A new method of jhum cultivation, called 'hill cultivation' by locals, is becoming common in the three hill districts, although experts say that this method of farming is unscientific and harmful for the environment.
Recently, vast areas in the district, mainly hilly land, have been brought under 'hill cultivation.'
Jhum cultivation is a traditional method of farming in the slopes of hilly areas. Rice is the main crop, while other crops and vegetables are also cultivated. Crops are cultivated in the same field after a gap of three years to allow the land to regain fertility. Although jhum is cultivated on the hill slopes, the soil is not ploughed, causing less erosion. Pesticides are not used in the fields.
Jhum cultivation has increased along with the increase in population. It is now practised every year or two years instead of three years in many areas.
In recent years, a different method of farming, 'hill cultivation,' has started in the hills. Mainly Bangalee people are practising it. Arum, locally called muki kachu, is the popular crop in this cultivation. Fertilisers and medicines are widely used and the land is ploughed twice, during planting and harvesting. Agricultural experts say this farming method is unscientific and harmful for the environment.
The main places in which 'hill cultivation' is practised are Matiranga, Guimara, Ramgarh and Manikchhari upazilas. Arum cultivation has been spread over hundreds of acres of hills in Taindong area in Matiranga upazila for many years, and is increasing every year, farmer Md Alamgir said.
“Jhum cultivation is practised not only in the Chittagong Hill Tracts but also in many countries of the world. It does not harm the environment and the hills. The balance of the environment is protected. Over the last few years, the environment has been harmed due to 'hill cultivation,' and big trees are being cut down,” said Sodesh Priti Chakma, a local leader of the indigenous people.
The new farmers who are cultivating in the hills are not jhum cultivators. Jhum cultivation does not need ploughing of the soil, but 'hill cultivation' needs ploughing, he added.
“We are against 'hill cultivation.' We advise them to cultivate on low hills as it is dangerous to cultivate on steep hills and also harmful for the environment. The land is ploughed twice during arum planting and harvesting, which makes the soil soft and increases the possibility of hill collapses. Besides, a lot of fertilizers and medicines are applied during cultivation, which is harmful for the environment,” said Deputy Director of Khagrachhari Department of Agriculture Extension Tarun Bhattacharya.