International Journal of Agricultural Science and Research (IJASR) ISSN 2250-0057 Vol.

3 Issue 2, Jun 2013, 117-136 © TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.


Department of Agricultural Engineering, North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology, Nirjuli, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Department of Design, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, Guwahati, Assam, India

„Jhum‟, a shifting agriculture technique pertaining to North-Eastern Region of India (NERI) is traditionally being practiced by local tribes from ancient ages. This practice accounts almost 86% of total shifting cultivation area of India, imposes a severe ecological threat to environment in hilly areas in recent years. Demographic density, expansion of trade networks, economic and social change are now pushing „Jhum‟ into increasingly marginal. Most of the local people are gradually moving towards wet or settled cultivation as shifting cultivations hardly have any inclination to produce a surplus. Instead of this transition from shifting to settled cultivation, overall agricultural yield is insufficient to fulfil local need. Among predisposing factors at the background of low agricultural (both shifting and settled cultivations) productivity in NERI, use of local artisans made primitive tools/equipment which are ineffective/not well suited with user‟s physical capacity and incapable of providing better performance for higher efficiency and inadequate irrigation facility are few worthy to mention. Current paper highlights present situation of agricultural practice, socio-economic-ecological changes due to transition from traditional to settle cultivation in NERI and root causes of low agricultural productivity of this region following extensive literature review. This paper has also been aimed to demonstrate existing scenario of ergonomic interventions and future direction to come up with better ergonomic design strategies for improvement of agricultural hand tools and machines for making NERI as self-dependent foodgrains producer.

KEYWORDS: Agriculture, Shifting Cultivation, Settled Cultivation, Socio-Economic, North-Eastern Region,

Indian Agricultural sector has been undergoing astonishing changes since 1950s. The record production of foodgrains from 50 million tons in 1950 to 241 million tonnes in 2009-10 is hailed as a breakthrough in Indian agriculture (Anonymous 2011). It is a testimony to the resilience of Indian agriculture moving towards sustainable agriculture production. However, pattern of agricultural growth is uneven all over India and also there are disparities among regions, sectors and farming communities. Particularly, North-Eastern Region of India (NERI), comprises of the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, are lagging behind, although endowed with rich natural resources. Low productivity is due to many limitations viz. prevalence of shifting cultivation, hilly terrain, unpredictable climate changes, low levels of modern input use, poor infrastructure etc. (Karmakar 2008; Barah 2006). Shifting cultivation in some form or other is still in vogue as a whole in NERI and is being extensively practiced by more than 100 tribal ethnic minorities (Singh et al. 1996; Ramakrishnan 1993). In shifting agriculture natural vegetation is cut down and burnt as a means of clearing land for cultivation. Notion of slash-and-burn shifting cultivation (locally called as


T. Patel, S. Karmakar, J.Sanjog , Surendra Kumar & A. Chowdhury

„jhum‟) or „swidden‟ agriculture has a long and checkered history (Doolittle 2004). Tribal p eople involved in this practices are known as „Jhumiyas‟ (Choudhury 2004) and they are linguistically and culturally distinct from one another with their own languages and cultural characteristics. Geographical Location and Climatic Conditions of NERI Geographically, NERI stretches between 21°50‟ and 29°34‟ N latitude and 85°34‟ and 97°50‟ E longitude. This region is covering a geographic area of 2,55,143 sq. km and holding a population of 38 million, which are 8% and 3.85% of area and population of whole India, respectively. Most marked characteristics of this region are large rural population (89.86%), huge tribal inhabitants (Irshad Ali and Das 2003) and wide area covered under forests (63.9%) (Mishra and Sharma 2001). This region has infinite variety of its geographical setting. Out of 26.2 million hectare geographical area, 10.8% has an elevation between 300 m and 600 m, 17.9% between 600 m and 1200 m and 28.3% more than 1200 m above mean sea level (Das et al. 2009). Here, average annual rainfall varies from 2000 to 4000 mm, received mainly from south-west monsoon from middle of May and continues till October. World highest rainfall area also falls within this region i.e. Mawsinram/Cherrapunjee (Mishra and Satapathy 2003). NERI shows great variation in temperature throughout the year from 15oC to 32oC in summer and 0oC to 26oC in winter. Scientific community now-a-days are progressively using various regional models to study and analyze local climate changes (Dash et al. 2006; Singh and Oh 2007; Rupa Kumar et al. 2006; Yadav et al. 2010; Dash et al. 2012). Agricultural yields are more unstable in rain-fed areas than irrigated ones due to unpredictable climate changes. An estimated 3.5 million hectare land which has under rain-fed cultivation, accounts for about 30% of the total area under cultivation (Ravindranath et al. 2011). Rain-fed lands suffer from a number of biophysical and socio-economic restrictions such as low and erratic rainfall, low level of input use and technology, low draft power availability, land degradation, resource poor farmers and inadequate credit availability (Venkateswarlu 2011). Here, agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate changes, and therefore any significant change in weather may affect the agriculture production and consequently local food supply. Furthermore, hilly terrains with steep slopes and uneven topology, less plain land area etc. are also responsible of poor agriculture yields. Types of Agriculture Systems Hilly terrain and pattern of land availability in NERI has led two distinct agriculture practices, viz., settled cultivation in plain land, valleys, foothills and terraced slopes; and shifting cultivation on hill slopes. Due to prevalence of mountainous terrain, settled cultivation constitutes only a small portion of the total cultivated land and is mostly confined to valley only. Around half a million hectare land and nearly 600,000 families are involved in shifting cultivation all over India. Out of this, 90% are from north-eastern states (Keitzer 2001). In fact, whole of NERI can be appropriately termed as „the land of shifting cultivators‟. Shifting cultivation area practiced in this region is nearly 19.91 lakh ha and it is approximately 83.73% of the total shifting cultivation area in India (GOI 2000; Mandal 2011). However, only 0.32 percent of total geographical area of India comes under shifting cultivation. On an average, estimated 38.69 thousand hectare area is set under shifting cultivation every year and 4, 43,336 families earn their livelihood from such practice (Tripathi and Barik 2003). Area of shifting cultivation and number of families involved under this practice in NERI are shown in Table 1.

