Hidden & Untouched Northeast India
An almost magical, bio-diverse richness pervades the landscape of India's Northeastern states. The region has a spectacular forest wealth and is a reservoir of diverse habitats of floras and faunas. This huge forest cover makes it one of the three biodiversity hotspots in the country.
Apart from the plains in the Brahmaputra and Barak valley, much of the region has a hilly terrain, and the region enjoys a pleasant climate, higher rainfall, and fewer frost days.
70% of the population is engaged in agricultural activities. Much of the farming is done using traditional methods, where farmers still use the slash and burn system. There are many small family farms and most famers grow enough for their own consumption.
These non-technological farmers seem to be a big benefit for the region. Many people are looking to Northeast India as the place for organic food.
Meghalaya - Home of The Clouds - One of The Best Organic Farming Region
On a recent visit to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in Meghalaya, our group was told that Northeast India is organic by default.
This means most small farms have never used pesticides or fertilizers. Farmers are still using traditional methods of farming.
Old fashioned farming has become a strength.
In other words, because Northeast India has been so far behind the times, the farmers now now have a big advantage because this naturally ascribes the land as the best organic farming region.
We should follow the traditional organic farming methods to maintain the purity of our farms. The Northeast India is blessed with natural resources. We receive enough rainfall even during winters. We need to go back to our indigenious farming system, where we get fresh air, clean water and more nutritious food for consumption.
- Dr. S.V. Ngachan, Director ICAR NEH in a farmers exhibition at Bhoirymbong, Meghalaya.
CHANGE IS SLOW
and the potential remains locked up…
Though blessed with rich biodiversity, problems prevail for the farmers.
Most if not all the farmers fail to realize the potential right under their feet.
Many farmers still grow in traditional ways. They typically have small plots of land where they grow enough potatoes, rice and vegetables, to meet their personal needs. In some forested, rainy areas, black pepper, long pepper and coffee grow. There are very few farmers growing oranges, cashews, plums, kiwi and similar fruits and nuts.
They hope to get their crops to the market before spoiling, and when they do, they may not get a decent price. Their future seems bleak, but the reality is different!
Farmers sell the crops in local markets or to middlemen. Life is tough for many farmers. Recently we learned that many of the woman farmers lose their land to middlemen. Apparently, these farmers borrow money to buy seeds and are not able to pay it back.
a common issue
In order to take their produce to the nearest market, farmers sometimes need to carry 50 kilo bags and trek to the next village. Usually this trek is a vertical climb which with their heavy burden takes anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The Solution: Opening Markets
Agencies and government organisations are doing their best to help farmers.
Farmers often give us the impression that the work of some of these entities helps, but what they really need is a market.
Farmers want to sell and make money.
This is where Zizira comes in. We are a team of young and enthusiastic explorers. We believe we can open markets for the farmers of this region.
Zizira strives to become a successful business to sell products to the big cities in India. The model is to create a sustainable, profitable business and at the same time benefit farmers.
We believe that by opening markets, we help farmers get the most for their crops. Eventually, opening markets will help them discover the most profitable crops to grow and their land will be used to its fullest potential.
We dream BIG
We wish to showcase Northeast India
And release the Potential of farmers
COME JOIN US ON A JOURNEY TO UNCOVER THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF MEGHALAYA
Since good information about crops, farming practices and markets is not readily available, Zizira explorers regularly go on field visits.
We visited the research centre of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), meeting with scientists, government officials to explore and learn from them.
We go out to meet farmers, to understand the world of farmers, to discover the crops they are currently growing. We interview them and uncover something new on each trip.
Taking photos and recording became our habit. We report about our discovery, the potential of Meghalaya, and its unique treasures by writing about spices, forgotten foods, ancient grains, medicinal plants, exotic fruits and more.
We tell the story of the successes and struggles of the farmers we visited.
We share about all these discoveries every week on our Newsletter #ZiziraFoodLores.
1. Lakadong Turmeric:
We met the farmers of Mootyrchiah Village in Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya growing Lakadong turmeric. They wanted market support. We came to know about their Self Help Groups (SHG) that grows the high-curcumin turmeric Lakadong.
We also met with ICAR and learnt about the work of Dr. S. K. Barik (a NEHU professor who was coaching the SHG group) and how he helped set up a processing unit in their village.
2. Heritage Honey:
We met bee keepers who share us interesting stories about their trade with the bees. Bah Richard Ranee from Nongtraw village was one of them. He follows an age-old practice of speaking to the bees!
Bah Richard would speak to the bees with respect, before he collects honey from the beehives. That is the amount of respect he has for nature.
3. Shiah Krot:
We discovered Shiah Krot, which was a medicinal roots used by traditional healers.
