km. 2001), it has increased by 3 persons per sq. km in the last decade. The number of people who depend on jhum cultivation has also increased visibly. The jhumias con no longer afford to leave a gap of ten or more years before they return to a previously cultivated plot. In many places, the gap has come down to five years, and in some areas, the jhumias are returning to a plot after a short fallowing for three years. The frequent visit may provide food to the people who have no other options left, but it is causing irreparable damage to the forest ecosystem. Over a major part of the lowland districts in Arunachal Pradesh ranging from the East Kameng in the west to East Siang in the east the forests are so degenerated due to years of jhuming that large trees do not appear at all. The erstwhile forests are now replaced by bushy undergrowth and grassy patches. very close due to over-exploitation of the forests. The situation in places has become so alarming that shifting cultivation in the state is now causing some sort of ‘tragedy of commons’, since the users of common forests do not manage them adequately. However, most of the traditional village councils have now accepted the court ruling on timber trade and are trying to reconcile with the guidelines set by the state forestry and horticulture departments.

Wet Cultivation

Wetland rice agroecosystem though not as extensive as jhum ecosystem, is prevalent in comparatively low altitude areas. Wet rice cultivation is a complementary system to jhum and is practiced on, both man-made terraces and valley flats. The system is restricted, but crop yields are far better in the system due to higher fertility status of soil. Unlike jhum system, wet rice agroecosystem ensures crop yield year after year from the same piece of land and encourages the formation of permanent villages. It is centuries-old practice in the Ziro plateau area of Lower Subansiri district and in the valleys of Dibang, Lohit and Noa-Dihing rivers. The Apatani tribe of Lower Subansiri district has acquired considerable expertise in wetland rice cultivation. Of late, the Chakma expatriates settled in the floodplains of the Noa-Dihing river in Changlang district have transformed the landscape by introducing wet rice cultivation on river banks. The Nepali settlers in Arunachal Pradesh have introduced terraced wet rice cultivation in comparatively high altitude areas. The Chakma and Nepali settlers are efficient rice growers. The show higher efficiency in crop production than the local tribes.

Like jhum, wet rice cultivation too requires collective effort to maintain it. The Apatanis with their cooperative effort under the supervision of village council have optimized the use of water as well as nutrients in their rice land7. Land management practices and water management system of the Apatanis are quite scientific in nature. The terraces in the main valley are quite broad, perfectly leveled and provided with strong bunds8. Usually indigenous rice and finger millets are grown in these terraces. The latter are grown on old terraces. To increase cropping intensity, vegetables, potato, mustard, pea, etc are also cultivated in rice agroecosystem. Since 1970 power tillers and tractors are being used for rice cultivation.

The Apatanis have skillfully integrated pisciculture with rice cultivation. The rice-cum–fish culture was introduced in the plateau in 1965. In the same year bullock power was also introduced in the rice fields. The integrated rice-cum-fish cultivation system is gaining popularity in the region because the system assures better return and higher income from unit arable land than from rice cultivation alone. For composite fish culture the site is selected on the basis of regular supply of irrigation water and fairly high rainfall. In this system fishes are cultured for a period of 3 months and are harvested thereafter by simply blocking the irrigation channel or lowering the level of water. The standing crop of rice takes another 30-40 days to ripe. The fish production from such fields varies from 150 kg -200 kg/ha while rice production ranges from 1500 kg to 2500 kg/ha10. Thus, wet rice ecosystem in some of the valleys and plateaus of the state ensures steady supply of two staple diets of the region, namely rice and fish.

Horticulture, Plantation and Home Gardens

The geographic, macro and microclimatic variations between and within cropping zones, and community landownership tradition in the state are conducive for horticultural and plantation crops. The agro-climatic condition in the state is ideal for fruits, nuts, medicinal and aromatic plants, mushrooms, spices and a large variety of flowers. The Lemon, pineapple, apple, kiwi, walnut, mushroom and various vegetables are natives of the state. Many of these native crops have now become commercial crops fit to be raised in large orchards, plantations and home gardens. The tribal communities in the state, particularly those inhabiting the middle and high hills have a long tradition of integrating horticultural crops in their indigenous farming system. Many cultivated crops, particularly spices and fruits adapt naturally to the soil and climate prevalent in the state and there is enormous scope for further crop improvement and hybridization. Oranges of Wakro in Lohit district and kiwis of Dirang in West Kameng provide ample proof of successful adaptation of crops on commercial line11.

