Understanding Jhum farmers’ place-attachment and ecocentric attitude: Towards a place-based approach for sustainable mountain agriculture in Nagaland, India

In Land Degradation and Development
Peer-reviewed Article
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Place attachment and ecocentric attitude are the important determinants of conservation behaviour, especially for traditionally managed landscapes. In this paper, we explore the relationship between place attachment and the ecocentric attitude of farmers engaged in Jhum cultivation (aka shifting/slash and burn cultivation) in the Zunheboto district of Nagaland, India. We administered a questionnaire survey (n=153) based on a widely used four-dimensional place attachment framework and a well-known cognitive scale for measuring ecocentric attitude. The results indicate that Jhum farmers’ modest ecocentric attitude is significantly associated with their place attachment, especially with place identity and place dependence, although their behaviour of organized deforestation is in apparent contradiction. While an ecocentric attitude generally contributes to environmentally responsible behaviour, we argue that, for Jhum farmers, the absence of such a causal relationship is influenced by other rationalities, particularly owing to the lack of alternative livelihood opportunities. The findings of this study establish the inherent positive ecocentric attitude of Jhum farmers who are often held responsible for deforestation and environmental degradation. Furthermore, we argue that such an inherent positive ecocentric attitude and a strong place attachment are imperative to implement place-based models for sustainable mountain agriculture.