We also learned that in olden times when tea leaves were unknown to the locals, 'Sha Shiah Krot' or Shiah Krot tea was a popular beverage.
In fact some villagers still use this till today. The people dug the roots of Shiah Krot from the forest, washed them in the river and left them to dry in the sun.
4. Megha Turmeric-1:
Developed by ICAR Research Complex of NEH Region, Meghalaya, through clonal selection from the genotype Lakadong turmeric, a new variety of Turmeric, Megha -1 was introduced in Meghalaya. It was tested to improve yield and reduce risk of leaf blotch and leaf spots. This turmeric is tested in the Ri-Bhoi district during 2013-14.
A total of 7.5 hectares were put under cultivation of the new turmeric variety. Meghalaya Rural Development Society (MRDS) is providing support to run the plant and market the products.
5. Piper longum:
“Most of the people of the Southern slopes of Meghalaya use this crop as an insurance as it can be stored for up to one year (after drying). As and when they need money, they gradually sell it in the market. This product acts like a savings bank for farmers in the Ri-War areas, where betel leaf is the main source of income the whole year long.”
- Mr. Canning Shabong Assistant Director of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya
Researchers have discovered a compound in Indian long pepper, or Piper Longum, that may hold the key to fighting cancer.
6. Soh Danei:
Zizira discovered the efficacy of Sohdanei through a herbal medicine practitioner.
Sohdanei or Garcinia Pedunculata is an evergreen fruit with a tangy taste and much used in Northeast India for its health benefits. It was popularly used by the locals as a medicinal herb.
Lyngiangbru or Potentilla fulgens, a medicinal herb better known as lyniangbru (Khasi) in Meghalaya, which is an important ingredient for the local traditional medicine used to relieve dental problems.
We discovered this herb from a Professor at NEHU Dr. Syiem. He had done extensive research and found it can lower blood sugar levels. In fact, it can even maintain sugar levels in healthy people.
We have many incredible and fascinating discoveries about Meghalaya. You can read all of that when you subscribe to our Newsletter #ZiziraFoodLores
Snapshot of a Few Stories From Us Every Week
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WHAT THEY SAY...
Thousands who have subscribed love reading our stories. Here are a few of their comments.
Very useful and relevant information. Thank you for sharing these details. Best wishes.
I am enjoying these folklore mails. Wonderfully put across and we'll written.
Thanks for this article. It is informative.
Very sweet story.
Miramon Miramon Miramon! You are the best Storyteller @Zizira!
Loved the new concept of introducing ZiziraFoodlore along with the awesome articles and tips!
I can see the amount of hardwork and dedication that goes into making this newsletter right from sourcing the stories to coming up with the amazing writeups!
Thanks for bringing us such quality work Miramon! Sure it's also great teamwork so kudos to the entire team @Zizira.
Best wishes always.
Philip, You are a wonderful story teller..
Your stories are very interesting..
Do tell me more..
What are you waiting for??
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A Little More About Us...
Zizira believes in opening markets and create opportunities where needed. We strive to make a difference to the people in Northeast India.
How we Work
Sourcing from the source
We realized more and more people want to know where their food comes from. We source our products directly from Meghalaya farmers.
Our mission was to bring people's attention to the produce of Northeast. Hence we want to make sure the region is recognized for any and every food product that goes out from Zizira.
Sustainable practices for the sake of future generations
We are a business focused on profitable responsible business practices. We go beyond sourcing from farmers to partnering with farmers, recognizing the dignity of work and its ability to transform lives.
We will not exploit natural resources like forests, land and water. Will use less energy. Making it sustainable will mean leaving behind a richer land for the future generations.
Aiming for Win-Win-Win for Farmers-Customers-Zizira
We strive to be a business that will be sustainable – that will be win-win-win for the farmers, the customers and Zizira.
For farmers: Our vision is to create and sell high value products, so that farmers increase income by releasing the potential of their land.
For customers: Our customers can trust that behind each product is a commitment that each product was made with care. Our unique location and climate produces spices, fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. The traditional farming techniques follow natural methods, thus many of our products are clean from pesticides and toxins. Our effort will help the ever increasing number of people seeking healthy living as a choice.
For Zizira: Zizira is striving to create business excellence from discovery to delivery. We believe in profit with a purpose. When Zizira earns a profit, creates wealth, meaningful work and develops responsible people, that's when we consider it a win. We strive to become a conscious business that can make a difference and add value to customers, to families and to the community at large.
Pioneering a food business that makes a difference to farmers is proving to be more challenging than expected. Zizira is in the same situation as farmers. Perhaps it is harder for farmers. We are not there yet but we are moving forward.
Come be a part of our story.
Join us on our journey as we bridge the gap for farmers and create products so customers get to enjoy the taste and purity of Northeast India.
Join #ZiziraFoodLores and Subscribe today.