An account of how Cucumber Festival transformed the village outlook towards agriculture
Arenjungla Kichu | Aliba | 7 May
Following the success of the Cucumber Festival 2022, Aliba village is now preparing to host the Cucumber Festival 2023 on May 9 and 10 at the village ground. The festival last year not only generated an income of approximately INR 7 lakh by selling cucumber alone for the villagers, but it also strengthened the farming community in many ways, and the ripple effect can still be seen today.
“More families are now cultivating cucumber after the festival, from 38 last year to 53 this year,” said Imtilemla, a farmer. “This year, the village has about 20,930 cucumber plants, compared to only 6,000 plants last year, which were used for the festival.”
“The festival has motivated many farmers including farmers from neighboring Kinunger and Chungtia villages, and this year, we have many enthusiastic farmers looking forward to it,” said Temjentola, Agriculture Officer and organizing member secretary.
Lipokmar, Convenor of the organizers, said the greatest joy of the festival was seeing many unemployed youths forming groups and investing in cucumber cultivation.
“Thanks to the cucumber festival, the government is now supporting the farmers in the village,” said Imnatemsu, a village council representative and member of the organizing team, noting that the government has provided machinery like water pumps.
Suyimkumba, President of Aliba Students’ Union, stated that the festival not only benefited the farmers but also provided a source of income for the student community through stalls and other activities, as well as increased youth participation in farming which has been neglected for a long time.
How did the concept of Cucumber Festival come about?
Temjentola stated that the festival concept origin story dates back to 1985 because it was that year when Aliba village began practicing off-season cucumber plantation.But due to its decline, six individuals with agriculture and allied backgrounds, including Lipokmar, Toshimongla Kichu, Temjentola, Alemtoshi Kichu, Chaso, and Suponglemba, came together on 7 February 2022 to preserve the pioneers’ hard work patent and proposed the idea of the festival to encourage the villagers to continue their traditional farming.
“We discovered 38 families had sown the cucumber when we started planning the festival last year, and many government and private companies came forward to sponsor us when we pitched the idea. The festival turned out to be larger than expected, and even this year we received a large number of sponsors again, thankfully,” she said.
How did the festival benefit the farmers?
Imtilemla stated that since the festival organizers take care of the logistics; farmers no longer have to search for markets to sell their cucumbers, reducing transportation costs and providing easy access to buyers in the village at no expenses. Consequently, she noticed a rise in profits as they earned about INR 1 lakh compared to the previous INR 70,000.
Imnatemsu noted that families had improved their economy, benefiting their children’s education, and farmers no longer have to leave their fields empty during the off-season as crops are rotated.
“Rice is planted from about June to December, whereas cucumber is planted from January to June, so the farm is never left empty,” he added.
The most important benefit, according to him, was seeing that no one in the village was slacking off and that everyone was working extremely hard.
Meanwhile, Suyimkumba stated that youths are becoming more interested in agriculture because interaction sessions such as farmer-farmer and farmer-scientists have opened the eyes of many and gained a lot of wisdom.
According to Lipokmar, the Cucumber Festival has numerous direct and indirect benefits.
“Aside from earning directly from the cucumber, artisans and certain self-help groups found the opportunity to sell their handicrafts and cultivation, such as Shiitake Mushroom, during the festival. People even found ways to sell fish cooked in bamboo and other items,” he said.
Furthermore, he claimed that it had made farmers more innovative.
“Cucumber plantation is quite labor intensive, so farmers have become innovative in developing different drip irrigation methods. We also discovered that water pumps, among other things, can reduce labor intensity. So, we’re also innovating the way we farm and learning as we go,” he added.
According to the organizers, this year was difficult due to the unpredictable monsoon, which resulted in “erratic rainfall.” This resulted in Downy Mildew symptoms and the failure of many plants to bear fruit.
Asserting that “there is no culture without agriculture,” Temjentola said that their goal is to promote farming, particularly among dropouts in rural areas.
She also hoped that farmers would focus their profits on farm mechanization rather than relying solely on the government. She also hoped for increased productivity and the promotion of Agri-tourism. She hoped it would serve as a platform for other local entrepreneurs to venture into marketing.
Following the inaugural session, the festival will feature a farmer-scientist interaction with KVK Mokokchung. Meanwhile, the cucumbers will be harvested on Monday.
Farmers from Sattsü (Mangmetong), Kinunger, Chungtia, Mangkolemba, and Tuli are also expected to participate in the festival.