There is a story about a young Naga woman who was returning from the United States. In the flight she got into a friendly chat with a co-passenger who was an American. During their discussion, they talked about their families and the Naga woman said that her parents were farmers in Nagaland. The American also said that her parents were farmers and so she asked the Naga woman, “How many air planes do you parents own?” We can imagine what the Naga woman might have thought when that question was asked, because farming or being a farmer in Nagaland is generally associated with stereotypes such as illiterate and rustic.
But not anymore!
With employment avenues in government sector almost saturated, and private companies yet to come to the rescue, there are some imaginative young people who have taken to farming with a different approach in Mokokchung.
Limalenden Longkumer is one such 32 year old farmer.He owns a farm of 12 hectares in his village Mopungchuket (some 15 kilometers away from Mokokchung town), which is relatively large considering the prevalent tribal land holding system in Nagaland. But he is an unusual farmer. A senior journalist and a successful entrepreneur, his farm in the village is his latest venture. His favourite line is ‘Proud to be a farmer.’
“Policy makers should work towards dispelling the notion of seeing farmers as illiterate or rustic. In other countries, farmers are the most respected and the wealthiest, but here people are ashamed to say that they are farmers,” says Longkumer. The farming sector might see a change with his kind of farmers. “I have invested more than six lakh rupees in my farm. And I hope to see the fruits of my labour and my investment in three years time,” says Longkumer. He started the farm in 2012 and hopes to break even in five years once the plants start production. He has planted citrus, nectarine and other fruits in his farm.
“We cannot compete with Assam or other Indian states when it comes to cultivation of vegetables. We cannot beat them at their game. So we must play our own game,” he says. “We need to use modern techniques of farming like machines, insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers if we have to progress. Ours is a poor society and unlike the western countries, people don’t care about organic or inorganic vegetables.”
Government aid needed
The Nagaland government has been encouraging the people of Nagaland to take up farming and has also been advising people to go back to their roots in order to lessen the unemployment problem in the state. Nagaland Chief Minister, Nephiu Rio, is a strong advocate of farming and has also listed out some programmes for the farmers. His famous quote, “Pejung nekai phe, Koti kai phe (Don’t consume the seeds, consume the fruits),” has been heard in almost every function he attended around the state. But more needs to be done.
“I still have problems with irrigation in my field,” says Longkumer. His field runs dry every winter as the water sources dry up and that’s a big worry. He has put up with the irrigation department for some assistance so that he can water his fields. But there has been no reply yet. The monsoon season has thankfully arrived but the coming winter might make him a worried man again.
The Nagaland government has lofty plans aimed at the ‘welfare’ of the farmers and there are funds and different schemes for the farmers. Yet finding a market for the local products is a major concern. The local products are more expensive than those imported from outside and so the people have a knack to go for those vegetables imported from Assam, Haryana etc.
“The government should do some thorough research and analysis when it comes to farming and marketing the local products. They should not be carried away and simply implement programmes just because others are doing it. Now people say we need a cold storage in Nagaland, but the question is what are we going to store in the cold storage? We need to study thoroughly,” the farmer says.
From time immemorial, Naga society has remained an agrarian society. Agriculture and Naga society are deeply related. But while farming in the past was mostly for own consumption; today, the Naga society needs to shift from subsistence farming to commercial farming. The agriculture department has a Vision 2025 through which it aims to achieve food sufficiency in Nagaland by Year 2025 and with the entry of the new-age farmers, things might just work out right if the government initiates some clear cut policies and executes it systematically.
“Things will improve when the farmers themselves are equally educated and intelligent as the policy makers. So young educated people should take up farming as their primary occupation,” says Longkumer. “At the end of the day, every profession is about income generation. Therefore, farming should be encouraged as a business venture.”
The article is a contribution from Morung Express, Nagaland