Lyngngam: Assessing the effects of land-use change on Agrobiodiversity in Northeast India

The cluster of Lyngngam villages iLYNGAM POSTERs located in Umdang area of West Khasi Hills, Meghalaya and one of the eight biocultural landscapes where PAR together with local partners undertook an interdisciplinary research project “Supporting Agrobiodiversity Maintenance and Use in the Context of 
Land Management Decisions” funded by The Christensen Fund. Together with Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty and its local sister NGO NESFAS , we worked with three villages in the area to assess and describe agrobiodiversity, understand the changes in land use and agricultural practices, and capture farmers’ perceptions of the ecosystem services, and factors that confer resilience.

Communities participating in the projects, the Lyngngam-Khasis, are one of many distinct indigenous societies in northeast India and a subtribe of the Khasis, the main ethnic group living  in the state of Meghalaya. People of Lyngngam speak their own dialect and are known for a rich story telling tradition that often expresses the relationship between people and their land. For example, storytellers use the word “Im Myriang”, meaning “Living Earth” to describe well-being. Inheritance of land over generations through the youngest daughter is one of the foundations of “Im Myrhiang” (Source: NESFAS).

Meghalaya is located in the Indo-Burma region, northeast India, one of the two biodiversity hotspots in the country. The remote area of Lyngngam is one of the most diverse in the state in terms of agrobiodiversity. The traditional production system is predominantly characterized by rotational agriculture (Jhum) where communities maintain many different traditional crops. Additional land-uses include paddy fields, home and fruits gardens as well as reserved forests.

Communities feel that the diversity in the traditional production and food system is today challenged by several forces. These forces include expanding rotational agriculture that is encroaching upon reserved forests, and the drastic decrease of fallow periods, which is leading to poorer soils.

Innovative and collaborative measures between traditional ways and modern science are recommended to ensure resilience in the future. Preservation of community reserved forests for important ecosystem provisions, and documentation of local knowledge on diversity management practices is urgently needed.

Click on the picture to download the poster with more information on the research site and findings.