Beginning of February 2017 Zizira explorers visited the Umden weekly haat and witnessed a market packed with farmers and local traders. We learnt that a lot of produce sold here, such as black pepper, perilla seeds, ginger and chilies, are collected from few local backyard farmers and sold collectively at these haats.
Did you know? Haats are traditional weekly markets that are set up in villages on a weekly basis.
After a quick tour of the haat, we were out having tea when a conversation with few locals started and we were directed to a farmer growing ghost chili. After the tea, we headed to the area where ghost chili farmers lived, in our quest to find farmers growing this fiery chili, and perhaps another farmer to work with Zizira.
We met Mr Swell Rympat, a 65-year-old farmer. We were excited to hear his story and work with him in a bid to open market for the ghost chili he grows.
He shared how he started growing ghost chili since 2014, after receiving saplings from traders from Assam for ₹3 each. He doesn’t have large farmland, but planted ghost chili in his backyard and grew around 10 kgs of raw ghost chili in 2016.
“I’m old now and do not have the strength to work on huge farm lands. I sold off my farm 3 years ago, and now work on my backyard to grow ghost chili”, said Mr. Swell.
It is a pity that most of the ghost chili harvested in 2016 were wasted as there were no buyers. So, farmer Swell stopped growing ghost chili. As it was too spicy for him, he did not grow even for his own use. This was something team Zizira made a note of, as we do know that ghost chili has a demand! So, these are the farmers who need market support. We did the needful and took his contact, to procure ghost chili grown by him.
“It’s first bite feels like any ordinary chili, but after few seconds you will feel the immense heat in your mouth”, said Mr. Swell.
We were happy to have met farmer Swell and explained what Zizira is and how we plan to build a long-term relationship with farmers.
Without wasting time, we headed back to the haat, with hopes of meeting some more farmers, and, guess what? We did meet another farmer growing ghost chili, Mr. Timung, from Marmain village (13 Km from Umden). There were so many things to learn from Mr Timung, a man in his 70s, who was happy to share his experiences with us and ready to introduce us to his fellow villagers. We then reached Marmain, a half an hour drive, and we were excited to meet the local villagers from the Karbi tribe.
Mr Timung then guided us to a young school teacher who grew the most ghost chili in his village in 2016 - Mr Lolit Ingti. A young progressive farmer, he is a teacher at Marmain and grows chili and rice in his spare time. He planted 2,000 chili saplings in 2016 and harvested 100 Kgs. He was happy to hear about Zizira and was willing to work with us.
“We sell ghost chili to traders from Nongpoh, who come over to our village during harvest. I don’t know what happens to the chilies after that,” said Lolit
Upon hearing this we took out our cell phones and showed our online store to farmer Timung. We wanted to let him know where his produce will be displayed, for consumers across the country.
This is a short account of our trip to meet farmers growing the world’s hottest chili in Meghalaya.
We are continuously exploring Meghalaya in search of unique produce. Want to try Bhut Jolokia chilies, also known as Naga chilies? Visit our store.
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