“All my life, I have known nothing but farming”
It would be extremely deplorable on our part if we were to go about living our lives paying barely a paise worth of attention to the atrocities and hardships faced by small and marginal Indian farmers in this day and age.
Bah Mihwan Sungoh is a farmer hailing from a small village called Khatkasla in the Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya, bordering Assam. All his life, from a very tender age of 12, Bah Mihwan took up farming as a means of livelihood.
On one sunny February afternoon of 2021, Bah Mihwan visited our office here at Zizira, and graced us with many interesting topics pertaining to his life in particular and the life of farmers in general.
He even shared the major problem when it comes to cultivating Ing Makhir ginger, but more on that in the paragraphs to follow.
Ing Makhir Ginger, but at what cost?
Prior to 2006, Bah Mihwan had been growing Ing Makhir ginger, a special type of ginger which is indigenous to Meghalaya and well known for its potent flavour. However, it was rarely a fruitful endeavour as it was extremely hard to make a profit from selling this potent ginger then.
At that point in time, the price for the ginger fetched only a mere ₹15-20 per kg. And if that’s not surprising enough, Bah Mihwan narrated that there was a time when the ginger was sold at just ₹2 per kg.
The reason why there was no market for this ginger was clearly obvious yet very much oblivious to the farmers- nobody knew about it. Farmers like Bah Mihwan felt there was no use to grow this produce in such a large scale, so he decided to grow it only for sustenance.
But come 2006, something bizarre happened. The price shot up to ₹90 per kg and it kept increasing. No one knew why it happened, not even Bah Mihwan. Thenceforth, there was a steady demand for the ginger and in the year 2018, the price it fetched was over ₹200.
Successful Farmer Story
This gradual demand was promising for small, marginal farmers like Bah Mihwan as it brought a sense of hope for them. They could now produce more of the ginger since there was a market for it.
Now, people are more wary of the significance of this potent ginger.
In fact, the inexplicable growing demand for the ginger resulted in a huge investment from other companies seeking out opportunities to get a hold of this prized produce.
Bah Mihwan narrated how 25 tonnes worth of Ing Makhir ginger have already been harvested and sold to one company just a few weeks before coming to our office. In addition to that, another company had also invested their money on this ginger, and 20 tonnes worth of it is being cultivated and harvested by all the farmers in Khatkasla village and other nearby hamlets.
This instills a sense of hope for the people in Khatkasla and the neighbouring villages. It provides an incentive to grow more and, in the process, attain a steady income.
Every fortune does come with its own set obstacles and that is exactly what Bah Mihwan opines. He gave us an insight into the obstacles the farmers face when it comes to growing the Makhir ginger which turned out to be a successful farmer story we can proudly narrate.
One of the main obstacles when it comes to growing this particular variety of ginger is the fact that this ginger requires a special type of soil in order for it to grow well.
The other main reason, and perhaps the biggest setback, is the problem of infestation when it comes to cultivating this particular ginger. Bah Mihwan stressed on the importance of figuring out ways to tackle this particular problem as it resulted in huge losses when it comes to harvesting, especially if left untended.
The government have been doing its part in tackling this issue but there seems to be no clear answer as to what is exactly causing this problem and how to address it.
Bah Mihwan stressed that once this problem is resolved it will be all the more easier for farmers to meet the demands of future prospects viz., companies and ventures.
More so, the self-driven passionate farmer expressed his views on how aids, in terms of government training programmes and schemes, provide ample help to the small and marginal farmers.
Albeit small, these are just some of the ways in which Indian farmers benefit from government initiatives.
But the problems don’t stop here.
Why do farmers struggle?
The most important aspect of financial or vocational aids is providing poor farmers with incentives. It allows them to make the best use of these facilities so as to maximize their farming.
But to what extent? Most of the Indian farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers tend to have a tough time trying to capitalize on the initiatives provided to them. This can be associated with the fact that the farmers have a surface level understanding when it comes to forecasting what to grow, when, and why it’s necessary to grow a particular produce to help sustain their income.
For instance, Bah Mihwan mentioned that after harvesting the ginger for the season, they usually don’t grow anything else for the rest of the year. Even if they do, it’s usually for subsistence purposes only.
This is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes farmer struggles.
To tackle this, both the government and companies, have to take on the role of providing farmers not only with a market to sell their produce but also imparting certain technical and sustainable knowledge and information.
By educating the farmers about the basics of transaction and demand and supply, it provides scope for farmers to plan their cultivation well and be profitable with it.
This is one of Zizira’s mission. To empower and educate the farmers in the course of releasing their full potential.