Socio-Economic and Environmental Changes with Transition from Shifting to Settled Cultivation in North-Eastern India: An Ergonomics Perspective


Table 1: Statistics of Shifting Cultivation in NERI Annual Area Under Shifting Cultivation (‘000 ha) Minimum Area Under Jhum at a Given Time (‘000 ha) Annual Area as % of Geog. Area 1.00 4.56 2.68 3.37 2.94 4.49 2.16 Total Area as % of Geog. Area 3.04 32.44 4.47 18.46 28.65 36.87 20.71 Jhum Land Per Tribal Family (ha) 1.29 1.20 1.29 1.01 1.26 0.16 0.51


Fallow Period (Years) 3-10 2-10 4-7 5-7 3-4 5-8 5-9

No. of Families Involved 54000 58000 70000 52000 50000 116000 43000

Arunachal 70.0 210 Pradesh Assam 69.6 139 Manipur 90.0 360 Meghalaya 53.0 265 Mizoram 63.0 189 Nagaland 19.0 191 Tripura 22.3 112 (Source: Anonymous 2009, Maithani 2005)

Crop cultivation practices in NERI differ from that of plain areas in India. Practice of shifting cultivation (Jhum), a primitive type of agriculture which has been prevailing as the main agricultural practice since ancient ages, is now gradually being taken over by wet or settled cultivation. As shifting cultivation hardly has any capacity to fulfill baseline requirement, transition from shifting to settled cultivation are happening in an accelerated fashion in recent years. Instead of this, overall agricultural yield is insufficient to fulfill local need. Among many factors responsible for lower crop yield here, few are prevalence of shifting cultivation, hilly terrain, unpredictable climate changes, low levels of modern input use, poor infrastructure etc. Moreover, anthropological, socio-cultural and economical characteristics of local farmers are also of hindrance for blind adoption of tools/technology copied or transplanted from other geographical region. With this background, in present review an attempt has been made to highlight socio-economic changes due to transition from traditional to settled cultivation in NERI and finds out root causes of low agricultural productivity of this region. Effort has also been made to demonstrate existing scenario of ergonomic interventions in agriculture of NERI and to draw future directions to come up with better ergonomic design strategies for improvement of agricultural hand-tools and machines for making NERI as self-dependent food grain producer.

Systematic approach was adopted to search published literatures/articles written in English language from electronic databases: sciencedirect, springerLink, tandfonline, pubmed, newspapers etc. Available printed journals articles and books were also gone through. All publications identified following online literature search were studied thoroughly at least by the titles and abstracts. Articles which deal with shifting cultivation, settled cultivation, socio-economic changes, transition from shifting to settled cultivation, anthropometry of farm workers, accident and injuries while performing agricultural activity, farming system, musculoskeletal disorders of agricultural worker, ergonomics intervention etc. related to NERI were given more emphasis during review. A total of 187 studies, potentially met our selection criteria were further reviewed. Duplicate articles obtained from different database were discarded and finally abstracted. Finally, for present review paper, data were synthesized and organized from 133 previous studies done by various researchers.

