Global Warming: Tamenglong farmers giving up jhum cultivation amid rising heat

Amid the changing climatic condition, most farmers in the district have given up the traditional jhum cultivation, their main source of livelihood, and shifted to daily wage work or even small farming.

ByDaniel Kamei

Updated 30 Jul 2023, 3:15 pm

(Photo: Daniel_Kamei_IFP)
(Photo: Daniel_Kamei_IFP)


Global warming is slowly but surely affecting everyone under the sun and it is no different for the farmers of Manipur's hilly Tamenglong district. Owing to the ever-rising temperature, most farmers in the district have given up the traditional practive of jhum cultivation, their main source of livelihood, and shifted to daily wage work or even small farming.

One 58-year-old Moses Gonmei from Tabanglong village in Tamenglong district, who, for the better part of his life, has been depending on jhum cultivation to support his family, said that the change in temperature and fluctuating rainfall have made many of his villagers leave for the district headquarters to work on daily wages. Some have begun their own small farms, saying it is too hot to work in the jhum fields, he added.

Although many have considered jhum cultivation as the main source of livelihood for generations due to the condition of the land, which consists of mostly rough hilly terrain, many have shifted to vegetable farming or being a daily wage labourer in the district headquarters for livelihood, after considering much of the resources too, he said.

“Those remaining in the village and continuing with the jhum cultivation have reduced the size of their fields. What was cultivated by one family in 2000 is being cultivated by five households now,” Moses said.

The farmer from Tabanglong said he had large fields but could no longer work under the hot sun.

“I used to work on 5–6 acres in 2000 and get 800 tins of paddy, but now I can no longer work under the increasing heat of the sun. Now, I cultivate just about 2/3 of an acre and get 80 to 100 tins of paddy from my jhum field,” Moses said.

As rising temperatures, fluctuating rainfall, and more forest fires plague Tamenglong district, farmers find themselves unable to access climate adaptation initiatives. Drinking water sources in the last five years have been decreasing too, as most of the water bodies in the region have dried up, Moses said.

Taking a break from farming at his small residence, Moses looks tired talking under the sun. He, however, was keen to share his story with this Imphal Free Press reporter who visited him as a part of the survey on climate change impact on the environment in the state.

Another farmer, 58-year-old Kadirei Kamei from Namkaolong village, said that some of his villagers are giving up the traditional practice of jhum cultivation due to the ever-rising heat, making it difficult to work.

Like Moses, Kadirei also said that the size of jhum fields has decreased in their area over the last 10 years. What one household cultivated in the year 2000 is now being cultivated by four-five households in 2023, he said.

There was a time when people living in the hills thought jhum cultivation was their only source of livelihood, thus engaging in it. However, the change in climate conditions and the ever-growing global warming have made them think otherwise.

Kadirei said that farmers have to work hard all day, almost through the year, whether it is under the rain, the hot sun, or if they would profit from it, in jhum cultivation.


Jhum cultivation has never been an easy job - after cutting down trees from the areas to be cultivated, farmers have to wait for about two-three months to burn down the fallen trees/plants that are dry by now. Then, sowing of seeds begins after the celebration of the seed sowing festival, which today is celebrated as a state level Naga seed sowing festival- “LUI- NGAI- NI”.

Once the sowing of seeds is done, weeding is done about two-three times, all under the heat of the sun, before the harvest begins by October-November.

Above this, jhum cultivation is done a few kilometres away from the village, in the forest, and farmers have to walk to their fields to cultivate, some exhausted after walking four-five km to their fields.   

And one of the hardest parts is burning of the dry trees and other plants that were cut down a month or two before for the cultivation – one has to make sure that it does not spread beyond the cultivation area and turn into a wildfire which could affect the flora and fauna of the area.

However, with the expansion of urbanization and the introduction of various development schemes and projects, many farmers in the hills district like Tamenglong now prefer to work on daily wage jobs and no longer want to work again in the rain or under the hot sun.

While giving up jhum cultivation due to the hot sun, some people have also realized the importance of preserving forests and the environment.

Some farmers have established their own farms, including horticulture farms for bananas, oranges, litchi, turmeric, and ginger, while others have established their own businesses and gradually abandoned jhum cultivation.

One 48-year-old Reuben Kamei from a remote village of Longjon in Tousem sub-division also has a similar story to share. He told the Imphal Free Press said that his villagers are giving up jhum cultivation due to the changing temperature and erratic rainfall in recent years.

Reuben said village life has no other option except to work in the jhum field but the size of the fields has tremendously decreased. He also said that some farmers have begun farming of vegetables and other cash crops, leaving jhum cultivation while some villagers have opted for daily wage works in district headquarters.

Must Read: Jhum Cultivation – A relook at tradition and modern arguments

Dailong village authority chairman Keijinbui Gonmei said that no one wants to work in the jhum field these days. There is no other option left for the villagers but to work in the fields for their survival, he said.

The ever-soaring temperature and fluctuating rainfall have forced many young people to abandon jhum cultivation and head to towns and cities to earn their livelihood, he informed.

He said that Dailong village has been preserving the forest since ages to get wood, stone, cane and others for house construction in the forest.


Keijinbui said that as there is a continuous fluctuation of rainfall, change in temperatures and forest fires plaguing the district in the last 10 years, and the Dailong micro-hydel project has failed due to the shortage of water.

In the district headquarters, Tamenglong, 65-year-old man Athiu Panmei stated that Tamenglong has become hotter and hotter over the last five years. Plantation of tree saplings could be one major solution, he added.

Despite the hard work put into jhum cultivation, many farmers in some villages feel and consider that jhum cultivation is not yielding to their satisfaction and not profitable.

Must Read: Prospects of Coffee Farming in Manipur

Meanwhile, an official from the Manipur Agricultural department, told this reporter that there is no assistance or schemes available to help those farmers facing climate change and global warming.

The state government is running several schemes to provide seeds, fertilizer and heavy machinery to local farmers in Imphal valley. However, farmers in the hill district depend on natural and traditional systems.

An official from the Forest Division, Tamenglong, said that with an aim to stop jhum cultivation in Tamenglong and Noney districts, the forest department has started implementing the Agro- Forestry Plantation project as pilot/trial basis in 10 villages. 

Of the 10 villages, eight are in Tamei sub-division, while two villages are in Tamenglong sub-division, including Duiluan-Matung and Chiuluan villages.

The official said that the geographical areas of Tamenglong and Noney districts cover 3,865 square km where 88.02 per cent is forest areas as per forest survey of India report 2013.

Of the total 3865 sq km, the densely covered forest area is 279 sq km, moderately dense with 1766 sq km and open forest of 1820 sq km.

However, the forest department has no record of cultivated areas nor declining areas of jhum cultivation in Tamenglong district despite knowing the fact that the hill people have started leaving jhum cultivation.

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First published:


environmentjhum cultivationclimateglobal warminglivelihoodtamenglong weather change

Daniel Kamei

Daniel Kamei

IFP Correspondent, TAMENGLONG


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