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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

1917 iTEAMS - First Responders to Farmers’ Market Distress


 -  By Canning S Shabong

1917 Agri Response Vehicles transporting Farmers' Produce from Laitjem village
On the evening of 26th March 2020, in the midst of the national lockdown because of COVID19, the Government of Meghalaya took a Cabinet decision that the 1917iTEAMS of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare will procure vegetables for distribution to retail outlets in Shillong and urban areas.  In the first place, there was no wholesale and retail outlets selling vegetables in the city as the main market “Iewduh” which is the largest wholesale and retail market in the city is totally closed and locked down as soon as the lockdown was announced. In this scenario, the conventional marketing channel was totally closed and unable to function.Therefore the challenge before the 1917 iTEAMS was how to organise this huge task in the midst of the scare and the risk of exposure to the dreaded virus and link both the distressed farmers and the consumers, who were unable to get their daily requirement in their diet, to keep them going in this sudden closure, which left everyone unprepared.

The iTEAMS management team activated its connection and links to all the value chain players, who are, though not directly involved in vegetable logistics, otherwise involved in other processed produce produced by the farmers. All these players though willing to help in this hour of need, but are risk averse towards highly perishable items like vegetables which have a very short shelf life. They do not have huge State wide distribution logistics which this operation requires nor the demands from their customer base to be able to match. The whole scenario now becomes one of economy of scale and of speed and efficiency of the value chain, which has not been tested in such a situation.
The task for iTEAMS was cut out and although the entire fleet of 17 Agri Response Vehicles and the backend team was ready to response, connecting all the dots is now a big challenge in this circumstance, as iTEAMS was to play a bigger role than its original mandate- which is to just provide logistic support, market linkage and advisory to the farmers. ITEAMS was not designed to be a relief and rehabilitation agency nor a disaster or emergency response agency. Therefore, it has to work purely on a business model, which is partly subsidised by the Government. iTEAMS cannot take the role of a buyer from the markets as it does not have the mandate to do so, nor the distribution network to successfully run a trading business. Farmers need to be paid in cash for their goods, which is the need of the hour and this is not a role of iTEAMS. Many government agencies has tried their hands to put on this cap but the preparedness and core strengths of these agencies made the swim against the tide which they do not have the experience nor the expertise. Such endeavours, though noble ran into severe losses and had to eventually close down. Mizoram is a case in point where the State Government through a State Agency tried to help farmers by purchasing ginger directly from the farmers and selling it in the open market. Due to inherent market risk, and the fluctuating market demands, market volatility and the highly non asymmetric forces, the agency had ran into huge losses and could not provide this service on a sustainable model. Even similar agency in other States have also tried to help farmers market their perishables, but do not have the resources to sustain such operations due to high overheads and low margins.

It was very clear that this is a catch 22 situation in the beginning and it was decided by the iTEAMS management to concentrate only on semi perishables at the present circumstances, as these have a longer shelf life and can potentially be sent to processing agencies for processing. Thus the plight of the farmers whose vegetables are ripe for harvest or already harvested, seems to present a bleak picture for them, as they are staring at huge loses this season. Some brave farmers even posted on Facebook that they are ready to sacrifice and support the government at this time of calamity, as they have reached a point of acceptance of the situation. But on the other hand, there is a huge demand in the entire State of the order of 475 metric tonnnes of fresh fruits and vegetables per day by quick estimates. The East Khasi Hills alone requires about 132 metric tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, based on conservative estimates and 2011 population Census data. If the decadal population growth rate of about 28% is added to these population figures, the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is huge, which cannot be met from local production alone.