Shifting cultivation is still one of the most important land use practice over large areas of the tropics and subtropics (Cairns and Garrity 1999; Craswell et al. 1997; Eastmond and Faust 2006; Ramakrishnan 1992; Stromgaard


T. Patel, S. Karmakar, J.Sanjog , Surendra Kumar & A. Chowdhury

1992; Thomaz 2009; Warner 1991). Life and culture of ethnic people of hilly areas of NERI depend to a great extent on „jhum‟ cultivation. Shifting cultivation is described as a dominant economy of the „jhummias‟ characterized by a rotation of fields rather than of crops. Tools/Techniques Used Tools used during the prehistoric age were fire-stone, axes and hoes. In today‟s scenario absence of draught animals, scarcity of fertilizer, lack of modern tools compelled local people to use human power, iron made tools and knives as replacement of stone tools of ancient ages. To clear and fertilize the site for cultivation, shifting agriculture involves cutting down partially or fully a patch of forest, leaving them to dry and then burning in dry season (Nath et al. 2005). In the cleared land, seeds are dibbled into holes or broadcast without using ploughs or animal power for crop production (Jeeva et al. 2006). After crop harvesting, used field is left to lie “fallow” for periods of varying length to allow for natural succession that res ults in secondary forest (Rahman et al. 2009; Schmidt-Vogt 1999, Mertz et al. 2009; Wangpakapattanawong et al. 2010). This practice has an in-built mechanism of sustenance and conservation. However, due to anthropogenic pressure, demand of more food have cleared greater chunks of forests, fallow phase between two successive cropping phases has come down to even 2 to 3 years (Davari et al. 2010; Bruun et al. 2006; Styger et al. 2007; Delang 2002; Xu et al. 2009). This is adversely affecting eco-restoration and ecological process of forests (Myers 1988; Kiyoshi 1999). Shorter fallow periods are often allowing dominance of herbaceous weeds and soil erosion. As a result, yields are being adversely affected and gradually declining over a period of time.

Settled cultivation is the replacement of earlier shifting cultivation and it is actually a permanently maintained agricultural system. Out of total geographical area in NERI, 54.4% is under forest and about 14.5% is under settled cultivation (Mishra and Misra 2007). In this practice, cultivation is done by crop rotation, as distinct from plot (field) rotation. Main advantage of such cultivation is the consistency of crops yield for season after season in same site if climate and soil conditions permit. Loosening and breaking up (tilling) of the soil is generally done by animal power or mechanical power such as tractors, power tillers, mechanized ploughs, etc. Soil around existing plants is nurtured by hand tools or by using machine, to destroy weeds and to stimulate growth by increasing soil aeration and water infiltration. Tools/Techniques and Technology Used Rice is cultivated especially by different methods, viz., jhum land cultivation, wet rice cultivation and dry rain-fed terraced cultivation in hilly states of NERI. No mechanical tool is used for tilling at hilly slopes; in fact most of the work is done only by human power using traditional hand tools. However, shallow tube wells, tractors and power tillers are also being used in recent years in some parts of this region for wet rice and terrace cultivation. Pace of mechanization in NERI has seen a relatively slow progress over the years due to hilly topography, socio-economic conditions, small land holding, lack of farm machinery manufacturing industries etc. Failure for adoption of technology may be due to fragmental land, as 80% farmers belong to small and marginal category (Deb and Ray 2006). Small size tractors, power tillers and bullocks are being utilized in agriculture practice here. In fact, farm power available per unit cropped area in this region is nearly 0.67 kW ha-1, which is much below the national average of 1.15 kW ha-1 (Kaul 2001).

Socio-Economic and Environmental Changes with Transition from Shifting to Settled Cultivation in North-Eastern India: An Ergonomics Perspective


