The effectiveness of shifting cultivation in achieving sustainable livelihoods in the mountainous terrains in general and tribal societies in particular still continue to be a major source of debate among researchers and policy makers with mutually contrasting and balanced views. However, there are growing evidences demonstrating the agrarian transition taking place even in the traditional shifting cultivation societies in terms of emergence of dynamic land use systems in the context of globalisation. The evolution of new farming systems are considered as responses and coping mechanisms towards the nascent free trade regime, wherein, the traditional farm-livelihood systems have not been able to cope with the drastic changes taking place; hence they have become less resilient, less efficient and economically unsustainable as per se. It is with this macro perspective of the emerging dynamic farming systems throughout the mountainous regions of the world, that the paper is set out to examine the rationale, scope and the need for conceptualising sustainable cash crop based dynamic farm-livelihood systems in the shifting agriculture dominant tribal societies in the North Eastern region (NER) in India. In particular, the paper develops indicators for assessment of sustainable livelihoods of rubber smallholders based on the livelihood asset pentagon comprising the five livelihood capital assets, viz., natural capital, physical capital, human capital, financial capital and social capital. The paper is based on empirical data collected from about 300 rubber small growers in the three NE states of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura in India. While examining the current scenario of expansion of smallholder rubber cultivation in the region followed by a comparative assessment of the rubber versus co-existing farm-livelihood systems, the paper also dwells upon the institutional contexts within which the sustainable rubber integrated farm livelihood systems can be scaled up in the NE region facilitating empowerment and capacity building for collective action and mobilisation of social capital among the tribal communities in the region. The fact that India’s NER is strategically located in close proximity to the S& SE Asian countries, like Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Tibetan Region of China, also underscores the economic rationale and need for evolving sustainable rubber based farm livelihood systems for the region, which in turn, would act as a source of dynamism for growth in the tribal economies as also for carrying forward the process of economic integration of the NE region with the dynamic S& SE Asia.
Dr. Viswanathan P. K. and Shivakoti, G. P., “Conceptualising Sustainable Farm-livelihood Systems in the Era of Globalisation: A Study of Rubber Integrated Farm Livelihood Systems in North East India”, Social Change &Development, vol. 5, pp. 111-142, 2007.