You may have heard of our exploratory trips around Meghalaya as we discover the hidden agricultural potential of the region. In one such trip, our team of explorers reached Mawklot village, East Khasi Hills District Meghalaya to meet a traditional farmer growing perilla seeds.
Perilla Seed or Perilla frutescens (Botanical name) grows only in the hilly areas of India and most of the people in India do not know about this seed” - said Dr. Mao, Senior Scientist of the Botanical Survey of India. He also shared that oil can be extracted from Perilla which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Read more on our visit to Dr. Mao’s office as he shared his experiences.
It was late September 2016, when Zizira’s team of four visited Mawklot village and just as we stopped to admire the natural beauty of the area, we were greeted by Aiborlang Kynter, a third-generation traditional farmer.
We were given a guided tour of the village and then we reached his farm, hoping to discover crops and finding a way to work with him. After all, our mission is to open markets for the traditional and subsistence farmers of the region and that is what each of our explorations is always about.
Here is what Aiborlang shared with us –
From one perilla plant I harvest 50-100 gram of perilla seeds.” “Most of the produce is sold in the local market. If not, we sell the seeds locally in the nearby shops within the village. Perilla is not the main source of our income, so it is the lowest priority crop in our farm.”
We don’t take perilla farming as a primary source of farming, as we plant it only for personal use. Another reason for this being the lack of a stable market. If there is demand, we can take the risk and work on increasing land under perilla. For this very reason, we are planting different crops including cabbage and French beans in our farm, to make sure if one does not go well we still have other crops to rely on. Evening out our risks” said Aiborlang.
We wanted to know more about growing perilla and here’s what he said,
I use seeds from the plants in my farm to propagate perilla. I do not buy seeds from the market. The seeds are first sown in a nursery and we wait till the saplings are ready to be transplanted. The transplanting happens around June and harvest is in December.”
Airborlang uses seeds from the same produce in his farms which are not genetically modified. The fact that he does not use any chemical and artificial fertilizers makes the produce from his farm all the more valuable.
Despite discouragements and the lack of market support, farmers like Aiborlang are overcoming challenges and working hard every day to retain their agricultural traditions.
What could be done to showcase such simple, yet meaningful, real-life account of the local farmers of Meghalaya and help them improve their livelihoods? Do you have ideas? Do share with us.