Shifting cultivation is characterized as “cafeteria system of cultivation”, where almost all the varieties of cereals and vegetables, together with tree crops, are grown in a single field. Development of agriculture and production of food grains in NERI is highly depending upon the custom, culture and food habit of the tribal people. Rituals and festivals are organized at various stages of the shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivators continue to depend on less productive forms of cultivation not because they are backward or ignorant, but they have no viable choice for alternative livelihoods. Recently, in Tripura state of NERI, land reforms have been accorded high priority with the aim of providing land to the tiller. The land-to-person ratio for the NE region (0.68 ha person-1) is much higher than the national average (0.32 ha person-1) (Anonymous 2011a). Although, NERI continues to be a net importer of foodgrains as despite covering 8.8% of the country‟s total geographical area, it produces only 1.5% of the country‟s total f oodgrains production. In recent times, population rise in many regions have made it necessary to go for transition for settled cultivation. It is clear from the data that in the period of 1970-71, net land under shifting agriculture which was recorded as 87220 but it was declined to 84002 ha in 1995-96. On the contrary, land under permanent agriculture has been increased from 28006 ha (in 1970-71) to 81281 ha (in 1995-96). Further, it was also noted that there was gradually decrease in net land per family in shifting cultivation and increase in permanent agriculture land per family from 1.10 to 0.7 and 0.35 to 0.74 ha family-1 respectively (Anonymous 2009). The standard of living of the people in the region, as measured by per capita availability of foodgrains, has lagged significantly behind the rest of the country. In 1991-92, the region‟s per capita availability of foodgrains was 154.84 kg annum-1 against all India 198.95 kg annum-1, a gap that widened to 42% by 1996-97 (Deb and Ray 2006). The Planning

Commission, Govt. of India started Watershed Development Project in Shifting Cultivation Areas (WDPSCA). The evaluation study implemented at Nagaland and Tripura states revealed the fact that shifting cultivation area has been reduced by 30%, about 27% Jhumias have stopped shifting practice and shifting area per family has been reduced from 0.84 ha to 0.56 ha due to transition from shifting to settled cultivation (DAC 2009). In fact, it was also reported that increase in paddy production of 13% and overall income of 25% of cultivators. Furthermore, in Arunachal Pradesh the Apatanis and Monpas tribe shifted permanently for settled cultivation, with scarifying continuation of their rituals and festivals, while their economic status has considerably improved. In recent decades, local people have become aware about ecological imbalance due to shifting cultivation. Certainly, this has come by phenomenal increase in the levels of literacy in the NERI, which was 20.4% in 1961 increased to 68.66% in 2001 higher than the national average of 65.50% (Gupta 2002). Even as the average literacy rate in this region is higher than the national average, despite, the literacy rate has not been translated into higher employability or productivity. Current practice of shifting cultivation is an extravagant and unscientific form of land use (Ranjan and Upadhyay 1999). In case of NERI, the area under shifting cultivation varies from 2.6% in Assam to 96.0% in Mizoram state of the net sown area (Sharma and Prasad 1994). Due to increase in population and consequent increase in demand for food, a drastic reduction of the shifting cultivation cycle is contributing to significant destruction of forest (Table 2) and consequently resulting in climate change, loss of biodiversity and adverse impact on other dimensions of broader ecosystem. Rahman et al. (2007) has pointed out that these negative downstream effects on environment are leading to poor agricultural productivity which particularly affects rural farmers. To mitigate the ecologically harmful effects and to provide other alternatives of livelihood to the local population, Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operations, Government of India has started socioeconomic up gradation of jhumia families in 8 th and 9th five year plan to encourage for sustainable agriculture but the results have been far from satisfactory.


T. Patel, S. Karmakar, J.Sanjog , Surendra Kumar & A. Chowdhury

Table 2: Ecological Changes of North-Eastern Hill Region of India Geographical Area (‘000 ha) Total Forest (‘000 ha) Forest Area as % of Geographical Area Forest Area Annual Decrease (%) 1991-1995 0.049 0.696 0.179 0.250 0.367 0.052 0.013 0.211 Loss (‘000 Tonnes Year-1) Soil 14490 12318 20430 14151 13041 7962 5954 88346 N+P+K 3.111 1.685 4.289 2.999 2.738 1.432 0.839 17.092


Arunachal 8360 6860 82.0 Pradesh Assam 7840 2400 30.6 Manipur 2230 1750 78.6 Meghalaya 2240 1570 70.0 Mizoram 2110 1860 88.1 Nagaland 1660 1440 86.2 Tripura 1050 550 52.8 Total 26200 16740 63.9 (Source: Mishra and Sharma 2001, Anonymous 1997)

In spite of implementation of rapid cutting-edge modern technology in all other parts of India, method of cultivation in NERI is still indigenous, primitive and pays back low productivity and income. Average annual income comes mainly from wage labor. However, increasing food demands for burgeoning population pressure is now altering the land-man ratio and compelling to adopt changes in agricultural practices viz., a transition from shifting to settled agriculture. However, shifting cultivation differs from settled cultivation (e.g., terrace cultivation) in many aspects such as ecological, economic and socio-cultural (Table 3). Ninan (1992) analyzed the economics of shifting (or 'jhum') cultivation vis-a-vis settled (terrace) cultivation in NERI. He found that returns of terrace cultivation was 22% more on basis of per household and 39% more for per capita when compared to jhum cultivation. Despite diversification of their economic activities, Jhumias earn meager income from shifting cultivation. Over last decade, the crop productivity has been declined to 50% even after using fertilizers and pesticides to some extent due to land and forest degradation (Mantel et al. 2006). Yields are almost equal to input values and farmers are facing food shortage of 2 to 6 months every year (Rezaul Karim and Mansor 2011).

