Sinlung /
23 March 2021

Nagaland begins integrated settled farming project

The pilot project has been launched at Boke-Botsa under Kohima district, where eight departments and a public undertaking are converging for the first time to work with the village community

By Alice Yhoshü

The Nagaland government has begun work on an innovative model of cluster agricultural development, Naga Model Integrated Settled Farming (NISF).

The pilot project was launched at Boke-Botsa under Kohima district, where eight departments and a public undertaking – agriculture, sericulture, horticulture, animal husbandry and veterinary science, water resources, fishery and aquatic resources, land resources, soil and water conservation, and the Nagaland beekeeping and honey mission – are converging for the first time to work with the village community.

Covid-19-induced lockdowns in 2020, which highlighted the gap in production and access to food, prompted the state government to look at the agricultural and allied sector in a new light. Chief minister Neiphiu Rio also said in his recent budget speech, “The agricultural and allied sectors are going to be the most important aspect of the state government’s strategy towards achieving a self-sustaining economy”.

The project is based on the concept of settled farming because farming in most of the Naga villages still sees villagers living on hilltops for security, while their fields are located at the foothills. The settled farming concept looks to change this approach, saving the farmers the commuting time with the activities closer home.

According to agriculture production commissioner (APC) Nagaland, Y Kikheto Sema, the NISF pilot project area is slightly over 1,000 acres involving 145 farmers or landowners. Several samples of soil have been sent for health testing for agricultural purposes. Mapping of the area was carried out in November 2020 and farmers’ activities have already commenced in February. Road construction around the project site has also been completed.

The government is also establishing a farm-to-market chain for marketing linkage and storage that will help farmers sell their produce in a bigger market. Sema said many of the Central government schemes were devised as per the conditions of the mainland states, while the topography and system of cultivation in Nagaland is different, making the schemes unsuitable for Naga farmers.

Jhum, or shifting cultivation, though not economically viable and ecologically sustainable, is a major practice in the state. Sema said this practice was ultimately reducing the state’s forest cover and at the same time, making it difficult for the department(s) to connect with the farmers in consecutive cycles. He expressed hope that the NISF model would address these challenges.

In the pilot project, the state government is looking to establish an organic vegetables market, about 200 fisheries, a commercial nursery, seed banks to preserve and promote traditional seeds, compost marketing, farmers training institution, custom hiring and repairing of farming tools and machinery.

The aim is to turn the project into a model farming township, and ultimately a business model.

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“If it (the NISF pilot project) is successful, we will implement it in all districts. But its success also depends on all the stakeholders,” Sema stated.

“The main aim of the project is to start an ecosystem of farming. If it is successful, it will not only give an entirely new direction to Nagaland, but to other states in the country as well – to lead the way for the next generation,” says Richard Belho, the project consultant. He admitted that the pilot was being started on a research and experiment basis, but was hopeful that it would take off well and attract the educated younger generation back to the field.

“We never had a proper market structure. The activities introduced by various agri and allied departments often overlap with the farming community’s, thereby resulting in having to shelf the new activities after a few years of trial. With NISF, we are looking at sustainability- first for the farmer, then the village community, and finally the market,” Belho said.

He said the departments will track the activities and document their successes and failures so that the future models can learn from the pilot project, he added.

“If implemented properly, this project will enable farmers to multiply their production, become a contributing factor towards sufficiency and even export beyond the village. The projects are different from our normal practice as, for instance, the fishery ponds are being widened, scientific testing of soil is being done to assess suitability of crops etc.,” says Kechangulie Kense, one of the farmer-landowners at Boke-Botsa. He said he has taken up fishery and horticulture.

“Farming was not an option earlier, but this settled farming project has changed my opinion and I want to seriously get involved in it,” Kense said.

Another farmer and a village elder, Pfheliezhü, said he is upbeat about the project.

The first impact and output from the project is expected within the next three to six months. However, the actual output will be the result yielded in the next three years.


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