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A collective of ethnic Matu people – a major sub group of the Chin – are working on an initiative to replace slash and burn farming in Matupi Township.
In the Chin hills many people make their living by subsistence farming, and slash and burn techniques are widely used to clear the fields for the next season.
The group, called the Matu Forum, aim to introduce sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural methods, in a bid to conserve the environment.
“It won’t be an easy task bringing an end to shifting cultivation in Matupi and elsewhere in Chin state,” said Ngaisak, chairman of the Matu Forum. “Because in order to do so, substitute farming methods should be implemented and the government itself is as yet unable to provide that.”
The Matu Forum are still researching the best alternative to shifting cultivation – a system where land plots are cultivated temporarily and then abandoned while other plots are farmed.
As well as causing deforestation, the slash and burn technique releases carbon into the atmosphere, which contributes to pollution.
The Matu Forum are in the process of deciding which crops will be viable to grow in a sustainable way.
“We are planning to invite assistance from specialists and experts to determine what to grow – whether elephant foot yam or tea, and whether it will be sufficient,” said Ngaisak
The forum’s chairman said previous efforts to introduce sustainable agriculture methods to areas in Chin State had failed.
“The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] government experimented with growing tea, which was successful to an extent but not on a commercial scale. So we have a lot of research to do before introducing a substitute method,” Ngaisak said.
Chin State is the least developed of Burma’s 14 administrative regions.
The Matu Forum has been promoting agricultural reforms and ecological farming techniques to help protect the environment and to ensure that the local people of Matupi can enjoy a sustainable source of income.