How Sumi Nagas’ conventional know-how permits them navigate nature’s vagaries


The Sumi tribe of Nagas makes use of a number of ecological indicators to help agricultural strategies and forecast seasonal variation however this data is vanishing with the passage of time

Only one brilliant sunny morning, folks of Shiyepu village in Nagaland’s Zunheboto district, head to church dressed up of their Sunday best possible and carrying umbrellas. The latter accent is perplexing, supplied the apparent climate.

However the church-goers know some factor that even local weather forecasters don’t—bees within the village (each of these Asiatic honeybee or Apis cerana and stingless bee or Trigona iridipennis) didn’t go away their hives that morning, indicating a prospect of rain. Certain greater than sufficient, it rapidly begins off to drizzle.

This premonition is only a individual little bit of an enormous physique of information that the Sumi Naga tribe has gathered on account of generations of statement and handed down orally and by the use of cultural procedures.

However there may be minor to no documentation about this traditional understanding and so it’s at hazard of turning into misplaced. As a PhD scholar at Martin Luther Christian School in Shillong, I undertook a study of 10 villages in Zunheboto, which is principally inhabited by the Sumi Naga tribe.

Greater than 3 a number of years, I recorded 79 ecological indicators (biotic and abiotic) that the neighborhood is dependent upon to determine climate anomalies, seasons and purely pure disasters, even within the age of complicated numerical local weather fashions.

For example, other than the regionally reared bees the Sumi neighborhood makes use of bamboo, a culturally vital grass in Nagaland, for a lot of local weather clues. If new shoots of the Phyllostachys genus of bamboo improve higher than the mum or dad plant, one can hope vital rainfall in the midst of the monsoon yr that calendar yr in the event that they keep minimal, fewer rain is possible.

In the identical method, flowering of the Bambusa pallida species suggests famine, because it attracts in rodents that hurt crops.

Ashili Awomi, a resident of Litta Aged village in Zunheboto, recollects how the Sumi Nagas warned of an impending famine within the shut by Mokokchung district in 1962, instantly after they seen gregarious flowering of Bambusa pallida and a surprising rise within the stink bug (Encosternum delegorguei) inhabitants.

Folks there then saved and eaten wild yam and forest tubers. Inconspicuous actions like spontaneous barking of canine or rodents rising from holes may point out all-natural disaster, as discovered all by means of the December 2020 earthquake in Nagaland, claims Kakuto Shohe of Sohomi village.

Agrarian clues

The Sumi Naga group is basically agrarian and depends upon on forests for each of these meals and livelihood. So varied of the indications facilitate agricultural methods and forecast seasonal variation.

For example, fruiting of mulberry (Morus) timber implies spring and their harvest signifies summertime is correct right here. Then, to foretell wintertime, the Sumi tribe makes use of a typical, dependable indicator—migrating birds.

The arrival of wag tails (Motacilla) from jap Asia and Amur falcons (Falco amurensis) from Siberia to Nagaland in Oct every particular person calendar yr, enroute to Africa, often means wintertime is nigh.

 To indicate the severity of the winter season, people examine the belly of the catfish. Unusually thick skin on the belly indicates an above normal winter

I situated that individuals within the group additionally seem carefully at catfish (Siluriformes) caught regionally. Unusually thick pores and pores and skin on the fish’s tummy indicated an above strange winter.

Rainfall is essential in analyzing agricultural produce, so a full range of purely pure indicators predict its arrival. For example, the observe of the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) tells farmers to get began sowing.

Whereas producing a hearth, if smoke rises unswervingly, the temperature will probably be distinct. An evening time sky filled with stars additionally alerts dry temperature. In distinction, hope rain the up coming day if the crescent of the moon faces down or has a halo throughout it.

Although this kind of strategies are useful, observing the behaviour of varied each day life kinds about them additionally supplies the Sumis the clues they require. Pine cones (Pinus) opening their scales counsel dry skies while bitter tomato (Solanum aethiopicum) crops shedding leaves reveal onset of rain.

There can even be rainfall if wooden borer larvae (Buprestidae), a kind of beetle that dwells on timber, settle on the prime rated of the plant and eat their method down.

Conversely, if crimson weaver ants (Oecophylla) depart their nest open and going by means of up, they anticipate no rain. Cicadas (Cicadoidea) happen to the area from Could nicely to November the amount of their music implies how quite a bit rainfall to imagine.

The Sumi Naga tribe believes that amid rainfall, if domesticated chickens (Gallus gallus) go away their coop, moist climate will persist all working day.

 Farmers listen for the song of the cuckoo during the summer, as it tells them to start sowing seeds for the forthcoming agricultural season

“Fish, as nicely, can sense rain. On the time on the pond round my family, my son noticed a lot of fish (Chondrichthyes) swimming to the ground this meant rain was on its method. It was a sign for us to move again dwelling,” explains Husheto Achumi of Khukiye-Lukhai village.

An individual different reliable indicator the Sumis depend upon is the hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock). A big-pitched shriek by the primate, even on a sunny working day, warns of huge rains in an hour or two. Nonetheless, it’s now endangered within the area primarily due to poaching.

Elders in the local people say that the ecological indicators assist them forecast local weather even in a altering native local weather. However the skill is swiftly disappearing with the demise of the group’s elders and the shortage of documentation.

With the migration of youth to city spots for schooling or employment, they neither know nor care concerning the natural indicators.

Alino Sumi is senior researcher on the Archaeological Sciences Centre, Indian Institute of Know-how, Gandhinagar


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