A study of Women among Sumi Community of Nagaland - Page 4
As discussed earlier in the introductory part of the present work, traditional agriculture also called jhum or shifting also called slash and burn cultivation resulted in rampant exploitation of the forest land leading to land degradation, deforestation, soil erosion, pollution of water, health complications with increased use of artificial fertilizers.
In the contemporary times, modern amenities have reached the remote corner of the village betraying its rural location and economy. Population pressures, food demand coupled with adaptation to advanced lifestyles and modern forces, the local poor no longer remain self-sufficient with hand to mouth existence.
This has lead to trigger their conscious being of making the best of what they own with more judicious and meticulous efforts giving more of a picture of survival of the
fittest in their attempt to upgrade themselves socioeconomically with changing times. Agro-pastoralism as their mainstay and high dependence on forest and forest products as the only source of livelihood options for women, they brought about new ecological paradigm in Agriculture in the form of Modern Organic Farming and Vermiculture/Vermicompost.
Organic Farming: Organic farming is a technique of farming to achieve high quality yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. Modern organic farming is not entirely a new technique in itself but it is a new concept of agriculture which does not work without incorporation of local indigenous knowledge. Soil structure and soil fertility is given major emphasis for which several techniques are employed such as seasonal crop rotation, mixed cropping, crop and animal wastes, mulching, animal husbandry, increasing genetic diversity, good cultivation practices, natural pesticides, careful management of water sources, Crop nutrition, weed control, Pit compost etc .
Sensing increasing issues of environmental deterioration, organic farming was first introduced in the village by one educated woman belonging to same village but reside in far off town who had acquired degree and training in modern application of organic farming. Bearing in mind the nurturing capacity and inherent knowledge of women she organized them into several groups and trained them in organic farming in collaboration with their indigenous knowledge. Each group has about 15 to 25 members namely Akumto group, Topuvi group, Tokulu group, Xakulu group, etc. All the members of each group work on their common field which is taken on rent from the local land owners, or village council. Some groups work in more than one field depending on their group strength, availability of field land and labor. For the present paper although all the groups were interviewed and their agricultural field sites were visited, focus was given on 2 to 3 groups for deriving case studies.
Case Study 1
Akumto Organic Group: The name of the group implying itself as “Strong/ Strength”, this group emerged as the most dynamic of the entire existing group with active participation in training programme, exhibition, cultural festival, agricultural events, and fete day both at the local as well as the national level. A group of 15 women all married of different age groups ranging from 30 to 60 (approx); they have their own executive bodies elected with collective decisions. The chairman takes initiatives of the activities such as group meeting, training, welfare programme, supply of food crops and vegetables etc. she acts as the head of the group and any decision concerning the group activities is finalized by her.
The banker takes responsibility of hosting group meeting and discussion at her place. All the property of the group such as utensils, agricultural implements, files and document, machines, essential food items etc rest under her care. The finance secretary deals with the finance of the group. She maintains register on group expenditure and income. She also takes responsibility of group bank account of deposition and withdrawal. Fund, prize money, donations etc, is also taken care by the finance secretary. Initiated by the local educated women to combat the environmental crisis, these organic groups do not fall under Government recognition and so they do not receive any loan or compensation from the local Government.
However, with their painstaking efforts and labor they receive timely appreciation and financial aid from Government official, Affluent personalities, Political leaders, and local leaders etc who notice their contribution in the environmental fronts. They have also showcase their organic products on many occasions and represented their village, community, district and their state at the national level. In the earlier times of subsistence agriculture based on jhum cultivation, the food production was excess for household consumption and was not sufficient to sell in the market. What little they could save was sold in the nearby town or village proximity to generate humble income for their immediate use. But with organic farming they now not only supply organic food crops to neighboring towns and cities but also to different state of the country due to its high demand. Due to high quality yield it has more price value than the conventional food crops and therefore they generate a good source of income for themselves. With economic benefits the group has opened a joint account in which they deposit money every month as a security for themselves. They have also purchased grinding machines, drying machines, and other essential items needed for processing and preserving seasonal food items which they export it to different places adding to their sources of income.
