Jhum cultivation, also known as shifting cultivation, is a local name for slash and burn agriculture practiced by the indigenous communities in mountainous areas
Indigenous farmers in the hilly district of Bandarban are very spending a blissful and busy time at this time of year, as their traditional Jhum cultivation has brought robust yields this year.
Jhum cultivation, also known as shifting cultivation, is a local name for slash and burn agriculture practiced by the indigenous communities in mountainous areas. A majority of the families living in Bandarban's seven upazilas, including Rowangchhari, Ruma, Thanchi, Lama and Ali Kadam, are involved in this farming.
This system involves clearing a piece of land by setting fire or clear felling, and using the area for growing crops of agricultural importance such as upland rice, vegetables or fruits. After a few cycles, the land loses fertility and a new area is chosen.
There are 11 indigenous groups in Bardarban, including Chakma, Marma, Khumi, Lusai, and most of them are heavily dependent on this age old cultivation method for collecting food crops for the whole year. Jhum farming provides them stocks for two-thirds of a year. This year, farmers are extra happy with a good yield of paddy.
Mendrong Mro, a cultivator in Bandarban's Chimbuk hill, said: "The high yields are a result of the favourable weather for Jhum cultivation. After stockpiling for ourselves, we will be able to make profits selling paddy this year."
According to Bandarban Agriculture Department, different varieties of paddy were cultivated in 8,895 hectares of Jhum lands with a target of 12,453 metric tons of yields. Last year, paddy was cultivated on 8,458 hectares of land.
Jhum cultivation begins at the end of April every year. After tending to the crops for three to four months, cultivators start harvesting at and the of September, which goes on till October. Like previous years, all the able members of indigenous families are spending a busy time now harvesting crops from hills.
Thong Prey Mro, another Jhum cultivator in Chimbuk area, said: "It is a great pleasure to see healthy crops across the field. Our hard labour is finally paying back with bumper crops, and there will be more than enough food for us for the coming year."
Apart from paddy, farmers also cultivated other vegetables such as pepper, gourd, eggplants, pumpkins, mustard, maize, and barley etc. Adequate rainfall and favourable weather fetched record production.
Dr AKM Nazmul Haque, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Bandarban, said: "The Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) is working with the indigenous farmers to increase production of paddy using modern technology in Jhum cultivation. Jhum cultivation using modern technology will bring more yields and thus socio-economic development of the indigenous populations."