Almost the entire state has been or is being influenced under shifting cultivation, except for some pockets of valley bottomlands, and reserve forests. Shifting cultivation destroys the protective and productive vegetation in preference to a very brief period of immediate crop production and this results in soil loss and other consequential damages.
Commonly known as "Jhum" this practice was valid only during those days where human population was sparse and pressure on land was negligible. The Jhumming cycle then varied from 50 to 60 years but due to increase in population the Jhum cycle has now been reduce from 3-5 years in Western Meghalaya to 1-3 years in the central and Eastern parts. The rationale behind the persistency of the system greatly lies in its compatibility with the physical environment. This has made the land highly and productive and is alarmingly leading to extensive land degradation and imbalance in the socio - economic setup of the village communities
It has been reported that soil erosion from the hill slopes of 60-70% is as follows: -
1st year of Jhum - 146.6 tonnes/ha/yr
2nd year of Jhum - 170.2 tonnes/ha/yr
Abandoned Jhum - 30.2 tonnes/ha/yr
Bamboo forest - 8.2 tonnes/ha/yr
(Source Agriculture in NER - D.N.Borthakur)
Thus from the erosion point of view, the second of year of jhumming cycle is more hazardous than the first year. Here mixed cropping is the system of cultivation and the most important crops are chillies, sesame, tobacco, tapioca, etc. In the bun cultivation, the main crops are potato, sweet potato, millet, hill paddy, Cole crops, etc. crop rotation is follow during first, second and third years and left fallow from the fourth year onward.
(Year - 2001) District-Wise Jhummia Families of Meghalaya
|Name of District||Total Population (Rural)||Jhumia Families dependent on jhum||Jhumia Population dependent on jhum||Percentage of the jhumia population from the total rural population||Annual Area under Jhum in Sq. Km.||Percentage of Annual Jhum Area from the total geographical area|
|East Khasi Hills||383027||721||3605||0.94||6.20||0.23|
|West Khasi Hills||260595||5374||26870||10.31||46.19||0.88|
|East Garo Hills||211652||13630||68150||32.20||117.15||4.50|
|West Garo Hills||457422||18086||90430||19.77||155.45||4.19|
|South Garo Hills||90462||7900||39500||43.66||67.87||3.67|