There are reasons why farm distress in India isn’t extensively covered by mainstream media as it should be.
For starters, the stories from these parts aren’t compelling enough for an urban audience, but more importantly, there is little empathy in the minds of urban dwellers for farmers because they know very little about their life, work and struggles.
However, the North East Network (NEN), a non-profit based out Guwahati, recently conducted a week-long Summer Farm School for nearly 20 urban schoolkids in the small hamlet of Chizami, 150 km away from Dimapur in Nagaland. School children from nearby cities learnt sustainable agricultural practices as part of the non-profit’s week-long “Bridging the Field-to-Plate Gap” initiative from June 27 to July 2.
This was the third edition of the initiative. For the uninitiated, NEN has done extensive work in the field of women and child rights in the Northeast since 1995.
Speaking to The Telegraph, programme director Wekoweu Tsuhah, said, “We provide them hands-on training on customary practice of water, land and forest management, ecology, soil and biodiversity at large. Community knowledge holders with scientific and development practice teach them how to preserve and sow seeds, pollinators, pest management and diverse farming systems such as terrace, jhum and homestead gardens.”
Tekhe Colo, a student of Class 11, studying in the state capital of Kohima and the daughter of a businessman, told the publication about how she learnt paddy cultivation right from sowing, traditional irrigation methods to application of natural compost as fertiliser on the soil. In addition, she also learnt the hazards of jhum cultivation for both local agriculture and the environment.
Other students, meanwhile, took part in activities like identifying edible herbs and bee-keeping.
Speaking to The Indian Express, 17-year-old Saoyang Huang from a school in Dimapur said that the experience was a life-changing one. “We realised how hard a farmer works to feed all of us. We would wake up at 6.30 a.m., go for a walk (that was our quiet time!) and later in the day, we would work in the paddy fields. Sometimes it would rain, but we would continue working anyway.”
“We do not expect all young people to become farmers. But we do want them to become responsible, young consumers,” says Seno Tsuhah, a long-time NEN member, to the publication.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)