Status of Agriculture in Arunachal Pradesh

The state of Arunachal Pradesh has a geographical area of 83,743 sq km, out of which only 3,43,719 ha is under agricultural operation (inclusive of both shifting cultivation and settled agriculture). The net sown area is 2,03,600 ha, which accounts for only 2.5 per cent of the total area of the state.

 The agro-climatic condition in the state is favourable for the production of both summer and winter crops. Apart from cereal crops like wet rice, maize, millets and wheat, the state also produces pulses, oilseeds, potato, ginger and vegetables in substantial quantity. The table given below shows the crop production level in the state during 2005-06.

                                                Table 2
        Crop Production Level in Arunachal Pradesh During 2005-06

Sl.No.    Crops                         Area in ha                   Production (MT)

  1.        Rice                              122267                             146191

  2.        Maize                             41863                               57898

  3.        Millets                            22802                               22376

  4.        Wheat                               3976                                6140

  5.        Pulses                               7720                                8285

  6.        Oil Seeds                        27568                              23695

  7.        Potato                               3963                              29838

  8.        Ginger                               4814                              33326

  9.        Vegetables                      15992                              57568   

Source: Department of Agriculture, Government of Arunachal Pradesh.


The state produces a number of commercial crops like maize, oilseeds, potato, ginger and vegetables.

The strategies adopted by the state towards agricultural development and achieving food security are12:

            ·   Progressively wean away farmers from shifting cultivation to sedentary cultivation for self-sufficiency in food, horticultural and commercial crops,

            ·   Area expansion with higher cropping intensity,

            ·   Encourage organic farming,

            ·   Commercialization of agriculture by ensuring timely availability of quality inputs, extension services and encouraging farm mechanization.

            ·   Creation of market infrastructure, storage facility and transportation facilities,

            ·   Encourage setting up of agro-processing units and minimize post harvest losses.

All said and done, it is a long way to achieve the targets mentioned above by implementing strategies outlined by the experts. Meanwhile, the main task will be converting jhum cultivators into settled farmers and transforming jhum fallows into permanent fruit orchards by integrating agroforestry with shifting cultivation.


Scope of Agroforestry in Arunachal Pradesh

The concept of agroforestry is rather new in the state. The local people are so overly dependent on, and at times obsessed with shifting cultivation that they turn a blind eye to recognize the need and importance of agroforestry. For quite some time the state authorities are trying to wean away the farming communities from the traditional practice of shifting cultivation, but with little success. According to environment and agriculture scientists (of the North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST), Itanagar, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, North Eastern Hill Region (ICAR-NEHR, Shillong, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED), Itanagar and Almora, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), etc.), agro-forestry can be a viable alternative to the age-old shifting cultivation practices in the state.

Agroforestry has both ecological and economic components and to qualify as agro-forestry there must be interaction between woody and non-woody components, such as timber trees/crops and/or livestock (ICRAF). Since agro-forestry has the potential to address many land use problems, many research workers have developed and suggested various agro-forestry based land use models. These include, there tier agri- silver- horti-pastoral model and sloping Agricultural land technology (SALT). Both are directed at weaning the people particularly forest-dwellers from the shifting cultivation.

Apart from the two models mentioned above, home garden is also advocated as an alternative to jhum cultivation14. Home gardens based on areca-nut, betel leaf, banana and black pepper are practiced quite successfully in the neighbouhood of Arunachal Pradesh, namely, in Karbi Anglong hills of Assam and Meghalaya hills. Home garden, if integrated with pig and poultry rearing, can be a successful model of agroforestry in the state. Considering the popularity and high market price of areca nut, betel leaf and black pepper in the region and elsewhere, raising these crops in home gardens can be remunerative. Apart from home garden and the two models of agroforestry described above, experts have also suggested different combinations like silvi-horticulture, silvi-pastoral, agri-horti-pastoral and multi-purpose tree production systems to be developed in the state15.

