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  • Title of document: Composite farming systems in an era of change: Nagaland, Northeast India.

    Authors: Malcolm Cairns and Harold Brookfield

    Ministry/Government Agency/Organisation: Department of Anthropology, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University, Canberra A.C.T., Australia.

    Year of publication: 2011

    Geographic focus: India


    Composite farming systems, first clearly identified by Rambo, are those in which radically different technologies are found together in a single farming complex. Data from diaries kept by groups of farming families in two Angami Naga villages in northeast India, Khonoma and smaller Tsiesema, detailing inputs into and outputs from wet-rice terraces and jhum (swidden) fields in the years 2000 and 2001, are presented and discussed to detail the workings of related but different composite systems. The 2000–2001 survey caught an important set of changes in midstream. Although returns to labour from the first-year jhums were much higher than those from the wet-rice terraces in 2000–2001, jhums were declining in significance as a growing non-farm economy joined the production of cool-climate vegetables and a spice crop for the Indian market as principal sources of livelihood. This story is told in the light of recent writing on the demise of swidden in the larger Southeast Asian region, and it is suggested that greater attention be paid to the composite systems, which are not uncommon in this region. This might help diversify what has perhaps been an oversimplified discussion.