And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So, God made a farmer. -Paul Harvey
A farmer works purposefully, he does not waste one moment of his time. If he misses a day, there will be no hay. If he plows a little too late, there will be no harvest. If he seeds one hour too late and a storm comes, then all his work will be undone. Their livelihood depends entirely on nature.
To put it in simple words, farmers are humble and hard-working. This article is about a family of traditional farmers from Nongtraw village, Meghalaya. Our team of explorers met them on their recent trip. They spent two days with the farmers and came away fascinated, having seen and experienced the humble nature of these folks.
Here is their story, based on first-person experiences. Read on.
We, the Zizira explorers, started our journey to Nongtraw village, assisted and guided by Bah Pius Ranee, a local resident of the village. The village is located in a remote area where no vehicles can reach. The only way is to walk on foot and go down 3000 steps.
As we walked down these steps we were fascinated with how clean and refreshing the ambiance was, truly pristine in nature. We reached the humble home of Bah Pius. His family had already prepared tea and ethnic snacks for us. Bah Pius’s parents are both farmers who have been practicing traditional farming passed down to them from their ancestors.
“The experience was unexpected! Usually, when we go to meet farmers they would have a separate room in their house which they vacate to let us stay. But Bah Pius’s family was different. He already had a separate hut. A traditional and ethnic hut made of bamboo. A perfectly cozy place to sleep and rest your tired body.”- Khraw Kharpuri (a Zizira explorer)
Bah Pius had already arranged our meetings with different traditional farmers. He knew the purpose of our visit to Nongtraw village, that we had come here to learn and gain knowledge.
The first person we met was the village headman, who told us that the village is well known for Sohiong, a Blackberry like fruit, which grows on trees and is unique to the Northeast India. In fact, the village has won an award in a Blackberry fruit festival. “I have 10 Sohiong trees. Annually I harvest abundant Sohiong fruits. I plant the Sohiong tree in the month of April and they take about 10 years to reach maturity and provide me with fruits.”Mr. Horno Dohling (headman of Nongtraw village)
We also met Bah Pius’s uncle Bah Richard who is a bee-keeper. We were taken by surprise with his amazing knowledge of bee-keeping. “I learned the art of bee-keeping from my forefathers and have been practicing it since 1987. During the years when I initially started with bee-keeping, I could collect honey three times a year – in the months of November, December and January. But, now I am able to collect only once a year – in January.” Bah Richard Ranee (bee-keeper).
Read more about Bah Richard and his traditional bee-keeping expertise.
We also met the other local residents of Nongtraw village. They were all eager to share with us their knowledge and insights on traditional practices of farming. They showed us innumerable wild fruits and vegetables grown in their village.
Some of them are tapioca (phandieng), beans (Rymbai ja), 4 different types of millets, sweet potatoes, different types of wild vegetables (jail, jarain, khliengsyiar), jobs tear and others. Other wild edibles such as sohmad, sohngang, sohthylliang, sohben, which are varieties of fruits, are also found in this village.
The stay got even more interesting! The food Bah Pius and his family cooked for us were made from the local wildly grown vegetables. It was traditional, tasty, unique and simply healthy. To top it off, the presentation of the food was lovely and wonderful.
We also learned an interesting fact. Bah Pius shared a story of a foreigner studying in Oxford university. She stayed with them for about 2 months and did a research study on the village. She learned the traditional farming practices from his mother and assisted her in farming.
To know truly what it’s like to be a Khasi farmer, she wore the traditional attire, carried a “khoh” (local name for basket). After her research was complete she went back to her university and was ranked 1st for the research she did on Nongtraw village.
Our venture to Nongtraw village was an experience we will never forget. Even more so the part where we had to climb back, up the 3000 steps! We are thankful to have met such a humble family. Our stay at Nongtraw village was made worthwhile. More than that, we are fired to find ways to open markets for these farmers.
What did you find most interesting in this story? Any questions for us, the Zizira explorers, about this region? Do not hesitate to write to us. Use the comment section below and we promise to follow up.