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Oil Palm tree plantation: Mizoram Experience

by Rinku Khumukcham
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The Mizoram Legislative Assembly had passed The Mizoram Oil Palm (Regulation of Production & Processing) Act, 2004, on December 2004, for implementing Oil Palm cultivation in PPP mode involving the State Agriculture Department, partner companies for setting up of Oil Extraction plants, and the farmers. (Notification No.A.10218/141/04-LJD/21 dated 8th December 2004)
Cultivation of Oil Palm in Mizoram was started in 2005. Mizoram is being recognized as the pioneer of Oil Palm cultivation amongst the States of North East India.
As per information available on the website of the Agriculture Department, Government of Mizoram, Oil Palm Cultivation was taken place in an area of 26,680 hectares (as of July 2021), at 197 villages of seven districts viz. Kolasib, Mamit, Aizawl, Serchhip, Siaha, Lunglei and Lawngttlai.
Director of the State Agriculture Management and Extension Training Institute (SAMETI), Government of Mizoram, C Lalnithanga said that oil palm is an environment-friendly crop that absorbs carbon dioxide. He even stated that – There is a misconception that oil palm needs too much water. In reality, they need less water than rice, sugarcane, and bananas. Rainfall that Mizoram receives annually is adequate for oil palm.
In a public discussion held on May 27, 2022, organised by Solicitous Citizens of Manipur at Thoubal district, a resource person said that 25 selected activists from North-East states visited Kolasib district of Mizoram to take stock of the progress of Palm tree plantations in December 2021. While interacting with the farmers who had taken up oil palm tree plantations, the team was told that at the beginning around 150 farmers of the district started oil palm cultivation in 2008 by clearing the Jhum cultivation areas and also by clearing some of the wild trees. In December 2021 there were only 30 farmers left who continue the palm tree plantations. The question is why 120 farmers who have taken up the palm tree plantations left and started planting coconut and other crop plantations. If the palm tree plantation is benefitted there is no reason why majority of the farmers in a village in Kolasib district should leave the palm tree plantation.
According to Journalist Purabi Bose, some farmers belonging to the Mara tribe in Kolasib district had even stated that they would not have given permission for oil palm plantation but no farmers were asked in this regard. For some farmers in the district, switching to oil palm plantations was the only way to be on the right side of the government. They had told that “Farming agricultural crops used to give us food security for our family. Oil palm plantations provide nothing to women. It is squeezing out blood both from my land and my body.” (Source: Scroll.in – journalist Purabi Bose, September 11, 2018 )
As reported in the North East Today on Nov. 7, 2021, Mizoram’s Association for Environment Protection (ASEP) and Conservation came out with a strong statement against the move stating that the centre’s move to promote oil palm cultivation in Northeastern states could be disastrous.
An oil extraction plant, established by the Godrej Agrovet company at Bukvannei village in Kolasib district has not been of much help to the farmers, as per report.
Lallianpuii, a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India and a member of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Mizoram, said, “Globally, all tropical countries with commercial palm oil cultivation have faced ecological decline and socio-economic consequences”. (Times of India, Aug 31, 2021)
Senior Scientist of Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), T. R. Shankar Raman stated that after a span of around 8 years, the landscape of Jampa region in Mizoram has been significantly changed. He stated that before the conversion of the area into palm tree forest (Mono forest) around 50 species of birds use to visit the area however, only 10 species of birds are hardly found in the Palm forest. That was in 2015/16.
The Mizoram experiences on the mission Oil Palm Tree plantation needs to be seriously analyzed, as the state of Manipur is all set for mass plantation of the Oil Palm Trees in the state.

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