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 six: Cycle migration
caption: limit on rice production because of terrain and climate
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: Certain definite features limit the amount of land available for rice grown by the Central Nzemi system of shifting cultivation. These factors are: altitude, angle of slope, extent, and distance from the village. The effective upper limit for rice-cultivation in the Central Nzemi area is the 4,000-foot contour. Above this, the fields lie in the monsoon cloud-belt, the rice suffers from cold and lack of sun, and ripening is tardy and uncertain. A slope of the order of 30 degrees is the steepest which can be cultivated with safety. On slopes exceeding this figure soil-wash is excessive in the (119) early part of the monsoon, the root-mat of the young rice may not be strong enough to withstand a downpour, and the crop may be washed away together with the topsoil. On a steep slope the risk of landslips is greatly increased, and these cause loss out of all proportion to the damage done, for the Central Nzemi abandon fields in which slips occur, in the belief that to continue their cultivation will cause the owner's death. One small slip therefore results in a total loss of crop from the field concerned. As to extent, we have already seen that the Central Nzemi cultivate blocks of contiguous fields and that this method helps to protect the crops from game and allows more effective use of the village labour-force; comparatively large tracts of suitable land are necessary for this system. Finally, distance from the village affects the length of the working day and, if great, will markedly increase the task of transport at harvest-time. Generally speaking, fields within 2 miles of a village are conveniently accessible; those between 2 and 3 miles away begin to be distant, and the working day is appreciably shortened by the journey to and from them; fields more than 3 miles [1 [Record T86858]