ARV's Transporting Strawberry from Nohron village
In this backdrop, how can iTEAMS play a role which is over and beyond its original mandate? is the question before the team to plan and organise. Further, with the uncertainties of the situation which is evolving by the hour, how to effectively run an operation of this scale?, which is the first for iTEAMS. The whole team got to work and activated all its resources, connections and channels to try to come to some sort of strategy and coherent response. The team requested all the extension functionaries posted in the various CD Blocks of the State, the district agriculture and horticulture officers to assess the availability of produce from the main production clusters, so as to understand the available supplies. As this exercise is ongoing, the other team got to contact some local Headman and Dorbar Shong to help facilitate and join hands in this endeavour, so that the entire operation could be organised in an orderly and effective manner. Many local headmen called the 1917 iTEAMS hotline and were connected to this logistic chain. Another Team got to work with the State Government and the local administration to request for issuance of curfew passes for the 1917 iTEAMS personnels and ARV’s. The third team went to work  to engage all the local online players so that they can take orders from the citizens and provide home delivery. All these online players delivery vehicles were also provided with curfew passes from the district administration. The Deputy Commissioners and their team also provide all the necessary support and facilitation during this planning exercise.

On 27th Morning, the team dispatched its Agri Reponse Vehicles to all the major production clusters of vegetables specially pea producing clusters. 10 tonnes of Peas were lifted from Khweng, Ri-Bhoi, delivered to NARI FRESH in Mawiong for onward distribution to Fair Price Shops (FPS) in the city; another vehicle was sent to Laitjem in East Khasi Hills to lift 5 tonnes of Pea and distributed to Nongthymmai and Lapalang;  Another was sent to Syntung to lift strawberries and one to Mylliem to lift vegetables. In West Garo Hills, 4 vehicles of 1917iTEAMS were sent out to Rimrangpara, Rombagre and Amindarangsa and also to Hajongpara in South West Garo Hills District to purchase vegetables like Yam, Papaya, Peas, Tapioca, Brinjal, Rosella etc and later on were distributed in localities of Babupara, DC Park, Akongre, Tetengaja and Police Reserve. One vehicle also ferried essential services to Rombagre Village. In Jaintia Hills, Vehicles were despatched to Niriang village and lifted assorted vegetables for distribution to Jowai market.
ARV distributing vegetables in the Comunity in West Garo Hills

The backend team got to work right from 7.00 AM in the morning till 11.00 PM in the night and the Agri Response Hotline received not less than 700 number of  incoming calls on its hotline as well as to the team project management numbers which were opened via various social media channels, Whatsapp group and mobile sms. The interesting part is this entire operation was managed by a cross functional team comprising of government officials, domain experts, market experts who worked remotely and from their homes, due to the lockdown. The entire 1917iTEAMS systems is Cloud based, where its core technology system is hosted remotely in servers located in Delhi. All the calls made to iTEAMS is via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system connected to 32 PRI lines systems, which is multi lingual and integrated with a farmer database of 24,000 farmers connected and registered from across the State. Callers are routed to different Incoming Call Officials (ICO) based on their specific requirements. Those who require ARV are diverted to the Vehicle Despatch Team; those requiring advisory are routed to ICO Level 1 Expert. If the query is not closed by the L1 Expert, it is escalated to a Level 2 domain Expert for resolution.

The ARV operations are also tracked via a GPS system and Vehicle Tracking Software developed locally, which keeps a tab on the trips, distance, time and location of the vehicles. 1917iTEAMS project is a first of its kind in the country, which is designed with a very lean and agile model of functional, operational and staffing system, where the government does not own the assets like vehicles. These ARV’s and Driver are totally outsourced from transport operators who are onboarded to the iTEAMS platform. The entire staffs were also hired from a local recruitment agency on contractual basis. This provides the business environment of a corporate sector agency with the flexibility of a private agency on the lines of a PPP model of  operations, which were successful in many sectors, but not widespread though in the agriculture marketing space.

“1917 has done a commendable job lifting produce of distress farmers from different parts of West Jaiñtia hills. We are indeed grateful to the team for helping the farmers in this difficult time and of course for the vegs on our plates” said one FB post. Another reads “Thank you 1917iTEAMS, for the quick response- it has benefited the farmers as a whole”.  A Comment by Kupar Lyngdoh also keeps the team morale high, it reads “Since its inception the project mission and vision is unique and the farmers count on 1917, unprecedented, today's turnout. The people of the State can count on your service- Bravo 1917iTEAMS you excite us with your service - When this is all over, rewards from everywhere will hunt you.”  Thank you all for all the comments and support to 1917iTEAMS – You keep the team going stronger.

