Away from the hullabaloo of urban life, the quaint village of Viswema lies nestled in the Purvanchal Himalayas of Nagaland. Home to around 7,500 people, the sparsely populated hamlet is well-known in the North-East for its pottery craft and panoramic beauty.
Most of the agriculture is done through terrace cultivation along the hill slopes, using conventional methods. However, in the past few years, K Khel Government Middle School (GMS) in Viswema, has been a trendsetter in farming. The 60-odd students of the school have been practising organic farming as an integral part of their curriculum.
Guided by head-teacher Keneisenu Vitsu, students from classes 1-8 grow tubers, vegetables and herbs in the school premises. These include beans, cabbage, pumpkin, squash, pomegranate and lemons. Maize and Naga dal comprise the staple grains, while mustard is the only condiment, grown in a small patch. The produce is consumed by the students in their mid-day meals whereas the surplus vegetables are sold by the teachers and the profits are used to buy snacks for the students.
It all started nine years ago
Speaking to The Better India, Vitsu shares how the students have been learning the nitty-gritties of saving the planet while attending classes and growing their own food.
She says, “It all started in 2011. We decided to teach organic farming to the kids to inculcate in them the skill and knowledge of agriculture. Through organic farming, students find a sense of joy and appreciate the concept of dignity of labour,” she says.
With help and advice from their teachers, the students first selected a plot of wasteland, cleaned it, and levelled the land. They made green manure with organic waste from their homes and uprooted the weeds. Bamboo fencing was put up to keep cattle away. Amidst fun and laughter, the youngsters planted local organic seeds and sprinkled them with water.
To boost the students’ zeal, the farming activity was turned into a competition between three groups, who were assigned three sections of the same plot. The activity continued every day as seasons passed. After their regular classes, the kids would head out to their gardens and tend to their plants – watering, weeding or adding green manure.
The fruits of their labour started showing soon, quite literally. The children couldn’t be more proud!
“It’s so nice to see the fruits. These are the trees that we planted with our own hands,” the children exclaimed at the sight of their very first harvest.
Fresh from the garden to the lunch plates
Organic farming has been an integral part of their school’s Eco Club ever since. “Not only do they learn how to cultivate but also understand the importance of conserving our environment,” informs Vitsu.
Armed with spades, trowels and watering cans, the students can often be spotted digging up their farmland adjacent to the school, or sowing seeds and saplings according to season. They practise multi-cropping to maintain the nutritional balance of the soil. It also enhances retention capacity and productivity.
Overall, the average annual production of vegetables, pulses and grains amounts to more than 300 kg. In fact, the production last year was 372 kg. Vitsu shares a table showing the detailed breakdown of the same.
|Crops grown||Annual production (in kg)|
During their mid-day meals, students enjoy healthy local delicacies made from their fresh farm produce, prepared by the school cook. The maize is mostly boiled and served with minimal spices. Vegetables like pumpkin and squash which are grown in excess are sold in the market, in turn, fetching afternoon snacks for the students.
Inspiring other schools and local villages
“It is so much fun to work in the garden,” shares 13-year-old Ngapchoh, a student from class 5.
The initiative received the full support of the parents and guardians, who soon started growing kitchen gardens in their own homes. “Inspired by us, some neighbouring schools started the same on their school campuses. The organic farming in our school has been appreciated and encouraged by the education department officials, who came for inspection and supervision,” informs Vitsu.
Parents of GMS students even help out their wards by giving them farming tips at home.
“It (The school garden) has helped me learn so much about farming. I will now grow my own vegetable garden at home,” a thrilled Ngapchoh asserts.
Other green initiatives
Aside from organic farming, students of K Khel GMS also partake in other environmental initiatives like waste management – by installing bamboo waste bins on the village roadside and urging the inhabitants to use them properly.
Recently, a tree plantation drive was also organised by students for the beautification of the school premises.
Several schools across India are now introducing organic farming as a part of their extra-curricular activities, while K Khel GMS has been practising it for nine years now, blazing a trail for other schools and homes in the village to follow suit.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)