In most countries, agriculture is recognized as one of the most hazardous industries. Working and living conditions of agricultural workers are generally poor in all over NERI. Very often, work efficiency is also poor. Heavy physical work, inadequate working methods, working techniques and tools not only cause unnecessary fatigue and occupational accidents, but also leads to low productivity. The improvement of safety, health, well-being and efficiency are basic requirements for prosperity of any community and ergonomics plays a very important role for this. For getting the existing scenario of ergonomic intervention in agriculture in NERI, detailed review of research work done by earlier researchers in diverse fields including anthropometry, biomechanics, tools/equipment design, accident and injury cases etc. have been felt mandatory by present authors. Researchers have shown that many risk factors in agricultural work can successfully be addressed/ prevented using ergonomics approaches (Lundqvist 1992; Lundqvist et al. 1992; Wick 1992; Miles and Steinke 1993).

Socio-Economic and Environmental Changes with Transition from Shifting to Settled Cultivation in North-Eastern India: An Ergonomics Perspective


Table 3: Comparison between Shifting Cultivation and Settled Cultivation Factor Shifting Cultivation Ecological Factor High High Low High Natural High Less risk Low Rain-fed Poorly managed No tillage Low Complex Economic Factor Labor Inorganic fertilizer Modern tools/machinery Monetary input-output Production/yield Land required Intensive Not used Not used Low Low Large(extensive cultivation) Socio-Cultural Factor Approach to cultivation Cropping pattern Harvesting pattern Integration of animal component Cultural value Slash and burn One rotation Multiple harvest Poorly integrated Traditional value Trees grown with crops More than one rotation Multiple harvest Well-integrated Intervention Systematic Used sometimes (very less) Rarely used High High Relatively less (Semiintensive cultivation) Settled Cultivation

Fragility Biodiversity Carbon sequestration Water erosion Regeneration Potential nutrient loss Pathogen/disease attack Energy source Irrigation Soil fertility management Tillage Carrying capacity of land Ecological status

Low Low (restricted) High Low Artificial/managed Low More risk High Moderate Well-managed Minimum tillage High Complex

Local adaptability More Less Diversity conserved Production sustained Sustainability (Source: Adopted and Modified from Arunachalam et al. 2002) Anthropometry Anthropometric data is required to design and construct tools, machines and workplaces which would be compatible for targeted user (Mebarki and Davies 1990; Klamklay et al. 2008). Designer must consider physical dimensions and human capabilities while designing farm equipment for better output and safety, because the man-machine interface compatibility is necessary for optimum performance of any system (Das and Grady 1983; Das and Sengupta 1996). A lack of anthropometric consideration in equipment design may lead to low productivity and work-related injuries (Botha and Bridger 1998). In many countries efforts are being made to establish an anthropometric database for different segments of population, such as civilians, military personnels, students and workers (Bolstad et al. 2001; Wang et al. 2002). In India


