The Society for Urban and Rural Empowerment (SURE), in collaboration with NESFAS, held a Rice Festival at Madan Mukhap, West Jaintia Hills on January 25, 2020 wherein the community members there displayed several varieties of traditional seeds, which are still consumed today. This was the first ever rice festival held at Jaintia Hills under the theme ‘Kba toh u wa e mynsien’ which mean Rice is Life.
The festival was organized as part of the REC-funded project “No one shall be left behind initiative”, wherein its main objective was to preserve the seeds and revive the ones which are on the verge of extinction.
Deputy commissioner (DC) West Jaintia Hills district Garod LSN Dykes graced the occasion as the chief guest on the day. He associated nutrient security obtained through traditional farming with the immunization (national health mission) programme of the government whereby he encouraged the people to be responsive to government representatives when they come to the villages.
He said, “There is a great danger if seeds are not preserved well, as most of the local seeds are almost extinct.”
Rica Lamare, assistant development officer Laskein Block, said, “Many times, we would encourage the heads of several departments to preserve and use local seeds at several counts of times. However, they would always use hybrid seeds, which have an increased production in one hand but require huge inputs of fertilizers.” She added, “But most of the seeds cannot be saved by farmers and will have to be bought every sowing season. I am really glad that SURE has taken the initiative to organize this kind of a programme which promotes seed preservation.”
On the other hand, Phomly Langstang, community members from Mukhap and Phrom Kassar from Shkenpyrsit shared their experiments, which were conducted as part of the Agroecology Learning circles that they are part of.
Hamsniawpher Suchiang, a custodian farmer, then spoke about the community seed bank that was set up at Mulum and the importance of it. Community members and custodian farmers from Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi district then exchanged several seeds after Suchiang’s speech.
After the inauguration programme, the DC and his entourage then inspected all the stalls at the venue. The groups that took part in the programme were Kyntulang SHG, Iakrehlang SHG, Lamlynti PGS local group, Pynroilang SHG, Seiñdur SHG, Aiom Ksiar SHG and Kyntulang SHG. The groups sold smoked fish, pickles, candy made of fruits, fresh fruits, juices that were made from local fruits. They also sold handloom products, such as shawls, mufflers, wrap-around etc, which were made and produced by the groups itself.
The Mei-Ramew Phawar competition was also held on the same day at the venue wherein seven groups from across Jaintia Hills participated. Groups from Mukhap, Pynthor and Mustem bagged the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize respectively and will now take part in the state level phawar competition, which will be held in Shillong in the coming months.
Custodian farmers under Social Service Centre (SSC) Shillong, Faith Foundation and NESFAS, along with the staff, also participated in the Rice Festival.