(The writer currently works in the Department of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare as Assistant Director of Agriculture (Info & IT) & Department Nodal Officer 1917iTEAMS and can be reached at csshabong@gmail.com)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Importance of liquid Bio-fertilizers in Soil Health Management


                                                                               -By Amanda Shylla, Phd
Bio-fertilizers are an integral part of the organic farming for the plants to obtain nutrients, same way as in conventional agriculture where chemical fertilizers are used for plant nutrition. Due to heavy usage of chemical fertilizers and harmful pesticides on the crops, sustainability of the agriculture systems collapsed, cost of cultivation soared at a high rate, income of farmers stagnated and food security and safety became a daunting challenge. Indiscriminate and imbalanced use of chemical fertilizers, especially urea, along with chemical pesticides and unavailability of organic manures has led to considerable reduction in soil health. Therefore, organic farming is a potential alternative solution to feed the world population.
Organic farming is not an alien to the North Eastern region. The small and marginal farmers of Meghalaya have been practicing organic farming in the form of traditional farming and Jhum cultivation since time immemorial. By doing so they used organic fertilizers like compost (which are food for the microorganisms) to replenish the soil, this method is time consuming and slow. In this modern world with more demand of organic product and more mouth to feed, there is a need to use agriculturally important microbial inoculants that will enrich the soil in a short period of time and increase the overall productivity in a sustainable and eco-friendlier way. 
Bio-fertilizers contain carrier based (liquid or solid) agriculturally important microorganisms. The farmers in our State due to lack awareness and the shortcomings of solid bio-fertilizers are skeptical in adopting the use of agriculturally important microorganisms. To overcome this problem scientist has developed liquid carrier bio-fertilizers which is more effective than the solid carrier. Liquid Bio-fertilizers are a special liquid formulation containing not only the agriculturally important microorganisms and their nutrients, but also special cell protectants or substances that encourage the formation of resting spores or cysts for longer shelf life and tolerance to adverse conditions.
 
         Role of Liquid Bio-fertilizers in various crops:
§  Enhances soil health and fertility
§  Increase crop yield.
§  Shorten the time of replenishing the soil in Jhum cultivation, hence net cultivated land can be increased.
§  Reduce the need for chemical N, P, K fertilizers.
§  Returns are economically viable
§  Besides the major nutrients, additional advantages like secretion of plant growth hormones and made available the important micronutrient like Zn, Mn, Cu, Fe, Co.
§  Diseases and pest occurrence reduced due to the antagonistic properties of the biofertilizers.        
§  Advantages of Liquid Bio-fertilizers over conventional carrier-based Bio-fertilizers:
§  Longer shelf life 12-24 months.
§  No contamination.
§  No loss of properties due to storage up to 45oC.
§  No effect of high temperature.
§  Greater potentials to fight with native populations.
§  The high population can be maintained more than 109 cells/ml up to 12-24 months.
§  Better survival on seeds and soil.
§  Easy to be used by the farmer.
§  Dosage is 10 times less than carrier powder based bio-fertilizers.

      Types of Liquid Bio-fertilizers available in the market:

