Much of Meghalaya’s traditional farming has remained organic. This is the great advantage of this region, being head and shoulders above the rest of the country that is just about venturing into this high value, healthy world. We met up with an organic farmer of Garo Hills who has a large collection on her farm, starting from sticky rice to cashew, that she can sow and reap almost throughout the year.
Team Zizira is on a quest to explore Meghalaya and the Northeast and bring the unique natural produce to the fore. We are always on the lookout for field visits to meet and celebrate the farmers for their diligent work and understand the hardship they face. Every Zizira team member is keen to understand agricultural methods, organic farming practices and get a close view of a farmer’s life.
There were times when the team even got the chance to experience real time sowing, weeding and a lot more! One such exploratory visit took us to Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. And thanks to Thailind Ch. Marak, an inhabitant of Upper Wadanang, Tura, team Zizira got the chance to meet a lady farmer. Through her we learnt about what she grows and how. We bring you her story.
Quick fact! Did you know? Nokrek National Park, a bio-diversity area, is at the highest point of Garo hills, standing at 1412 meters above sea level. In fact, the first species of Citrus fruit was discovered within the Nokrek region.
Eline A. Sangma is a lady organic farmer who has been practising organic farming for the past 20 years and is no less than a successful agricultural entrepreneur. Her family farm is in Mukdangra Village, West Garo Hills district, Meghalaya. She grows a variety of crops and uses natural fertilizers like animal dung. Team Zizira visited her farm on the 26th December 2015 and we bring you this first-hand report from the field visit.
Here is Eline A. Sangma giving us a tour of her cashew farm. Hats off to this mother of three who is taking care of agricultural fields in the hilly terrains of Meghalaya with little help from others.
Despite what looked like a hard life, Eline had a smile on her face and a whole lot to share while she showed us through her rice field and cashew farm. I guess her love for what she does gives her all the energy she needs. We were full of questions and were eager to know about her farming practices. Here’s what she told us:
The main crops cultivated in my farm are cashew, rice and litchi. Apart from these there are other crops as well such as yam, gingers and even cherry peppers grown in smaller amounts. Among all of these produce, I find Garo sticky rice to be the best and the litchi growing here are very juicy and sweet. I have never used any chemicals or fertilizers. I just use natural farming practice and manures.
Over 20 years of farming the only issue I faced is irrigation or proper water supply. Luckily, cashews need less or no extra water as they tend to have long roots. It was wonderful to see that such a huge farm was totally organic. Our thought was “more people should know about it” Hence this blog post!
So, What Does the Cashew Growth Cycle Look Like?
According to Eline: After the seeds sprout, the time taken to get a fully grown cashew tree ready to bear fruits is 4 years! The annual cycle that follows is: February- March, they start flowering. April sees the tree bearing fruits and then harvested by May.
Earlier, Eline had to take the cashewnuts to the local market to sell, which meant paying for labor to transport and hence insufficient returns. But with an optimistic approach she kept pushing forward and now she can see things changing.
Buyers are now coming to her village to buy the cashewnuts directly from the growers. This is helping organic farmer like Eline get better returns and a promise of a sustainable livelihood.
Interestingly, Most Farmers Cultivate Rice, but for Their Own Consumption
We cultivate rice only for self-consumption and sell the excess after storing enough for the whole year, said Eline. What makes Garo Sticky rice (Minil) different from other sticky rice?
Minil is stickier than other sticky rice and it has been traditionally used for making a special Garo rice beer called Mi’bitchi. Apart from this Minil is also crushed and applied to heal dog bite, she added.
Here Is a Quick Look at Minil Calendar
Seeds are sown by June
July-August the saplings are re-planted maintaining a distance of 1 ft. between two saplings.
In November, Minil is ready for harvest
Farmers like Eline are to be celebrated for their hard work and the love of natural farming. Zizira wishes to bring you more such real-life accounts of farmers through our regular field visits. As for this visit, team Zizira came back well informed.
We are now exploring the possibility of offering Garo Sticky rice, Minil, from farmers like Eline - natural produce from the Garo Hills of Meghalaya that is free from artificial fertilizer and pesticide. We will test it for taste and quality before we do so. Over to you! Leave your comments below, we'd love to hear from you.