The Indian Government’s sudden surprise move to replaced the Rupees 500 and 1000 notes has nonetheless created various forms of chaos amongst the people in the country over the last few weeks. During the first few days many people were seen forming long queues outside banks and ATM on a daily basis; the housewives felt the burden and stress. For instance, there were those who could not even purchase a loaf of bread to take home. Or even those who were travelling by air they were not able to buy a simple cup of tea because the vendors at the airport did not want to accept the Rupees 500 note.
It reached a point where the Rupees 10 note and various other smaller denominations were more valuable and dependable than the Rupees 100 note or even the new Rupees 2000 note. The fear created to get their hands on the replacement money created a lot of problems for families to cover the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter needed in their homes. It felt as if someone had just pick- pocketed their wallets.
In the rural areas of Meghalaya, NESFAS realised the knock-on effect of the cash-based economy painted out a different scenario for the farmers. The farmers lead a simpler life from the urban population in which their basic necessities for their house is different.
Even as Mr Protasius Puwein, a farmer from Porksai Village, Lyngngam, in the West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, had similar problems in collecting change. Mrs Merila Shyrkon also from the similar village mentioned the only hardship she faced was to obtain salt, sugar and soap for her house during the early days of demonetisation. Mrs Rida Khongsit, a farmer from Laitsohpliah Village, East Khasi Hills, knew about the whole issue of demonetization only after three days later. When she noticed the whole town was in a state of chaos and rushing to the banks to deposit their cash they had saved with them in the house.
A farmer’s life is about the food that they can grow to nurture their family needs or to be sold in the farmer markets. Mrs Shulat Sohkhlet from Dewlieh Village in the district of East Khasi Hills grows potatoes, yam, tapioca, millet, sweet potato and a variety of vegetables and wild edibles that she is able to gather and collect for her family. She is able to comfortably provide a diverse set of food from her garden to consume within her home during current chaos when people were struggling to get their hands on the new currency notes.
The community villages promoted by NESFAS have been able to hold on to their knowledge of the benefits of their food biodiversity. Their indigenous practice of agriculture has enhanced their local food resources and addresses their empowerment to a sustainable access to clean, fair and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
Mr Kyrshan Dkhar from Porksai Village in Lyngngam shared his story that in the past they hardly required a matchbox to light a fire for their night lanterns. But with the advent of the commercial matchstick, to light a fire without a matchbox is almost impossible. They faced a few problems to even buy a single piece of a matchbox. He noted it was important to preserve the indigenous knowledge and wisdom in order to survive with the environment during the harsh times.
“Agriculture is our strongest foundation and we will never suffer from starvation”, said Mr Petrus Suting from Moosakhia, West Jaiñtia Hills. He realised this from his first-hand experiences regarding the recent crisis. He admits their agricultural practice and their abundant access to the wild edibles from their forests has helped them over generations to sustainably live with their environment.
As the whole situation regarding demonetization seen across the nation has unfolded in various hues of colours, it is a firm belief that even though it has exposed the numerous setbacks that revolve around our cash based lives. We have to step back and realise the importance of access to clean, fair and healthy food.
Food through the ages will always be vital for humankind. In the urban landscape for a place even in Shillong, people were seen helpless and felt as if they were held in ransom to obtain food. This fear created to replace the banned notes had made some of the people realise the value of farming. Through the lives of these farmers who were able to create a valuable harvest through their biodiversity for their natural population. It is an inspiration that we can learn that preservation of our Biodiversity provides a high variety of food which is an important food source of human species even during the hardest of time.