A. Nitrogen fixers:
1) Rhizobial bio-fertilizers:
·         Rhizobial bio-fertilizers contain Rhizobium spp. which are bacteria that occur in free living state in the soil but can fix atmospheric nitrogen only in an obligate symbiotic (strict) association with leguminous plants forming nodules in roots.
·         They are crop specific inoculant i.e.; specific species infect specific leguminous crop. Example Rhizobium leguminoserum for pea, lentil; Rhizobium lupini for chickpea, Bradyrhizobium japonicum for soybean, therefore, application of specific Rhizobia is most important.
·         Rhizobium culture has been routinely recommended as an input in pulse cultivation.
·         In India about 30 million hectares of land is under pulses cultivation fix nitrogen 50-500 kg/ ha with legumes only.
·         Its application has enhanced the crop yield to an extent of 18-20%.
·          Azotobacter bio-fertilizers:
·         Azotobacter spp. are aerobic, free living, and heterotrophic nitrogen fixing bacteria.
·         They do not produce any visible nodules or out growth on root tissue.
·         They secrete plant growth promoting substances like IAA, GA for the benefit of the plant growth.
·          It is recommended for cereals crops, vegetable crops, fruit crops, ornamental plants, plantation, and commercial crops.
·         It can fix N up to 25 kg/ha under optimum conditions and increase yield up to 50%.
·         A. chroococcum is the most commonly occurring species in arable soils. A. vinelandii, A. beijerinckii, A. insignis and A. macrocytogenes are other reported species. Azotobacter indicum is suitable in acidic soils which can be apply in the north eastern region.
·         They improve seed germination and plant growth by producing B-vitamins, NAA, GA and other chemicals (plant hormones) that are inhibitory to certain root pathogens.
·         Azospirillum biofertilizers:
·         Azospirillum spp. are nitrogen fixer soil bacteria, heterotrophic and associative in nature.
·         They form close association with the roots of the plants but however they do not produce any visible nodules.
·          They can be used in all cereals, grasses, millets, vegetables and ornamental plants.
·         In addition to their nitrogen fixing ability of about 20‐40 kg/ha, they also produce growth regulating substances.
·         A.lipoferum and A.brasilense has been found out to be more acid tolerant species   and best suited in the North-Eastern region.

Fig. 1: Effect of the application of Rhizobium sp. on the growth of Vigna unguiculata

2) Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria (PSB) biofertilizers:

·         Most of the Indian soils are low to medium in P status due to soil fixation and hence become unavailable for the absorption by the plants.
·         PSB play a major role in the solubilization and uptake of the fixed phosphate through various mechanisms.
·         PSB also produce plant growth hormones (IAA, GA etc.) and help in plant growth and development.
·         PSB belong mostly to the genera of Pseudomonas and Bacillus.
·         Soluble phosphate is taken up easily by plants resulting in 10-20% increase in the yield of almost all the crops.
·         This can be used for all monocots and dicots.

3) Potassium Mobilizing Bacteria (KMB) bio-fertilizers:

·         Bacteria such as Frateuria aurantia and Bacillus sp are capable of mobilizing potassium in the soil into a usable form to the plants known as K solubilizing bacteria,
·         KMB play a predominant role in potassium nutrient uptake.
·          It enhances early root development and hence adds up to the soil health.
·         By applying K mobilizers, 15-25% yield can be enhanced. It can reduce the potash application by 50-60%.
·         This can be used in all types of crops.
·         4) Micronutrients bio-fertilizers:
·         Microorganism that can transform micronutrients are there in soil that can be used as bio-fertilizers to supply micronutrients like zinc, iron, copper etc.,
·         Zinc being of utmost importance is found in the earth’s crust to the tune of 0.008 per cent but more than 50 per cent of Indian soils exhibit deficiency of zinc with content mostly below the critical level of 1.5 ppm of available zinc.
·         Zinc can be solubilized by microorganism’s viz., Bacillus subtilis, Thiobacillus thioxidans and Saccharomyces sp.
·         These microorganisms can be used as Bio-fertilizers for solubilisation of fixed micronutrients like zinc and iron which are very important for plants especially for rice cultivation.

