The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: Chapter five: land tenure and agriculture
caption: the agricultural system
caption: felling trees in slash and burn
caption: preparing the fields after burning; working unit; rice sowing ceremony
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: Felling begins in January and continues until the middle of February, and this forms a minor peak period for the male section of the village labour-force. [7 [Record T86835]
text: January, February and March are dry months and the jungle is left to lie as long as possible to ensure a good burn-off. A thorough burning will not only lighten the labour of preparing the field for the crop, but will kill off weeds and their seeds in the soil and leave a thick layer of ash to be dug in as enrichment. Firing generally takes place in the last half of March, before spring showers can damp the felled jungle, but in a dry season it may be delayed until the beginning of April. 'Clean' fire is kindled with a fire-hearth and fire-thong and the fields are then lit with it block by block from the lowest point by (109) small parties of men. Lighting is often done in the late afternoon or evening. There is not only less wind then, so that the fields may burn more slowly and thoroughly, but the fires are more easily watched at night and the community is gathered in the village and ready in case of danger. Fires frequently get out of control and burn for great distances across country. [8 [Record T86836]
text: As soon as burning is completed the fields are prepared for sowing. The entire village labour-force is now called in, although the peak is lower than that of harvest. The working unit during this period is based on the domestic family. On the fields cleared that year the men cut up and remove the unburned timber; tree-trunks are turned across the slope to help to retain the soil, smaller trunks are used to define paths, and branches are either piled in heaps and fired or, where firewood is scanty, cut up and taken home. Men, women and girls together hoe the soil, breaking it up and digging out roots. On the fields cultivated for the second or third time in succession, men and women together also hoe and prepare the soil, turning under the old stubble and leaving a loose and relatively clean surface for sowing. The rice-sowing ceremony is performed in the village towards the end of April, the first sowers being two youths, one from each kienga. After this sowing begins in the fields, where it is carried out by the men. It continues until the middle of May. (110)