T. Patel, S. Karmakar, J.Sanjog , Surendra Kumar & A. Chowdhury

anthropometric data of farm workers have been collected and used by various researchers (Sen 1964; Sen et al. 1977; Gupta et al. 1983; Gite and Yadav 1989; Yadav et al. 1997; Victor et al. 2002; Dewangan et al. 2005; Fernandez and Uppugonduri 1992; Philip and Tewari 2000; Tewari et al. 2007; Tewari and Ailavadi 2002). Limited anthropometric data of female agricultural workers was also collected at southern and eastern India (Philip and Tewari 2000; Tewari and Ailavadi 2002) since they equally contribute in various agricultural operations and constituting 50.2% of the total agricultural labor force (Reddy et al. 19994). There is paucity of anthropometric data of agricultural workers of NERI. Available literature suggests that steps have been initiated only in recent past by few researchers (Dewangan et al. 2005, 2008 and 2010; Das 1970; Agrawal et al. 2010).) Dewangan et al. (2010) measured 76 body dimensions of 801 male agricultural workers of two states of NERI namely Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram for use in design of agricultural tools and equipments. They found mean stature and body weight of the total population was 162.0 cm and 56.1 kg respectively, however, for India it was reported to be 162.0 cm and 49.3 kg respectively (Gite and Yadav 1989). Similar type of study was carried out by Agrawal et al. (2010) for Meghalaya state of NERI, selecting 1027 (566 male and 461female) agricultural workers. They observed higher value for male, as average weight and stature was 10.1% and 6.9% more compared to female workers. Dewangan et al. (2005) also revealed similar variations in anthropometric data of various states of NERI. It has been found that database on anthropometric measurements of agricultural workers from NERI are very limited. Most of the farm operations are carried out manually by using locally made tools and equipment, manufactured by local artisans. Anthropometric data are hardly taken in to considerations, during making those hand tools by local artisans. Moreover, farm equipments developed and used in other parts of India cannot be introduced directly in NERI as anthropometric and biomechanical characteristics of NERI people are different from other population of India. Adopted implements need to be modified before introduction to suit agricultural workers of this region (Agrawal et al. 2010). Strength Database and Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders in NERI Almost 800 million hand tools are used by 260 million farm workers in India (Kumar et al. 2008). Many farm operations are performed by push/pull force (Tiwari et al. 2010). Dewangan et al. (2010) mentioned that very small attention has been given to operator‟s capabilities and limitations in the design of agricultural hand tools and equipment in India. For designing of such tools and equipment, knowledge or database of push/pull forces or leg/foot strength exerted by operator are found of immense importance to the designer (Agrawal et al. 2009) to prevent musculoskeletal injuries (Mital and Kumar 1998). Agriculture is an arduous profession therefore numerous types of work-related ailments also are reported such as respiratory diseases, noise-induced hearing loss and pesticide-related adverse health effect (Arcury and Quandt 2003; Arcury et al. 2002; Earle-Richardson et al. 2003; Kirkhorn and Schenker 2002; Lantz et al. 1994; McCurdy et al. 2003) Few countries keep a systematic record on specific data regarding work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Some studies from different occupational settings on MSDs among Indian workers have been carried out by various researchers (Pingle and Pabdit 2006; Mahajan et al. 2003; kar and Dhara 2007; Joshi et al. 2001; Habibi et al. 2008; Srivastava et al. 1987; Bihari et al. 1991 and 2011). Strength data of Indian agricultural workers have been measured and utilized by Gite and Chatterjee (1999), Gite and Yadav (1989), Mehta et al. (2007) and Tiwari et al. (2010). Prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among farmers in NERI is not well documented. Moreover, muscular strength data of agricultural workers of this region are limited (Dewangan et al. 2010; Agrawal et al. 2009). Adjusted or normalized strength data from other countries or from other regions of India could not be utilized for designing of tools and equipment for NERI people since the capability to exert maximum force to do the task depends on a person‟s race, body weight and

Socio-Economic and Environmental Changes with Transition from Shifting to Settled Cultivation in North-Eastern India: An Ergonomics Perspective


lifestyle (Gite and Singh 1997). Effective ergonomic interventions must be developed and implemented to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among farmers. Accident and Injuries Agricultural work related injuries are currently higher than injuries in any other industry all over the world (Yoder et al. 1989; Helmkamp and Lundstrom 2002). Similarly, agriculture sector also has the highest work related death rate among all types of industries (Purschwitz 1989; Purschwitz and Field 1990; Hayden et al. 1995; Pratt et al. 1996; Pickett et al. 1999). Injury risks among farm workers have been reported due to poor supervision, financial difficulties and lack of safety devices (DeMuri and Purschwitz 2000). While literatures on agricultural accidents in India are reported to a limited extent (Verma et al. 1978; Mohan and Patel 1992; Dewan and Saiyed 1998; Tiwari et al. 2002; Nag and Nag 2004), then it is wise to assume that there is scantly information regarding scenario in NERI. Prasanna Kumar and Dewangan (2009) reported agricultural accident incident rate of 6.39 per 1000 workers year-1 in NERI. It is higher than other regions of India which is 1.25/1000 workers year-1 (Tiwari et al. 2002). „Dao‟ being one o f the most commonly used hand tool for various farming operations in NERI, 30.32% of accident was reported for this hand tool only. One-third of the total accidents occurred during slashing of shrubs, about 24% occurred by mistake on the way while farmers were going to or returning back from agricultural fields and only one accident is reported for power tiller out of 155 numbers of accident (Prasanna Kumar and Dewangan 2009). Application of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals has been reported negligible in shifting cultivation and their use is also very limited in NERI (Dewangan et al. 2004). Therefore, no accident has been reported due to use of chemicals.