Fig. 2: Effect of the Bio-fertilizers on the growth of Coriandrum sativum
T1: Control, T2: Azotobacter, T3: PSB, T4: KMB
5) NPK Bio-fertilizers:
·         It is a liquid bio-fertilizer containing a combination of the compatible microorganisms of nitrogen fixer, phosphate solubilizing bacterium and potash solubilizing bacterium.
·         This bio-fertilizers have become very popular with the farmers especially the tea growers in Assam and other Northeastern region.
It can be used in all crops. 
              Methods of Liquid Bio-fertilizers Application:   
S1. Seed treatment: Dilute 100ml (one small cup) of the liquid bio-fertilizers in one litre of water and mix thoroughly with the seed. Ensure that all the seeds are uniform and well coated, shade dry and sow immediately. For better result make jaggery (3rd grade) solution for uniform coating of the bio-fertilizers.
  2.  Root dipping: This method is commonly followed in paddy and vegetable crops. Dilute 100ml of the liquid bio-fertilizers in one litre of water, dip the roots for half an hour and transplant immediately.
  3. Soil treatment: Mix 500 ml of the bio-fertilizers with 50Kg FYM/vermicompost/compost/ soil. Leave as such overnight and maintain 50% moisture. The mixture can be broadcast in one-acre area.

**The liquid bio-fertilizers can also be mass multiplied by adding 1 litre of the bio-fertilizers with 10 kg jaggery in 100 Lt of water in plastic drum.

(The Writer of this article can be contacted at the email id amandashylla@gmail.com) 


Friday, October 19, 2018

Smt. Trinity Saioo- A Successful Woman Farmer honoured for Excellence in Horticulture Production

Smt.Trinity Saioo receiving the Award from Union Minister of Agriculture

Trinity Saioo, a mother of 6 children comprising of 3 sons and 3 daughters and 5 grandsons lives in Mulieh village in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. Her village, a nondescript village comprises of 230 households and practicing traditional agriculture. What is unique about this village though is the fact that all the household here now grows the Prized Lakadong Turmeric, because of the innovative and hard work of one lady farmer, who led from the front with exemplary and steadfast leadership. Lakadong Turmeric, which is grown in Laskein CD  block of West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, has become very popular in recent years due to its high curcurmin content of above 7 %  and has high market demand for its unique taste, flavour, aroma and vibrant yellow color.

Growing Lakadong Turneric variety was not a traditional crop in this village. In fact the farmers of this village grows a different variety of turmeric known as “Lachein.” This variety of turmeric has poor cucurmin content, less market demand and hence could not fetch a good price in the market. Being poor and illiterate farmers, majority of them are not aware about this superior variety called “Lakadong.”  It was only in the year 2003 that Smt. Saioo, a Graduate brought this lakadong variety and planted in her own fields. As a result, she could earn twice the amount compared to income from growing the Lachein variety. The very next year, Smt. Saioo persuaded her fellow villagers to switch to this new variety “Lakadong” and many from her villages followed her footsteps. However, the high cost of seed tubers was a dampener for the resource poor farmers as they could not afford to buy more in order to replace their traditional variety.

Smt. Trinity Saioo took the burden upon herself to help her fellow villagers and approached Spices Board in Shillong for help. She also took upon herself to help 25 farmers with the necessary documentation to avail financial and technical support from Spices Board. With the assistance from Spices Board, she and 25 other farmers started replacing their traditional turmeric with Lakadong variety. This assistance from Spices Board continued for 4 years and in this period, the farmers of Mulieh Village were transformed economically due to the switch over to Lakadong variety which fetches them double their previous earnings. Two of her farmers, Smt. Marlin Dhar and Smt. Rosa Dhar from Mulieh village testified that it was Trinity Saioo who motivated them and as a result they have been able to construct their own houses from growing Lakadong variety of Turmeric

Since then, there was no turning back for this village. Smt. Trinity Saioo started motivating other farmers from adjoining villages of Madankynsaw, Mynktung, Rtiang, Pyntei and Laskein to switch over to Lakadong variety. She mobilised about 800 farmers to cultivate this Lakadong variety in their respective villages as ICAR research has also indicated uniqueness of this ecological situation which enables the lakadong variety to perform exceedingly well while yielding very high cucurmin content, compared to other geographical locations in the State.  This unique natural advantage has given the farmers of this area a golden opportunity to produce one of the best turmeric spice in the State.

