Most farmers in our country are emancipated, mainly because they have to depend on middlemen, handlers and traders, who often squeeze farmers to increase margins. A farmer, on the other hand, is seen as a producer rather than an entrepreneur or a businessman. Not always. Meet Chuang N Marak, a twenty-six-year-old management graduate, who envisages farming as a business enterprise and not just merely production. Chuang has started an integrated farm in the outskirts of Tura in West Garo Hills, Meghalaya.
He informs that farmers in Meghalaya are often at the mercy of the traders, who fix the price for their produce and yields. ‘This has to change…The never-ending cycle of exploitation in a country of farmers where they are always on the losing side,’ he emphatically says.
In 2013, Chuang started his farm on a sprawling 20 bighas of land, owned by his family. ‘The land was kept barren for decades, so I decided to make use of it’, he said. To set up his farm, Chaung sought financial assistance from a bank in Guwahati. He gives credit to his parents, who instilled in him the confidence to start the enterprise. ‘They had always told me that the ones who grow our food are special, and although both are into government service, never pushed me in to it,’ he said. His mother is senior Meghalaya Civil Service (MCS) officer S N Marak, who is posted in Baghmara as the Deputy Commissioner of South Garo Hills. His father Beryl B Sangma works with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as its chief general manager and is currently posted in Guwahati as the director of the Indian Institute of Bank Management.
Beryl told ENe that he assisted his son in researching for the venture. ‘We did a number of studies on poultry, goatery, rabbit farming etc, and visited farms in various places in Assam – Sonapur, Rani and Bijoynagar. Finally, we decided on piggery and fishery after due diligence on the forward and backward linkages, etc’. Chuang further informs that they have considered past experiments and mistakes to set up the venture. ‘These experiments have given us more confidence, insight and vision to go forward and expand in the future, and even foray into new fields’, Beryl added.
Chuang has undergone rigorous training at the veterinary department, Government of Meghalaya and also obtained up-to-date information on latest farming techniques from other sources, including the internet. ‘The trainings I attended in both private and government agencies, particularly on piggery and fishery has really helped me in my venture though nothing beats hands-on experience’.
On his choice for involving first-time workers, Chuang says, ‘I too learnt on the job, they will also learn in time’. The young entrepreneur, when asked why he choose to be in Garo Hills, when he could have taken up a lucrative job outside, said, ‘As the eldest child, I have certain responsibilities to my family and no matter how far and wide we travel to make our name and earn our fame, we always come back home to rest, and hence I decided to stay back in my hometown and do something for a living’.
He has also set up a solar system network for generating electricity on his farm and developing its own purification and drinking water source. Thus, his farm is not dependent on electricity and public health engineering department (PHE) for water supplies.
The farm, which is known as ‘Valley Ridge’ is established today and has been chosen as a model for ‘livestock integrated practice’ by the State government. The animal husbandry and veterinary department brings farmers from rural areas to the farm for demonstration-based trainings.
Chuang is also invited to different forums to speak about his venture. He was recently honoured with a certificate of appreciation by the Sports & Youth Affairs department for his commendable work in showing others the way forward in rural areas.
On his expansion plans, he says, ‘I am currently into breeding and selling weaners (piglets). The next step would be where I grow the pigs and sell adult swine. The third stage would be to develop scientific slaughter methods and hence develop a butchery outlet. Then the fourth and final stage of the first phase would be to develop processed meat line where sausages, salami, ham, etc. can be produced locally for the Northeastern market and beyond’. In doing so, he would be creating a direct market of his produce right in his farm. The farm would also serve as an agro-tourism spot- where visitors can visit to get a slice of rural Garo life, and relax in the lap of nature. Indeed, considering how rich the Northeast is in natural resources, Chuang’s enterprising attitude can only take him to greater heights.