Organic farming not only helps them in achieving their environmental theme but also gives them economic opportunities to generate their own income. Economic independence enhances their self-worth and increases their bargaining power within the household as well as the village or the social level. It also provides them a source of economic security for situation like death, divorce, or separation since they do not have any control or power over land and property. Working in group also enhances social solidarity among the women and prepares them to confront any social evils or conflicts that target the women in general.
---End of Case Study 1 --
Vermiculture/Vermicompost: Vermiculture implies rearing and cultivation of earthworms and using them in manufacturing of vermicompost replacing chemical fertilizers aimed for the betterment of human beings. Vermicompost is the excreta of earthworms which involve rigorous process of collecting organic wastes, variety of plants, cow dung, water etc and allowing the worms to feed on it and give its excreta as the end product. It takes about 6 to 8 months to harvest the matured compost. Earthworms not only convert organic materials into valuable manure but it also keeps the environment healthy and chemicals-free. Vermicompost as an ecofriendly natural fertilizer free of chemical inputs does not have any adverse effect on soil, plant and environment but it rather improves soil aeration and soil texture. It also helps in water retention of the soil because of its high organic content and enhances soil nutrients. The worms are cultured in a plastic tank, makeshift box, tub, pit etc away from direct sunlight to allow the natural process of decomposition to take its course. Watering at regular intervals is required to maintain its moisture level.
Case Study 2
Akumto organic group: The concept of vermiculture/Vermicompost was first introduced to the women by agriculture department through whom they purchased a packet of earthworms for 500 rupees. They also received training from agriculture department on types of vegetation to be used, quantity of water, cow dung, and other precautionary measures to be taken. Initiated in 2009 they have harvested about 7 to 8 times till date. It is a rigorous process which takes about 6 to 8 months to attain its full maturity.
Cultivation is done in a makeshift plastic tank measuring 12 ft length, 6 ft breadth and 5ft in height provided by the Agriculture Department for they do not own a land to construct a permanent cement tank. A tin roof is constructed over the tank with wooden walls in all the four sides to keep away from direct sunlight. They begin the process by collecting several baskets of green leafy vegetation, soft grasses, tree leaves, and other local plants, slash the collected vegetations into pieces and spread them in the tank as the base. A mixture of cow dung and water is spread over the base followed by scattering the earthworms over the bed. After this they covered the tank with jute bag and supply a large quantity of water into the tank. The jute bags allows the water to penetrate deep inside steadily without disrupting the arranged layers and enables the earthworms to come in contact with the mixtures to start its action of ingestion and decomposition. They feed on the mixture, defecate it as manures.
Regular supply of water is carried out, say 4 to 6 bucket twice a week to maintain the moisture level. This process continues till the mixture level shrinks down after which they put another
batch of slashed leafs and plants with cow dung. This action is repeated again and
again until the tank is filled. The water supply is cut short after 3 or 5 months to allow the mixture to settle down and dry out naturally with balanced moisture. In the due course of these process, the number of worms multiples and continues the cycle of reproduction. In the 7 or 8 month the mixture is confirmed for harvesting by checking whether it contains few or no scraps of uneaten food or bedding.
The process of harvesting is time consuming, increased labor, and involves lots of precautions to separate out the worms which have multiplied over the time for use in the next cycle. The excreta as the end product is harvested and spread over a large plastic/cane mat,
and left to dry in the sun. They store the collected earthworms in a bucket filled with moist mud to maintain its moisture level. After drying they handpicked the stalk, twig, and other undigested remnants from the mixture and the separated manure is filtered out using sieve. The final filtered manure obtained is of high quality which is utilized for growing organic crops in their field. The surplus manure is sold in the market for its high demand and quality and fetches them good amount of money.
---End of Case Study 1 --