There is no stopping for Smt. Saioo- her vocal nature and strong leadership qualities egg her to push forward with her mission.  With 800 farmers with her, she started a co-operative society known as “Ieng Skhem Spice Producer Industrial Co-operative Society”  in order to organise the production and marketing of this spice. She also associated her Society with “Life Spice Federation of Self Help Groups of Laskein CD Block in order to rejuvenate this federation. She along with the other women members of the federation started value addition activities of Lakadong Turmeric through drying, slicing, powdering (grinding) and packaging. Under her leadership, the federation started to explore market linkages on their own for selling the value added Lakadong Turmeric. The federation started their own processing factory called Life Spice and started paying better prices to farmers, who sold their produce to the federation.

In early 2018 when the State Government was exploring ways to expand production of Lakadong Turmeric in Lakein CD Block, Smt. Trinity Saioo was in the forefront of nudging the State Government to launch Lakadong Turmeric Mission with the objective of upscaling the production and productivity of Lakadong Turmeric.

Smt. Trinity Saioo, with the Citation 
Today Smt. Trinity Saioo has 100 numbers of Turmeric SHG’s under her federation and she is also the Assistant General Secretary of the Federation. Under her leadership, the federation is able to export Lakadong Turmeric to southern State like Kerala , Karnataka and other North Eastern States.

The federation also sells directly to wholesale buyers and retailers through courier agencies when they receive orders for this prized spice. On 15th October 2018, Smt. Trinity Saio was felicitated and honoured for her valuable contribution and innovative work by the Union Ministry of Agriculture for ‘Excellence in Horticulture’ during the celebration of Mahila Kisan Divas 2018, which was held in NASC Complex, Pusa New Delhi. She received the Award in person from the Union Minister of Agriculture, Shri. Radha Mohan Singh at a glittering function graced by 40 other successful farm women from across the country.    


( Written by Shri. C.S.Shabong, Assistant Director of Agriculture(info), Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya, Email: csshabong@gmail.com) 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

1917 INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGY ENABLED AGRI MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (ITEAMS) – Using ICT for Empowering Agriculture


