The state of Nagaland is agriculturally one of the most backward with low productivity and poor in livestock production. The topography is dissected into hill ranges which further breaks into spurs and ridges, coupled with high rainfall during the monsoon rendering the region very sensitive to heavy runoff and soil erosion. The state’s economy is closely linked to its natural resource base and climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture and forestry, which faces an increased risk of the negative impacts of climate change. Land development for economic cultivation is therefore a huge challenge under prevailing conditions. Compounding to the problem is extensive Jhum cultivation, which is the major land use in the state.
The Department of Soil & Water Conservation is an Agri & Allied Sector Department. It was bifurcated from the Department of Agriculture and duly established as a fully-fledged Department in 1968. The focus of Soil and Water Conservation Department is to tackle the aforementioned problems effectively through suitable soil and water conservation interventions in the catchments so as to protect and treat both the unaffected as well as affected lands and render the area productive and sustainable besides mitigating flood and riverbank erosion and reduction of sediment deposition downstream. It also envisages recharging of drinking water sources and hydro-power generation sources through catchment/watershed treatment approach.
It is estimated that the extensive practice of Jhum cultivation in the hill slopes results in average soil loss of 30.62 Mt/ha/year. The ultimate consequences is therefore, turbulent velocity of runoff and soil erosion resulting to destruction of prime agricultural and forest lands in the form of erosion, landslides, flash floods and sedimentation. The removal of top soil in the Jhum land reduces the fertility and productivity of the soil besides rendering poor moisture holding capacity in the soil regime.
Towards this end, the department has been endeavoring to facilitate transfer of technology to the masses at farm level, through various state and central schemes and periodic training programs for farmers and staffs. Adoption of conservation technology is therefore imperative in achieving the ultimate aim of doubling farmers’ income and sustainable food security.
The department constantly strives to bring about sustainable development in harmony with the natural environment through judicious utilization of natural resources by overcoming the following problems:
- Hilly natural terrain highly susceptible to soil erosion: Nagaland is a young mountainous hilly state, highly dissected featuring high hills, sharp crest, ridges, deep gorges, narrow valleys and a few hundred square Kilometers of plains along the foot hills in the western part of the state (8.48%).
- High annual rainfall with erosive run-off during monsoon and drought like situation in winter: The annual rainfall of the state varies from 150cm to 220 cm, which is a blessing if optimally harnessed but also a problem under prevailing topography and land use in the state. High erosive velocity of surface runoff washes away the fertile top soil and inundates the streams and rivers, resulting in flash floods, thereby reducing the productivity of land and hampering the recharge of ground water table.
- Extensive Jhum/Shifting cultivation: Shifting cultivation is the major land use in the state involving 1,35,339 rural households and covering about 947.37 Sq. km which constitutes 5.71% of total geographical area. This vast area under traditional Jhum results in soil degradation, which ultimately affects production and productivity of land.