We met Kong Slibon Nongrum during a field visit to Laitsohpliah on the 25th January 2016. The 81 year old is grandmother to 13 and great grandmother to 2. Tiny, graying and slow, a result of a recent fall, she looks like she has worked hard all her life, and she has. She was one of the people community members said we must meet and we were lucky enough to have found her at her home, a small house made of stone, wood and tin placed atop a small hill.
Kong and a few of her daughters and grandchildren were sitting in the courtyard when we walked up to her house. It might have been taken as an intrusion but she readily welcomed the group consisting of three NESFAS staff; Kong Lucy and her husband; visiting Agroecologist Dr Francisco J Rosado May and freelance photo journalist Rucha Chitnis.
We all ventured into her home garden to have a look at how she managed it as we were in the process of touring the village with Dr Francisco to inspect the various agri-systems there. There we saw a thriving crop of peas which was surprising to us because earlier that day we saw a barren school garden, a consequence of scarcity of water which the village faced during winter. Kong Slibon had found her way around it, she had planted a crop that required very little water. Also to protect them from frost, something very common for this season, she covered the crops with sheets that prevent dew from settling on the pea pods. Also by the roots of the pea she grew radishes. There were mustard leaves, pumpkins and cauliflower growing as well.. just enough for the family.
This is, however, not what Kong is known for. It is a local belief that she has magic in her calloused hands. Seeds for plantation are brought to her before they are sown in the farms because seeds that she plants never fail to sprout and always grow to be healthy and productive. Surely, the fact that most of her 81 years on the planet were spent with her crops has somehow led her to be endowed her with this special gift, one that the whole community celebrates.