Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Monday, December 5, 2022

Zabo Farming System















The term Zabo is derived from the word zabö, which is used for “impounding runoff water” in Chakhesang dialect. Zabo is also known as Dzüdü or Ruza system in other parts of the region. It has a combination of forest, horticulture, agriculture, fishery and animal husbandry with well-founded soil and water conservation base. Water resource development, water management and protection of environment are inherent aspects of the system. Though Kikruma region of the Phek receives enough rain but due to surface runoff people suffer from water scarcity. This suffering from water scarcity have forced them to evolve an elaborate water harvesting arrangement that ultimately resulted in Zabo, the most efficient land-water management system. This system has an inbuilt water harvesting and recycling systems with well-founded conservation base to control soil erosion, proper management of soil fertility and available water. It is a viable practice of resource management and maintenance of ecological balance.






Construction of Water Harvesting Ponds:





Ponds are dug in the middle to harvest the water and the bottom surface of the pond is properly rammed to minimize the loss of water through seepage. Protected forest lands, on hilltops, act as catchments and water is channelized through inlet channels from the catchment area. The rain water is collected from the catchment of protected hill tops of above 100% slopes in a pond with seepage control. Silt retention tanks are constructed at several points before the runoff water enters in the pond and water is kept in the silt retention tanks for 2 or 3 days before transferring to the main ponds.





The silt retention tanks are cleaned annually. Sometimes, more than one pond is constructed and in such circumstances it will be constructed in a way that the surplus water from one pond flows down to the pond below. Water is released from the pond for irrigation through an outlet at its base. The water from the ponds is carried either by open channels or by bamboo pipes. The channels are normally compacted by hammering its base to reduce water percolation. Water is passed through animal yard before taking it to the fields for irrigation. The water while passing through the animal yard carries with it the dung and urine of the animals, thus helping in maintaining soil fertility.





Sharing of water and Repairing of Ponds and Channels:





The sharing of harvested water between different families or clans is through mutual negotiations. Water flows from one plot to the other through passages and reaches the last plot. The excess water is drained. April to May is the sowing season in terrace cultivation and transplantation is done in June and July. Water is allowed to remain in the field for the whole period of plant growth and drained out from the fields just before harvesting. Normally the ponds dry up by March or April and during this period ponds are repaired. All the families who has terrace fields in the irrigation command area participates in the cleaning of the siltation tank and as desilted material has good amount of organic matter and nutrients, so it is transferred to the terrace fields below the pond.





Selection and Placement of Different Farming Activities:




Vegetables and fruits like squash, colocasia, cucurbits, banana, papaya, oranges and citrus are cultivated on the banks of the pond. Vegetables are also grown just below the livestock enclosures. Livestock like cattle, goat, sheep, pig and poultry are raised besides the pond. The cattle enclosures are fenced with bamboo and wooden branches. Enclosure and houses for livestock are constructed on a little lower side of the water-harvesting pond. The water for irrigation of rice fields is taken from the pond through the livestock enclosures so that the dung and urine of the animals can be carried to the fields. This serves as a good source of nutrients for the paddy crops.













In zabo culture, paddy fields are generally located at the lower elevations. The field embankments are thoroughly rammed by beating with wooden sticks to avoid percolation and seepage of water. Paddy husk is also used with the mud to reduce seepage losses from the bunds. Normally “Tanyekemüga”- a local long duration variety of paddy is grown in the paddy fields. This variety matures in about 180 days. The seeding rate is 50-60 kg/ha and transplanting is done in the months of June and July at about 10 cm x 10 cm to 15 cm x 15 cm spacing. Normally 2-3 seedlings are transplanted per hill. During the normal mansoon sufficient rain water is available, but in case of poor rains on an average two supplementary irrigations are required, which is given from the zabo ponds. About 10 cm deep water is maintained in the paddy fields. The yield of paddy ranges between 3-4 tons per hectare (Sharma, U. C. and Sharma, V. 2003).





Paddy cum fish culture is commonly practiced and farmers raise the fishes in their wet rice terraces. A small pit is dug out in the middle of the rice field and fish fingerlings are released in the fields during the month of July. Paddy matures by the end of October and by then paddy field dries or incase there is excess water then it is drained out from the fields before harvesting of the paddy. As the ponds dries fishes move in to the pit and from there fishes are harvested. On an average 50 – 60 kg of fish is harvested per hectare from paddy cum fish culture.





The entire continuum includes forestry on the top, horticulture on the embankments and just below the ponds, livestock besides the pond at little lower level and paddy cum fish farming at the lower terraces forms the zabö farming system. It has an inbuilt water harvesting and recycling systems with well-founded conservation base to control soil erosion and soil fertility management. It is a viable practice of resource management and maintenance of ecological balance developed by observing the nature.