Agroforestry Practices in Arunachal Pradesh

Agroforestry in the state has been initiated by the Departments of Agriculture and Horticulture. It is mainly the Department of Horticulture which is promoting the practice of agroforestry by way of fruit, spices and tea plantations, floriculture and home gardens. The Department of Forest, though do not have separate units or projects for agroforestry development, it has some contribution in this regard by initiating and encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants.

Agroforestry practices in Arunachal Pradesh are still at a nascent stage. A preliminary survey on agroforestry practices in Arunachal Pradesh has been done by the author in select districts of the state. Case studies have been done in three districts located in the eastern, central and western sectors at three different agroclimatic zones in the mid-hills, valleys and high hills: namely, Lohit district in the eastern sector, Lower Subansiri district in the central sector, and Tawang district in the western sector. During field visit, it was observed that the district level agriculture offices have identified areas and tree-crop combinations to be tried in project areas under ‘Watershed Development Projects in Shifting Cultivation Areas as well as Rain-fed Areas’ (NWDPRA/WDPSCA). In the district of Lohit in the eastern part of the state, where jhum cultivation is widely practiced, five agroforestry projects have been undertaken during Xth Plan and altogether 210 ha of jhum fallows are brought under agroforestry. In the same period, area under jhum rice cultivation in the district is 800 ha. It is expected that part of the afore-mentioned jhum land will be brought under agroforestry project in the next plan period.

Among the agroforestry projects in Lohit district, the orange plantations in Wakro circle are most successful. During fieldwork it has been observed that the Miju Mishmi community of Wakro has accepted and participated in the project in right earnest.

The Lower Subansiri district in the Central part of the state is well-known for wet rice cultivation, particularly in Ziro plateau area. The Apatanis of the district, though settled agriculturists, are well acquainted with agroforestry practices and has a traditional way of classifying forests, agricultural land and settled areas according to land use type and purpose.

Though Jhum cultivation is not as widespread in Lower Subansiri as in its neighbouring districts, agroforestry has already been introduced in the district to reclaim deforested areas and 1020 ha of land has been brought under agroforestry during the plan.

The Tawang district is located in the extreme north-western part of the state. In this district shifting cultivation is not the main reason behind the disappearance of forests.The cold climate in the high hills generates great demand for firewood and the local people are heavily dependant on forests for firewood. The district was once a repository of ban oak forest, blue pine forest, mixed coniferous forest, birch-fir forest and birch-rhododendron scrub forest. All the forests are diminishing now and the ban oak forest is worst hit due to extraction of firewood. Oak trees are most favoured as firewood and the species are disappearing very rapidly. The junipers are also affected due to massive collection of leaves and branches for burning during religious rituals in monasteries and households. Taxus baccata is collected indiscriminately due to their medicinal value. Regeneration of forests is adversely affected due to frequent forest fire and heavy grazing by domestic cattle. Even the pasturelands are under great pressure due to rise in the number of cattle and other domesticated animals. Thus, a large part of the forests and grasslands in the district have either disappeared or degenerated due to human interference. Practice of agroforestry can come to the rescue of the distressed forests and at the same time can fulfill local needs.

The land utilization pattern in Tawang district (2006-07) shows that ans 280 has ont of 6653. ha area under cultivation has been brought under agro-forestry. Like the Apatanis, the Monpa community of Tawang too believe in the concept of sacred groves and protects pieces of forests as sacred areas.

 The horticulture experts in the state are promoting agroforestry in a big way. During the year 2007-08, the total area under horticultural crops in the state was 78,259 ha out of which 61,743 ha was under fruit plantation and 16,516 ha was under spices cultivation.

