The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter One. The Material Background
caption: long cycle rotation in swidden agriculture , areas cleared and boundaries
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York30:4
text: On the whole about one-seventh of the village territory was open for cultivation in any one year, but as even within this area only about half the plots were actually cleared and tilled, it meant that every individual holding was cultivated only once in fourteen years. This was a satisfactory cycle of rotation, for in the intervening period of fallow, secondary jungle covered the land and prevented erosion. By the time the forest was to be felled once more, the land had recuperated and the ashes of the fired jungle provided an adequate fertilizer. There were two reasons for this system of rotation, which assured that all villagers would cultivate on two compact and usually adjoining areas. First, such compact areas cleared of jungle could be guarded more easily than dispersed plots, for individual families and labour gangs could work within sight of each other, and in the days of head-hunting, a small force of young warriors stationed at two or three vantage points could effectively protect all the women and children working on the fields. Second, large areas of cultivated land were less vulnerable to the depredations of birds and animals than individual fields set in the midst of forest. The boundaries between fields of different owners were marked by stones erected at the corners of each plot, and by lines of a flowering plant sown in between the fields. The size of fields was measured by the number of baskets of seed required at sowing time.