Narinjara News



Ban on swidden agriculture threatening Arakanese livelihoods



Lamar, Dec 20: The Burmese military junta has placed a ban on swidden agricultural practices in the northern districts of Arakan state, Maung Daw and Buthedaung, according to a tribal leader. 


Most Arakanese people in northern Arakan traditionally rely on swidden or slash-and-burn cultivation for their livelihoods, and they are worried about food and product shortages resulting from the ban.


Before the ban, the junta tried to “educate” the people about mountain terrain cultivation.


The cultivators were summoned to the Model Mountain Agricultural Office in Hna Rone Taung, Maung Daw for lectures on the negative effects of swidden agriculture and the benefits of mountain terrain agricultural methods that the government approved of. 


At the same time, the government also promised to provide fertilizers and seeds of beans and pepper.  However in reality these promises are never delivered.


A Mro cultivator says that this Slash and Burn method has been used for generations and it is hard for the Mro people to change from the long established method to other methods.


The Swidden or Slash and Burn method involves clearing the mountainside by cutting the trees during November to January and leaving the cuttings to be dried during the summer.  About a month before the rainy season, the field is burned and cultivated with the first rain.


The authority saw this method as problem leading to deforestation.  However, in international academic circles, the effects and the wisdom of the swidden cultivation are subjected to hot debates between scholars.


There are about 50,000 Arakanese of the Mro, Mroone, Dine Nat, and Chakma ethnic groups living in the northern part of Arakan bordering Bangladesh


One of their leaders told Narinjara that the government’s promise of helping to replace cultivation methods is hollow and they are not trying to solve this problem in a systematic way. #




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