Amidst the gateway to Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, 10 minutes away from the famous Mawkdok tourist hotspot, young 20-year-old Bakmenlang Nongrum lives in the Village of Laitsohpliah. He is like any other adolescent who enjoys the thrills and joy with his friends to explore. They would casually sit on top of the cliffs overlooking the Cherrapunjee Landscape or enjoy the pulse of the latest English and Spanish football leagues broadcasted on TV. Even amidst the distractions of being a curious teenager, he has been able to hold on to his identity as a farmer.
He recognized his interest in farming because of the values that were given to him by his family and his willingness to realize the inherent knowledge he has gained over the years. Because of this, he now studies in Sohra Government College pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Khasi, to be closer to home.
(Late) Kong Slibon Nongrum, his grandmother, was actively involved with NESFAS since 2014. She was able to inspire young Bakmenlang when he would run around and play hide-n-seek in her garden among the maze of plants and fruits he would find. It was her ability to motivate and advise Bakmenlang and his siblings the importance of life and to never stop learning. He shared “There are certain times when she would make us look for better ways and even show us how to improve the yield in our fields.” Even as Kong Slibon shared the importance of better farming practices through traditional agriculture which was taught to her by her mother, Bakmenlang realized he needed to retain the knowledge he had gained from his grandmother and try to contribute as a modern farmer in this age.
He has been able to divide the time with his studies and help willingly in the fields and take care of the livestock as well. He noticed the practice of farming his parents are still practicing that they had inherited themselves. He understands that his siblings are able to attend school and he is able to pursue further education through their parents’ hard work in the field.
He hopes after pursuing a degree, he will be actively involved in a role as a teacher not just in the fields but also in the classrooms. He also hopes to demonstrate the ability of his studies through education and farming. It shall contribute to the development of the well-being of his community. He is independent and is taking active steps in adopting self-employment, which can serve as his bread and butter. However, he is also open to learn to look at other job opportunities.
Even as he agrees there are common perceptions about the hardships involve in agriculture, he has realized, it is to understand the seasonal changes and the importance of time management in farming. The traditional knowledge he had gained through his elders within his family and also with his contribution in the field, along with his siblings, has resulted in adaptation to the seasonal changes in the yields over the years. “It has become more productive; the workload and time consumption has decreased,” says Bakmenlang.
Bakmenlang shared, “We need to lift up agriculture. We also need to share and spread the knowledge of traditional farming. My advice for the rest of the youth would be to never forget and to share their experiences and ideas. I hope what I am doing will be noticed by others, with the expectation that more youths are involved in this field and find means as a way of livelihood. I shall teach my children what I have learned.”
He is an example of an inspirational young man. As the eldest child, he has certain responsibilities towards his family. He is a proud young farmer and is blessed to have had a knowledge holder like his grandmother, who has taught him the values of farming and respecting Mother Earth. The rural youth who go out for their further studies often forget their roots of farming. It is through agriculture that we have food sovereignty. It is all about self-understanding and what seems more important to them. Like the saying goes “We might need a lawyer or a doctor once a while but a farmer three times a day”-Brenda Schoepp. Bakmen understands that farming is the future and it is the future he wants.