December 2015

Sustaining a way of life

North East Initiative’s conservation of forests through community rearing of mithuns, an endangered animal, have also turned things around for Pagmar Obing

Notwithstanding its benefit to northeastern farmers the mithun is notorious for destroying crops.

Pagmar Obing, 45, lives in Kimin, Arunachal Pradesh, with his wife and five children. He is keen to see all his children educated, and his eldest son is now studying in Std. X. An active and energetic farmer, he ekes out his living from agriculture. Since agriculture alone cannot meet his family’s needs, he also hires himself out as a wage labourer. He is the proud possessor of a small plot of land in which he practices shifting cultivation (also known as ‘jhum’); he grows maize, chili and different vegetables for home consumption. He also has a 400sqm orange orchard that is three years old. Pagmar also rears mithuns (Bos frontalis) to supplement the family income.

The mithun, found mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, is an endangered animal. Pagmar rears four mithuns and also looks after the mithuns belonging to other farmers. The age-old practice of ‘free range’ mithun rearing in Arunachal Pradesh depends totally on natural fodder. With the free-range area decreasing day by day due to deforestation and urbanisation, resulting in decreasing fodder and fodder resources, Pagmar was finding it difficult to graze the mithuns. Social conflicts between those who reared mithuns and other farmers in the village became more frequent as mithuns often destroyed agricultural crops. It was also becoming difficult for Pagmar to carry out his different jobs and manage the mithuns at the same time.

In 2014, things began turning around for Pagmar. Under their North East Initiative (NEI) the Trusts initiated their support to the North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA), focussing on the conservation of forests through community mithun rearing. The project was jointly implemented by NEIDA and the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Papum-pare, Kimin. Around 700-800 hectares of community forest land has been conserved by fencing it with concrete and wooden posts. The mithuns are kept inside the fenced area during the cultivation period, thus decreasing the damage to agricultural crops. Vaccination, de-worming, disease diagnosis and timely attention to the mithuns ill reduced the incidence of sudden occurrence of diseases amongst the animals.

With the Trusts’ intervention, Pagmar has been able to give more time to his family and to the cultivation of crops. He sold two of his mithuns, earning Rs1,20,000. He utilised the money for his children’s education, and for medical emergencies. A grateful Pagmar mentioned that villagers would now be able to take up different sustainable economic activities in the conserved forest area, which would also be a great asset for future generations as well.