Traditional bun shifting cultivation practice in Meghalaya, Northeast India

  • Krishna UpadhayaEmail author
  • S. K. Barik
  • Vandolf M. Kharbhih
  • Gardinia Nongbri
  • Gargee Debnath
  • Anita Gupta
  • Archana Ojha
Original Article


Sustainable food production is one of the major challenges in this era of global environmental problems such as population pressure, natural resource degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. Agriculture being one of the prime sectors that sustain livelihood of the farmers also contributes to climate change. In this context, traditional agriculture has proven its effectiveness, adaptability and resilience for sustainable food production in the changing climatic conditions. The bun agricultural practice of the Khasi and Jaintia tribes of Meghalaya in Northeast India based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) offers an interesting example of sustainable agriculture and food production. An overview of the traditional bun cultivation practices and its modifications adopted by the local people has been discussed in the present study. The data for this study were obtained through focus group discussions with the cultivators and interviewing key informants followed by field survey. The study revealed that farmers grow the crops under a completely rain fed condition and make use of limited biomass and land resources, organic fertilizers and pesticides, thereby making the system sustainable. In addition, the farmers also abandon the land for a period of one to three years to restore soil fertility. However, due to increase in population, growing food demand, limited land availability and the socio-economic condition of the farmers, the traditional bun cultivation has undergone a number of modifications. The modifications include changes in cropping pattern, choice of crop, pest management and fallow period management that adapt well to local climatic conditions with higher food production and economic benefits. Understanding the various modifications and their integration with traditional agricultural practices can potentially form the basis for a sustainable, economically viable, environmentally sound and resilient agricultural system.


Agriculture Climate change Degradation Farmers Sustainability 



The authors are thankful to the Headman and the local people (farmers) of the studied sites for providing us the detailed information on bun cultivation. We sincerely thank Miss Dancy Lyngdoh for assisting us in the field. Financial assistance in the form of a research project from DST, Government of India (DST-Traditional Knowledge Systems, PAC-SES-DST-12141219-863) is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© The Joint Center on Global Change and Earth System Science of the University of Maryland and Beijing Normal University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Basic Sciences and Social SciencesNorth-Eastern Hill UniversityShillongIndia
  2. 2.Department of BotanyNorth-Eastern Hill UniversityShillongIndia
  3. 3.CSIR-National Botanical Research InstituteLucknowIndia
  4. 4.Department of Environmental StudiesNorth-Eastern Hill UniversityShillongIndia

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