2015 Volume 24 Issue 2 Pages 75-90
The transformation of land from swidden based to permanent agriculture is an important issue related to the sustainable livelihood and land use system of people in mountain environments. This paper reports the introduction of paddy rice cultivation and its consequences in four swiddener communities in Arunachal Pradesh, India, by focusing on cultivation techniques. The Indian government introduced paddy rice cultivation to Arunachal Pradesh in the 1950s by teaching the required techniques and supplying seed and agricultural tools. However, few swiddeners began rice cultivation because they disliked working in muddy paddies that could not produce non-rice crops. During the “green revolution” in the 1970s, many people decided to create paddy fields after observing the remarkably high yield of new rice varieties. Over 60 years of trial and error, many swiddener communities have developed a unique cultivation system suited to their local environment, while often learning from their neighboring communities of Ahom and Apatani that already practiced paddy rice cultivation. The paddy field has become a symbol of wealth and social status because of the high and stable yield of paddy rice and escalating land prices. However, the communities usually continue some aspects of swidden cultivation, because only a limited amount of land is suitable for paddy rice, people need non-rice crops, or because older people prefer swidden cultivation work and the taste of upland rice. This case study shows the importance of local needs and knowledge of skilled farmers in swidden transformation.