In earlier sections, highlights of NERI have been made regarding geographical location and climatic conditions; types of agricultural systems; tools/techniques used in shifting and settled cultivation; socio-economic-ecological changes due to transition from predominant shifting cultivation to gradually taking over settled farming practices; and ergonomics development to a number of important issues. Now, discussion will be concentrated on what the hindrances are to adopt settled agriculture against shifting one; what steps are to be taken to facilitate settled agriculture in NERI; responsibilities of state and central governments to control shifting cultivation; need of ergonomic intervention with adoption of advanced farming technology; etc. In NERI, economy is primarily agricultural which contributes about 30% to gross domestic product. At least 100 different indigenous tribes and over 620,000 families with their own languages and cultural characteristics inhabit here. They mainly depend on shifting cultivation for their subsistence (Ramakrishnan 1992). In fact, shifting cultivation is an ideal solution for agriculture in humid tropics, as long as the human population density is low and fallow periods are long enough to restore soil fertility (Watters 1971). Strikingly shifting cultivation is highly resilient in this region. Main indicators of poor agricultural growth in NERI include prevalence of traditional agricultural practices, low level of mechanization, small size of operational holdings (ranging from 0.60 ha in Tripura to 1.33 ha in Meghalaya as compared to 1.42 ha at all-India level), high vulnerability to natural calamities and degradation of prime agricultural land and poor irrigation (Barah 2006). Geophysical conditions limit horizontal expansion of cultivable land and for this reason percentage of cultivable area to the total geographical areas ranges from 2.2% in Arunachal Pradesh to 35.4% in Assam as compared to 43.3% at national level (Shaheen 2009; Barah 2006). As a result, the region is not able to produce adequate food grain to feed its own population (Mishra and Misra 2006). As a consequent, local people have low purchasing power which leads to smaller market size and perpetuating poverty and thus resultant social unrest. Under these circumstances,


T. Patel, S. Karmakar, J.Sanjog , Surendra Kumar & A. Chowdhury

innovative strategy for improving input usage is indeed an indispensable condition for increasing agricultural production with safety and wellbeing of farmers. The population of the NERI has quadrupled to a total of 40 million during the past half century (varying from 2.01% to 5.22% per annum, except in Assam and Tripura), which rendered the land-man ratio increasingly inverse (Barah 2006). Bulging proportion of small and marginal farmers trapped in the traditional low input agricultural practices, are subjected to economically unviable production systems (Binswanger and Barah 1980). These factors forcibly evicted from their shifting cultivation or transition from shifting to settled cultivation. Several rehabilitation schemes have been implemented by the state and central governments to control shifting cultivation such as Watershed Development Projects, Soil conservation schemes, Jhum Control Projects, New Land Use Policy Scheme etc. (Tripathi and Barik 2003). In addition, international agencies such as International Development Research Centre (IDRC)-Canada, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) - Nepal, and the World Bank are researching various aspects of Jhum cultivation to incentivize alternative sources of livelihood of Jhumias. Systematic study to find out the relationship between shifting and settled cultivation, present proportion of these two farming methods and impact on socio-economic status of ethnic people in NERI is rarely reported. Farmers have a number of constraints, problems or obstacles to switching over from jhum to settled agriculture such as lack of adequate capital for investment, lack of irrigational facilities and non-suitability of land for settlement (Patnaik 2008). In spite of this, a number of authors reported about willingness of jhumias to change over from jhum to settled agriculture (Dasgupta and Baneijee, 1992; Bose et al. 1982; Majumdar, 1980). Hence, it is no longer a matter of willingness or awareness of the problems. The most crucial issue is whether settled agriculture is a viable alternative to shifting cultivation. Ninan (1992) reported improved agricultural production, productivity and thus enhanced income of the tribal cultivators practicing settled agriculture in NERI. Roy and Kuri (2001) also pointed that wet rice cultivation sustained productivity and there was less risk of crop failure as compared to shifting cultivation. Since the process of transformation from tradition bound shifting cultivation to settle modern type of cultivation has never been easy to develop a viable and widely acceptable policy that can replace shifting cultivation, traditional agricultural practice need to be transformed through incremental, rather than attempting to radically change. Otherwise, dependence on jhooming will, however, continue until traditional and non-traditional cultivators are provided a viable livelihood options as effective alternatives sources to the farming community (Ramakrishnan 2001). Compared to other industries, ergonomic interventions and solutions have been late coming into agriculture (Fathallah 2010). In one hand, agricultural and allied sectors in India have benefitted from ergonomics, through standardization of agricultural equipment, ergonomic intervention in machine design, and health and safety legislation (safe workplace design and safety guidelines) as well as matching of implement with power source (Patel et al. 2012), on the other hand, development and application of ergonomics to a number of important issues has not got executed to NERI. Since agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions of farmers in NERI are different from other regions of India, their method of cultivation requires high physical exertion and drudgery. Therefore, farmers are subjected to occupational stress and injuries. The incident rate of agricultural accidents in Arunachal Pradesh was 3.84 compared to 1.12, 0.7, 0.23 and 0.38 per 1000 workers year-1 in eastern, northern, central and southern regions, respectively (Prasanna Kumar and Dewangan 2009; Nag and Nag 2004). One of the main reasons for high rate of accident incident may be due to use of primitive types hand tools/equipment manufactured by local artisans without application of ergonomic principles. In many instances, these

