Bird's Eye Chilli from Mizoram

From one set of hills to another, this fiery red chilli pepper has travelled far and wide to reach Meghalaya. But what is so special about this chilli pepper you might ask?

Bird’s Eye Chilli

Image courtesy: The Better India

What is Bird’s Eye Chilli?

Bird’s Eye Chilli or Thai chilli as it is popularly known, is a variety of chilli peppers from the Capsicum annuum species of plants. The chilli pepper gets its name from the fact that the chilli peppers resemble the eyes of a bird. It is very pungent and has an average score of 50,000-1,00,000 Scoville Heat Units (a measure of spiciness).

This particular chilli pepper came into the limelight of Northeast India when it acquired the Geographical Index (GI) from a small and remote district in Mizoram called Siaha.

This story seeks to shed light on how the farmers from this remote district in Mizoram went from scrambling to find a means of sustenance, to earning 14 times more than they ever did, in just two years!

All it took was one red chilli pepper and a dedicated IAS officer, and the rest is history.

Former Deputy Commissioner of Siaha, Bhupesh Chaudhary, IAS.

Image courtesy: The Better India

A Spicy Start

Bhupesh Chaudhary was appointed as the Deputy Commissioner of Siaha District in 2018. His appointment was almost nothing short of a blessing to the economy deprived district. Thanks to his smart administrative skills Bhupesh was able to maximize the income of the struggling farmers of the region.

It was on one of his field trips as the then Deputy Commissioner that Bhupesh came to know of the cultivation of Bird’s Eye Chilli in Siaha district. By then, this potent red chilli pepper had already obtained a GI tag. But there was a problem. The farmers were selling this chilli pepper at throwaway prices as they were not aware of its real value. Also, they had no place to store the surplus. This forced them to sell their produce to traders from Silchar at a very low price.

So, the first thing Bhupesh’s administration did was organize the farmers from 5 villages into 25 Self Help Groups (SHGs). By doing so, the farmers established a common ground when it comes to bargaining prices thereby increasing the prices set by the traders.

“If farmers are organised into a group or collective, their bargaining power increases, and hence the price quoted by traders who buy it from them rises. By merely organising them into SHGs and cooperative society, we helped double the price they were receiving,” — Bhupesh Chaudhary on setting up SHGs for the farmers. (The Better India)

Bird’s Eye Chilli farmers in Siaha

Image courtesy: The Better India

Building a Foundation

Owing to lack of storage spaces, the farmers are often exploited by the traders who purchase the red chilli pepper at a very low price.

The administration realized that there was a need to come up with an action plan to aid the farmers in their production. This undertaking led to the construction of essential infrastructures such as storehouse, packaging unit, and a processing unit. Initially, the first infrastructure was built in Zhyno village, which is one of the key cultivators of the Bird’s Eye Chili pepper.

As a result of intervention through various government schemes, the administration was able to fund the construction for the various production units. The storehouses were built under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sectors Rejuvenation (RKVY-Raftaar) and the water tanks under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Solar tunnel dryers were also provided to the farmers by the administration’s partners, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited.

Pride of Siaha,

Mizoram’s Siaha had a huge turnaround with the success of the administration’s initiative. The farmers were able to increase their income. They were free from exploitation by the traders. Before the initiative, they had to sell the fresh chilli pepper at ₹50-100 per kg which put them at a huge loss.

With the implementation of the initiative, the farmers were able to add more value to the red chilli pepper by processing it into powder form. This ensured that the farmers received a reasonable price of ₹700 per kg.

Today, all the villages under Siaha produce the chilli powder under the brand name ‘Maraland Ahiah Paohpa’, bringing laurels not only to the district but also to Mizoram.

Goes to show that there are good Government schemes – all that is needed is a proper directive and administration.  Do you agree? Do you have any such success stories around agriculture and or farmers that you would like to share? Please post them as comments.

 

 

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