According to a census report, 30 percent of farmers in the United States are women. But what about India?
In India, over 42% of the agricultural labour force are female farmers. But there’s nothing surprising about that when we take into consideration the immense population of the country.
Female farmers inarguably form the backbone of the economy and there’s no question about it. They are as equal to men in labour distribution, if not more. Yet most lady farmers are still deprived of their rights, especially when it comes to land.
But this disparity serves to be a test for some of the female farmers from this corner of India.
Kong Hun: Indian lady turmeric farmer from Saphai, Meghalaya
"I do not own this land. It belongs to my aunt. We’re just renting it”,
Kong Pdiangjingshaihun Dkhar can be heard amidst the rustling of the trees. She doesn’t own the land where her entire Lakadong turmeric cultivation is spread out, but she knows the value she’s adding to it by producing the best turmeric in India.
Kong Hun has been cultivating the Lakadong turmeric for years. She would help out her parents in the fields as a child. As an Indian lady farmer from the corner of Northeast India, Kong’s story proves to be a testament of determination amidst the roadblocks that is being a lady farmer in India.
She has been supplying Zizira the Lakadong turmeric for almost 3 years now. When she first started growing the Lakadong turmeric, there was barely a market for it as people did not know its value. The only place to sell it was the local market and it did not fetch a favourable price.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the demand shot up for this special variety of turmeric. Her small turmeric plot grew tremendously after that and as a result she expanded her cultivation owing to the growing demand.
Ideal Leader and Extraordinary Lady Farmer
Kong Hun paved the way for the market of Lakadong turmeric from Saphai. She began to gather the farmers from her village and form a community of farmers who would soon be growing one of the most sought after turmeric in the world.
When asked about what impact her movement brought about to the lady farmers of her village this is what she had to say,
“They are an empowered lot now. They assert their rights and take their responsibilities literally and seriously.”
Ethical Farming: How does Kong Hun grow her turmeric
Kong Hun engages in ethical farming when it comes to growing her turmeric. She does not use any form of chemical pesticides to enhance the quality of the soil but rather resorts to organic fertilizers such as manure.
Owning a big plot of land is not easy. Before cultivating any crop, Kong Hun has to clean the area and that takes up a lot of time and energy, both of which she doesn’t have enough of. So, in return of a sum of money, she hires a few people every single day to help clear the plot before the cultivation. The number of people usually engaged in this labour is roughly about 10-15 people day on an average, tallying up to over 100 people in total by the time the entire cleaning is done.
The plot of land is divided into different sections. The turmeric is not grown all throughout the land but rather in a specific portion of the land for a 3-4 years before the soil needs to regain its fertility. The quality of the soil and its ability to produce a high yield is also taken into consideration.
Dividing the land into sections allows Kong Hun to cultivate in the same plot of land for a considerable number of years before shifting to another plot. This ethical farming method proves to be more beneficial to the overall health of the land as compared to using chemical enhancers when the soil starts to deteriorate.
According to Kong Hun, ethical farming goes beyond the aforementioned methods. It is teaching and educating the younger generations the same values and practices that has sustained their farming.
Turmeric Farming in India
When it comes to turmeric farming in India, the country is by and large the leading producer of the spice in the world. According to a 2019 report, India produced over 194.35 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of turmeric.
On a national level that sounds pretty impressive, but when it comes to subsistence and marginal farmers, they struggle a lot. There are still many obstacles that small scale farmers face when it comes to turmeric farming in India.
One of the main obstacles, Kong Hun narrates, is the lack of financial benefits when it comes to cultivation. Although government initiative have helped tremendously in this aspect, it is still a major problem when comes to farming. Lack of knowledge also plays a part in this as farmers are usually oblivious to the government schemes and aids.
Another major problem is at the ground level, literally. Even to this day, pest control is still one of the biggest hurdles that farmers face on a regular basis. This is one of the main reasons why some of the harvest is not suitable for consumption. The farmers are helpless when it comes to tackling this problem. The government is doing its best to help the farmer’s plight.
The Challenges of Being a Traditional Turmeric Farmer
It’s been 3 years now and Kong Hun is still providing the world’s best turmeric to Zizira. She has not only built a strong relationship with the farmers from her village but also with the team from Zizira.
Every time the team travels to Saphai she would welcome them wholeheartedly. She’d narrate stories of how her entire family would accompany her while harvesting the turmeric.
Now that’s a farmer relationship huh?