The plainsmen of India ain’t seen nothin’ yet, as far rice goes. They stick to their Basmati and their polished versions of Dudheswar et al. That’s not the taste of health. For health you need to go to the hills, pick up something that you may not like to look at.
Black sticky rice, for example?
These days, when many may not know about black sticky rice, we bring you a first-hand report of a progressive farmer growing it. Yes, you heard right – black rice!
Black sticky rice is a rich source of antioxidants due to the bran and germ layer found in the outer coating. It is considered a superfood due to its high nutritive value and like other rice varieties, it is gluten free! read more
Here is a first-hand report about a farmer growing glutinous black rice in India
Let us put the record straight, first. This is not the first instance where farmers from the Northeast have preserved traditional tribal knowledge about agriculture. One such farmer, Potshangbam Devakanta of Manipur, was recently in the news too for his efforts in following traditional farming methods. He was awarded for his effort.
This is what Devakanta says:
Traditional methods of farming do not give much yield. From a hectare, I get just two-three tonnes of rice every year. However, the produce is high on nutritional value and ensures people who consume it are healthy and have a longer life span," (Source)
There are many like him in Meghalaya too. Zizira is on an exploration drive to discover such farmers to celebrate them and present their story to the world.
On one such trip Zizira explorers visited Larnai village in Jaintia hills district to meet a farmer growing black sticky rice.
How we found out about this farmer
It all started when team Zizira visited Jaintia hills district back in February 2016. At the Agricultural Department in Jowai we met the Agriculture Development Officer and the Project Director Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Jaintia Hills. Over a cup of tea, we heard from the officials about a progressive farmer who was hard working and had been benefiting from government schemes and initiatives. Just the kind of farmer Zizira explorers wanted to meet. We made a note to pay him a visit.
What you read here is our report based on our meeting this progressive farmer.
And we meet the farmer
After a two-hour drive from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, Team Zizira reached Larnai village and was greeted by the very farmer we wanted to meet, Mr Kerli Shylla, a sturdy, 60-year-old man, standing erect and welcoming us to his home. With a family of 14 children, the only source of income for Mr Kerli’s family is agriculture. He grows black sticky rice and oranges, which are sold at the local market.
He has been growing black sticky rice without the use of chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers.
How much does he harvest? Who are the buyers? Did he receive any government subsidy? These were some questions we had for him.
In a year he harvests 60-70 bags of black sticky rice, each bag weighing 100 Kg. So, he gets a yield of between 6 and 7 tonnes of black sticky rice every year. The produce is then sold at Wahiajer and Ummulong, all of which are the closest market from Larnai.
What makes this progressive farmer different?
Kerli is one such farmer who not only works hard in his field, but also looks for ways to improve the way he works and learn new things. He made full use of the training and subsidies he received from the Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya. He even went to Delhi for the NSFI Global Agri Connect-2013 program to learn about different technologies involved in increasing income for farmers through skill development and training activities.
This is what he said: “In 2012, I received a scheme from the department of irrigation to supply water to my paddy field. I also received a poly house which was built by the horticulture department. The agriculture department provides organic manure from time to time. I’m really thankful to the government for reaching out to farmers like myself.”
Farmer Kerli has had his own set of everyday challenges.
First, he has to make a two-hour trip every day on foot to his farm at Sung valley. Apart from this, during the harvest season, he has to carry rice on his back and walk all the way from the field to his village.
Second, his farm has no fencing and is in constant threat from grazing cattle.
Says he: “I wish the government had a scheme for providing fencing facilities for farmers like us, because often our crops are eaten or spoiled by the animals.”
Kerli is one of the farmers Zizira hopes to help by getting better returns for his efforts by reaching his unique products to other parts of India through our store. We enjoyed meeting with this progressive farmer and seeing how his family worked together during the harvest. We learned that we just need to keep visiting farmers to try to understand why they grow and what they do.
What is the way out?
Though transportation is one of the biggest challenges faced by the Northeast India farmers, it does not faze them. It seems to have become part of their daily life. But should this hardship not be addressed? By writing about such things Zizira hopes to bring them to the limelight. The hope is that, eventually, everyone will know about the challenges they face and respect the farmers for their hard work.
In Meghalaya, 47.02% of villages are still not connected by paved roads. Road connectivity varies across the districts, from 61% in the South Garo Hills district to 26% in the Jaintia Hills. Source
There must be more such farmers who continue to follow traditional farming methods and know how and where to get support from the various government schemes. We hope to bring more such stories to you.
Have you tried black sticky rice? Try and tell us what you think.
Do you know about other farmers in the Northeast of India who have benefitted from Government schemes? Write and share the news with our site visitors. Add them as comments.
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