Known for his works like The Green Caravan for organic farming and market linkages, Richard and his initiatives is now is assigned under Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) by Agri Department for establishing 10 Farmer Producer Company (FPCs) in Nagaland.
In Richard’s view, the obsession for government jobs began in Nagaland after the formation of the state when the government needed employees to run the machinery. He believes that those who got employed in the government job suddenly realized that one month’s salary could buy them one year’s worth of working in the farm which eventually encouraged people to give up agricultural practices.
“We thought that it was a privilege to be able to purchase and eat without cultivating it. Everybody started finding it easier to buy and thus, farming became a secondary component and wastage of time. It became more of a hobby but little did we know that this was going to have a negative impact on the younger generations,” he said.
“When we were growing up, if families were not involved in a government job, they were considered poor. There were 3 categories in the society: one category was the father being a government servant, the second being a businessman and the third, a farmer which classified the society into rich, middle-class and poor. So, all parents advised and pressured their children to stay away from farming and become officers,” he explained.
He then explained that the main reason he started farming was when he realized how food prices fluctuated with the season.
“The inflation on the market was unpredictable so by 2007-08, we started adopting permaculture and that was when we realized that adopting certain principles of permaculture made things easier. With my boys in the Zynorique team, we were able to show that with a well-designed farm, and minimum inputs, we could allow nature to do the job. At the same time, I realized that if farming is not done right, it is a very expensive affair because Nagaland has fertile land which means we have to work harder,” he said.
He also elaborated on how farming in Nagaland is labor intensive due to its high fertility which allows the wild seeds, creepers and wild plants to grow.
“It is easier to farm in Israel than in Nagaland because in Israel, all you need is some manure but in Nagaland, due to the fertility, farming turns labor intensive which discourages people from continuing farming,” he said.
“Also, there are people who stop farming citing the lack of rivers available nearby but we should know that rivers never form. To start a small stream, you just need one acres of land and if you have enough mulch on that land then it will trap all the water and they will slowly create a small stream,” he said.
However, he believes that with forest covers being cleared off in large amount, he believes that it has become too expensive to revive the ecosystems. He pointed out how extensive slash and burn agricultural practice have contributed to the loss of forest areas especially in Mokokchung and the eastern Nagaland.
He lamented on how Nagas, despite the availability of so much information in the world, are unfortunately still fixated only on the unsettled Naga political issue.
“It is sad that the young generations are idly sitting and doing nothing. It is also sad that people had to get a government job to run their family while the rest are just staying wasted,” he said.
“When an illiterate person from outside can come and get a job here in Nagaland, why are we talking about unemployment?” he asked.
“A non-local person can come and run a shop here in Nagaland but our people only talk about how the investment to open a shop is very expensive but what about that Non-Local person? Are we to say that he had that amount? No, he worked for years under other people to get to where he is but we never have the humility to work under people. We call ourselves entrepreneurs but we don’t have the right aptitude for it,” he lamented and related the existing system with the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’.
“The most devastating thing is that an Agri graduate does not want to go to a field and work, he instead wants to get a govt. job. The same thing can be said to any other professions in Nagaland. Thus, we leave the uneducated to do farming where they only know the old system of farming that requires high inputs but yields very low output,” he pointed out.
“For once, we should stop talking about marketing and selling. Let’s just try to grow what is right and then if we can learn to grow properly, then we will have surplus. If we have surplus then let’s talk about selling it,” he concluded.
Market Linkage Strategies for Agro-based products
‘Market linkage’ is the identification of the farmers’ produce and linking with commercial and institutional buyers. According to Richard, market linkage is all about understanding what the market requires.
“If you are growing your products in season, please understand that everyone is growing it at the same time so you are definitely not going to get a good price. But you will still have a market so people will come and buy from you. But if you are not happy with that price, you should not complain. If you want a good price in the market, you have to learn to grow off season products,” he advised.
He then urged the local people to train themselves in keeping themselves updated with information regarding the direction of the market and encouraged people to stay updated with newspapers like The Economic Times, Financial Express etc. and be informed about the market.
He then expressed his gratitude in being able to play a significant role in bamboo activities and shared his happiness in seeing an increase in the number of youngsters joining the construction projects lately.
“I am really glad to see some activities bearing fruits as many younger generations are adopting livestock farming, carpentry etc. and even joining the construction industries. The whole program has been productive in a way although I cannot take the credit for myself. I am just happy to be a part of something fruitful and good,” he concluded.
(This is the second of a two-part series)