Hunting in the fallows: The significance of swidden fallows for subsistence hunting in Arunachal Pradesh, India

Authors: Anirban Datta Roy*,
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Indigenous Peoples, Animal Geographies
Keywords: hunting, swidden, shifting cultivation, Asia, northeast India, fallows, highlands, biodiversity conservation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Buchanan, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Indigenous communities across the biodiversity-rich uplands of southeast Asia and northeast India have been experiencing changes to their lives and traditional livelihoods, as a result of policies and programmes of the state. In the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, the state pursues these changes with the stated objective of 'development' of the uplands.
I studied the influence of modern conservation approaches on subsistence hunting among the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. I monitored offtake of large mammals over 22 months to uncover subsistence hunting patterns. While conservation practice proscribes hunting for its adverse impact on biodiversity, I found that hunting and trapping forms an integral part of Adi life and culture. Spatial and temporal patterns of hunting revealed the importance of swidden fallows which provide half of all large mammals harvested. Swidden fallows are also the primary source of small and medium sized mammals as well as bird trapping. Large mammal hunting is a tightly controlled activity regulated by the Adi kebang (traditional village council).
The results indicate the importance of swidden cultivation fallows and the mixed-use landscape in the vicinity of the village. This assumes significance in light of the landuse changes that are being promoted by state agencies across this landscape. Government agencies are aggressively attempting to replace swidden cultivation with terrace fields and commercial cultivation. Conversion of these mixed-use landscapes into permanent fields that are not attractive to hunted species could result in pushing the demand for hunting into the primary forests that are currently used only sparingly.

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