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Pineapple Cultivation For Livelihood Security

A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims, and access) and activities required for a means of living; a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation” (Chambers & Conway 1992).

According to Frankenberger, household livelihood security has been defined as adequate and sustainable access to income and resources to meet basic needs (including adequate access to food, potable water, health facilities, educational opportunities, housing and time for community participation and social integration).

Basically, livelihood security is the ability of a household to meet its basic needs or realize its basic rights. These needs include adequate food, health, shelter, minimal levels of income, basic education and community participation. However, simply fulfilling people’s basic needs is not adequate to ensure that those people can rise above and stay above absolute poverty.

It is undeniable fact that poverty remains to be our most unbendable problem in India. Besides, poverty continues to persist in India despite several planned development and poverty eradication programs. The Government has, in an attempt to tackle poverty and unemployment and more importantly, to ensure livelihood security, passed and enacted several ‘˜welfare-oriented’ Acts and programs and implemented them in succession. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or later the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural area, is one such program.

Since its inception, the MGNREGA has, like all other welfare schemes, been shrouded with criticism though there are reports about some States where the Act is yielding better results. Low and irregular wages, mis-utilisation and misappropriations of funds, corruption, lack of transparency et cetera were some of the criticisms of the Act and its implementation. Though, the Act has been intended to advantage the rural people, it could not, in reality, achieve its aims of eradication of poverty and enhancement of the standard of the rural people. In its five years of implementation with a huge budget of over Rs 1.185 trillion so far, it is not very clear where the ‘landmark’ or the world’s largest welfare scheme is taking us. So far so good, yet if the implementation of the Act is of any indication, the Act has seemingly failed to produce income-earning activities for the people.

As such, by the standard of the definitions given above, the MGNREGA would eventually fail to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation. This will not sustain for long. Till now, but, it is very clear that the employments it provided and the Act would vanish without leaving any remarkable track once if the Act goes. In such a situation, the Government should come out with an alternative program or plan that would enable rural people to stand on their foot. For instance, the Government could patronize any agricultural or horticultural produce by granting assistances in the form of loan, grants or packages in order to ensure the livelihood security of rural people for a long period. This, by way, would also serve as a mechanism to engage unemployed lots of rural areas in productive activities. Socially, this will pay double dividend in the light of the assumption/observation held by many intellects who hold unemployment responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation of the State.

Back to the question then, livelihoods are secure when households have secure ownership of or access to resources (both tangible and intangible) and income-earning activities, including reserves and assets, to offset risks, ease shocks and meet contingencies.

Coming closer home, seventy per cent of the entire population of the country is said to be involved in agricultural activities for livelihood. Ditto is the case of Manipur. In their quest to meet an end to two square meals, tribal people of the State engaged themselves in jhum cultivation or burn and slash method of cultivation. Jhum cultivation is linked with the Hill areas of Manipur. The practice is assumed to begin long time back. Some say it is as old as the human civilization in the hill area itself.

Natural resources’”flora and fauna’”have been destroyed extensively with the simple hope of reaping some bushels of paddy, which did not meet even for an annual consumption. It may also be noted that destruction of flora and fauna is illegal and prohibited by forest laws.

The destruction of forest also leads to soil erosion and soil degradation. The vast areas of forest covered lands that were laid barren due to jhum cultivation and the harvest it generated could never be equated.

Scientifically, the emissions from burning the dry vegetation is one factor which contributes to the depletion of ozone layer. The felling down of trees, herbs and shrubs is also said to be responsible for reduction of oxygen.

Some merchants, too, with the sole view of commercial gain, are involved in exploitation of forest. Therefore, the forest wealth is bound to shrink as is happening. The environmental and ecological impact could be horrendous. It is coherent that jhum cultivation fails to ensure the livelihood security of the tribal people. Rather, it causes disturbances to the environment and ecological systems.

Notwithstanding the many disadvantages, the age-old practice of jhum cultivation has been taking centre-stage among the tribal people of the State in their quest to sustain a secured living. The Government too, is found dawdling in adopting new horticultural crops to replace/provide an alternative to the jhum cultivation.

It seems, despite the many disadvantages, the policy makers or the people in the corridors of the power zone are lost somewhere in thought. One step in the right direction should be sincerely searched so as to ensure their livelihood in the long run.

Pineapple Cultivation: A case study

Of the very few alternatives to jhum cultivation, pineapple cultivation presents one of the most prospective and most enduring. Mention may be made here of the successful cultivation of pineapple in some parts of the State. It is worth mentioning of the success stories scripted by pineapple farmers of Khousabung area in Churachandpur district, Andro area in Imphal East and Kakching area in Thoubal district. It has been, to date, five decades now since the first pineapple sucker was planted, with an annual outlay of 90 lac pineapple.

It did not take long for the people to realize the economic prospect of pineapple, which was primarily cultivated for domestic consumption. Of the many factors contributing to the awakening about the economic value of pineapple which take a grip over the area, it is a reality the pineapple acts as a suitable substitute for Jhum farming. Furthermore, income generated from pineapple cultivation can meet daily expenses. This apart, the income generated from pineapple cultivation could afford an improved standard of living.

At present, there are more than 400 farmers in Khousabung area engaged in pineapple cultivation with annual production of 90 lac pineapples and market rate of five rupees a fruit. It is believed that the same number of people is engaged in pineapple cultivation in Imphal East, Thoubal and other districts of the State.

It is also very important to note that, in the absence of patronage to highly nutritive and healthy fruits like pineapple, orange, lemon, passion fruit, etc, more vulnerable farmers may find motivation in taking up cultivation of illegal but highly rewarded plant in term of marketing value like marijuana (ganja) or poppy in large scale. To their discredit, some parts of the hill areas have already earned notoriety for mass scale plantation of ganja and poppy. The blame for this should be equally shared with the government if it continues to fail in providing alternative to the poor farmers.

It is against these backdrops that a case for pineapple cultivation is strongly advocated. Yet, deplorably it is not garnering backers from the government. It may also be put across the fact here that the fertile soil of the area is suitable for pineapple cultivation on a mass scale. As of now, there are more than 700 acres of land devoted to pineapple in Churachandpur district. In the annals of pineapple cultivation history, as observed down the decades, failure of fruits has been rarely experienced. The practice is not without positive results. A number of valuable citizens have been produced through income generated from pineapple cultivation. The success stories are enough to wean the rural people away from Jhum subsistence.

As such, the intention is now obvious’”equip the farmers with the latest technology and processing facilities, etc, grant them loans, spread awareness. This will serve as the livelihood security of the rural people in the long run.

Hence, it is crystal clear that Pineapple cultivation can be an alternative to shifting cultivation. Moreover, it can limit, if not put a ceiling on, the massive destruction of forest wealth. The Government should encourage the hill people to grow pineapple or other cash crops/fruits on a larger scale in order to preserve forest wealth, apart from ensuring the livelihood security of the susceptible tribal people.

It is here that the Government can play their parts. If MGNREGA or any other employment generation or development scheme fails, another comprehensive alternative laws or scheme may be adopted/enacted’”in collaboration with grassroots activists. The ball, no doubt, solely is in the court of the Government. The choice is exclusively theirs.

Let us see if there is any taker that households would have secure livelihoods when they are able to acquire, protect, develop, utilize, exchange and benefit from assets and resources. ‘”concluded

*The article is written by Th Mangminthang Gangte

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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