 In an effort to integrate horticulture with floriculture and cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants, the state has adopted several central and state sponsored schemes. Under the centrally sponsored Technology Mission for Integrated Horticulture16, 12,356 ha of area has been brought under fruits, vegetables and floriculture. Several schemes of Integrated Development of Community/Village Fruits Farm Nursery have been taken up to grow fruit trees in Rai Balo (1200 ha), Pasighat (200 ha) and Ambam (18.5 ha). Orange gardens have been established in Daporijo (10 ha), and Seppa (10 ha) and new technology for cultivation of kiwi fruits has been introduced in Bomdila. In Pasighat and Seppa 1950 ha and 990 ha respectively of jhum land has been brought under integrated fruit nursery and plantation. National project on orange farming has been taken up in Yupia, Ziro, Aalo, Pasighat, Roing,Tezu, Khonsa and Chimpu. Besides, coconut development project has been taken up on 19 ha of land in Changlang and Khonsa17.

 In addition to above-mentioned schemes, the state has also started Bamboo Mission18 to bring jhum fallows under bamboo forests. Under Bamboo Mission, provisions have been made for planting in non-forest areas, centralized nursery, Kisan nursery, Mahila nursery, area (captive) plantation, improvement of existing stocks, training of farmers and field functionaries, workshop, pest and disease management, micro-irrigation in non-forest area, innovation intervention, participation in trade fairs and conducting market survey.

As for the medicinal plants, the forest department has taken up the responsibility to start medicinal plantations. For instance, at Tezu in Lohit Forest Division, various species with medicinal value have been planted through artificial regeneration. The most valued medicinal plants in the hilly region are Taxus baccata, Coptis teeta (Mishmi teeta), and Andrographis panniculata (chirata). People in the state have indigenous knowledge of the use and value of the medicinal plants found locally. However, indiscriminate grazing, haphazard harvesting and lack of adequate protection measures have endangered many of them. Some of the rare species are already on the verge of extinction.


   1.  Arunachal Pradesh: At A Glance, Official Web Page, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, 2008.

   2.  Ives, J. & Messerli, B. 1989

   3.  Elwin, V. A Philosophy for NEFA, published on behalf of Advisor to the Governor of Assam, Shillong, 1959.

   4.  The Arunachal Times, Itanagar, 31st July, 2006.

   5.  Sundriyal, R.C., “Hill Agro-Ecosystem and Sustainable Development in Arunachal Pradesh” in Arunachal Forest News, 19, (1 & 2) 2001.

   6.  Ramakrishnan, P.S., “Landuse Dynamics and Sustainable Landscape Development in Arunachal Pradesh” in Arunachal Pradesh: Environmental Planning and Sustainable Development, edited by Sundriyal, R.C., Singh, Trilochan and Sinha G.N., Himavikas, Occasional Publication No. 16:67-85, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora, 2002.

   7.  ibid.

   8.  Singh, K.A. and Bag, T.K., “Some Relevant Farming Practices for Arunachal Pradesh’ in Arunachal Pradesh: Environmental Planning and Sustainable Development, edited by Sundriyal, R.C., Singh, Trilochan, and Sinha, G.N., Himavikas, Occasional Publication No. 16: 67-85, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora, 2002.

   9.  Choudhury, et al, “Rice-based Farming of Apatani – An Efficient Indigenous System of Hill Farming” in Indian Journal of Hill Farming, 6(1): 93-102, 1993.

10.  Blue Revolution (Fish Culture) in Lower Subansiri District, Arunachal Pradesh, Department of Fisheries, sponsored by Atma, Farmers Training Centre, Ziro, 2006.

11.  Annual Report 2007-08, Department of Horticulture, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, 2008.

12.  Arunachal Agriculture 2006, Department of Agriculture, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, 2006.

13.  Jamir, S. et al, “Improving Jhum System Performance with Multipurpose Hedgement Introduction in North East India” in Research for Mountain Development: Some Initiatives and Accomplishments, pp. 83-98. Himavikas Publication No. 12, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora, 1999.

14.  Maikhuri, R.K. and Ramakrishnan, P.S. (1990), “Ecological Analysis of a Cluster of Villages Emphasizing Land Use of Different Tribes in North-East India” in Agroecosytems, 17:24-39, 1990.

15.  Deori, M.L., “Agroforestry in Jhum Lands of Arunachal Pradesh”. Arunachal Forest News, 10 (1&2): 21-25, 1992

16.  Annual Report – 2007-08, Department of Horticulture, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, 2008.

17.  ibid.

18.  ibid.



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