Socio-Economic and Environmental Changes with Transition from Shifting to Settled Cultivation in North-Eastern India: An Ergonomics Perspective


hand tools are low in working efficiency and often failed to reduce the drudgery of operations in hilly terrains (Agrawal et al. 2010). In order to achieve sustainable development, ergonomic interventions in agriculture with workers participation are paramount to get the crucial feedback on efficiency, comfort, and socio-cultural issues that may affect worker acceptance and understand barriers to adoption (Fathallah et al. 2006). Furthermore, integration of modern technology and ergonomics intervention can‟t be achieved in isolation without addressing the needs of the tribal populations. As discussed earlier that people of this region have a different agronomical characteristic than rest of India. Traditionally, only a small amount of attention has been given to the operator‟s capabilities and limitations in the design of agricultural hand tools and equipment in northeast India (Dewangan et al. 2005, 2008 and 2010; Agrawal et al. 2009 and 2010) due to lack of proper anthropometric and strength databases of local people. For development of agriculture in these areas, attention should also be given to proper land development so as to convert it to settle cultivation and design of necessity based user friendly tools and equipment to make it comfortable for performing various agricultural activities.

Following discussion about various dimensions of transition from shifting to settled agricultural practices in NERI along with problem statements in earlier sections, it is apparent that shifting cultivation is no longer productive and sustainable both for local people and for the nation( Barah 2006; Birthal et al 2006). Thus for sustainable agriculture; technology and knowledge based modern scientific inputs is required along with traditional wisdom (linking traditional practices and modern technology) to meet the people‟s need without eroding ecosystem. Having been realized and integrated into the mainstream economy, many tribal groups are moving spontaneously from shifting to settled cultivation systems for taking its advantage towards greater food and income security. Shifting cultivation is a unique feature of agriculture in the hilly region of NERI. Although, this practice is criticized due to low productivity and environmental diseconomies; continuance of shifting cultivation is closely linked to ecological, socio-economic, cultural identity and land tenure systems of tribal communities there (Deka and Sarmah 2010). Here, it is worthy to mention that the strategies for improvisation of agricultural practices through modern technological interventions should be always in tune with socio-cultural milieu of the local people of NERI to achieve definite benefit for socio-economic upliftment. Transfer of technologies for farm machineries, equipment and even for machine/tools of production lines raises many adverse issues on farmers‟ safety, comfort, working efficiency etc. but unfortunately very often overlooked. Application of ergonomic knowledge from various sub-disciplines of ergonomics e.g., agricultural ergonomics, occupational health and safety, environmental ergonomics and design-ergonomics might be useful for developing sustainable agricultural practices with better productivity and farmer‟s wellbeing. Anthropometric, biomechanical and environmental databases along with information regarding cause of injury/accidents, socio-economic status of ethnic people are basic requirements for design and development of appropriate tools/equipment but need based ergonomic interventions in NERI suffer from lack of all these databases. Therefore, database for anthropometry, strength and physical work capacity must be streamlined on a priority basis to intervene comprehensive and logistic user-friendly solutions to ensure workers strength, skills and abilities, through improved equipment and working methods. This in turn will direct multiplier effect on socio-economic transformation of tribes for sustainable development. Any meaningful developmental effort made by any agency (Government/NGOs) needs to have in a holistic approach based on ethical, ecological, economic and socio-cultural considerations with participatory model. Authors of the current paper wish success of the


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initiatives taken by the central and the states governments of India, for necessary financial and technical support to facilitate a shift from unsustainable to sustainable land-use practices to stimulate regional economy and promote agricultural growth.

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