1917 iTEAMS Agri Response Centre (ARC)
Photo 1: Inside the 1917 iTEAMS ARC
         Meghalaya, a predominantly agrarian State, rich in agro-biodiversity is still yet to unleash its agricultural potential. Many of the States’ commercial and unique produce viz. Lakadong turmeric, organic vegetables, natural honey, coffee, cashewnut, strawberries, etc. are still absent in diverse intra and inter markets of the States. Majority of the farmers are confined to selling their produce in daily/weekly village markets or in main markets in the Districts. Walking through the streets of the biggest market in the state of Meghalaya, Iewduh Shillong, the streets are crammed with vegetables and fruits vendors and producers. This leads to high competition among them and paves way for the wholesalers and traders to suppress the price of the produce, thus depriving the producers of their rightful gain. A large majority of the farmers are still in the dark about different local based organizations or online portals for selling their produce and only a handful of the farmers in the State have access to such marketing platforms. Moreover, the lack of timely access to proper information and poor infrastructure like roads, cold storage facilities, etc. impede farmers from their well-deserved earnings.
The Department of Agriculture, Government of Meghalaya, with the motto of “Connecting farmers to markets’, launched the project 1917iTEAMS (Integrated Technology Enabled Agri Management System) in December 2017. The project which is based on Information Communication Technology (ICT) aims to cater to the needs of the farmers with just a phone call away as mobile telephony is the technology of choice for people from all walks of life today. Further, Meghalaya which ranked among the top 10 States of India with a potential growth rate in rural tele-density (Open Government Data Platform India, 2014), is in a much better position to capitalize on and take benefits from the various digital initiatives for digital empowerment of the masses and provision of digital delivery of various services to the citizens.
1917iTEAMS, a first of its kind project in the hilly terrain, is designed to connect farmers to the Agri- Response Centre(ARC) through a toll-free number 1917 for services related to agro-advisory services, market intelligence and transporting of agricultural produce by Agri-Response Vehicles (ARVs). The project is equipped with Incoming Communication Officers (ICOs) who are Agricultural & Veterinary Masters graduates as Level 1 Experts themselves and Dispatch Officers (DOs) in charge of ARVs. Farmers are connected to the ICOs through the Toll-Free number 1917, where the latter assists them in any queries related to disease and pest management, package of practices on apiculture, fisheries, Sericulture, scheme related information, health management of livestock, providing buyer information and any other allied sectors information. There are also Level 2 escalations to Subject Matter Experts(SMS) who are employees of the Agriculture and Allied State and Central Government departments.
A 1917 iTEAMS Agri Response Vehicle (ARV)
Photo 2: 1917 iTEAMS ARV loading farmer's produce for transportation
Although still in its infancy, with just three months of implementation, the 1917iTEAMS project has been able to carry through its intentions and objectives. The project has been able to provide assistance to more than two thousand queries of the farmers especially on crop disease and pest management. In-spite of the fact that the project has not been advertised at large, the ARVs have been the service of choice of about Fifteen Percent newly registered farmers who were in need of transporting agricultural products to and from their villages to markets.
One of the main objectives of 1917iTEAMS is to connect farmers to markets eliminating wasteful intermediation and multiple handling by middlemen, thereby significantly reducing transaction costs. The project has been able to provide a market information platform for a significant percentage of its registered farmers who inquired about selling off their produce. A noteworthy story so far, a registered farmer of 1917iTEAMS from a remote village in Jaintia hills complained to an ICO of 1917iTEAMS about the poor marketing of his produce apropos to which a Shillong based organization was introduced to him for buying his produce. Through this introduction, a successful business transaction was built between the farmer and the organization, and additionally with the farmers of the entire and nearby villages.
Many other successful marketing networks has also been created between the poultry registered farmers of 1917iTEAMS with other Shillong based organizations and local chicken vendors. What is more, in many cases, a marketing network was created by 1917iTEAMS among the registered farmers themselves for buying and selling their required commodities. One such instance where this scenario was applied was for buying and selling of piglets among the registered farmers and this initiative was highly appreciated.
Agriculture is an important sector of Meghalaya’s economy and information is vital for development and well-being of the rural masses. ICT in agriculture can act as a driving force in this development process. 1917iTEAMS has applied ICT to the advantage of Meghalaya’s small, marginal and resource-poor farmers by disseminating timely agricultural information pertaining to soil enrichment, seed selection, disease and pest management, organic cultivation, prevailing markets, demand-supply status in respect of different products and their current market prices. The information helps farmers in taking timely decisions on crop product diversification strategies and positioning of the same in right market to get optimum revenue. With more milestones to accomplish, 1917iTEAMS aims to empower the farmers of the state of Meghalaya to reach their highest potential. 
 (Article written by 1917-iTEAMS Program Management Unit)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Governor of Meghalaya Launched 5 Year Mission Lakadong



Photo: Mission Lakadong being unveiled by the Governor of Meghalaya
The Governor of Meghalaya, Shri Ganga Prasad today launched a five year Mission Lakadong 2018-2023, a convergent Mission of the Directorate of Horticulture, Department of Agriculture with the Governor’s Secretariat, Community &  Rural Development  Department,  Forest   Department, North Eastern Hill University and Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship at a function held at State Convention Centre, Shillong. The programme was organized by the Directorate of Horticulture.
The inaugural function was also attended by Shri Nujorki Sungoh, MLA, Mowkaiaw Constituency, Shri K.N. Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary to the Governor of Meghalaya, Shri P. Sampath Kumar, Commissioner and Secretary, Agriculture Department, Smti M. N. Nampui, Secretary, Agriculture Department, Smti B.N. War, Director of Horticulture, Dr. S. Rama Rao, Professor and Head, Biotechnology, NEHU, Shri A. Madhukar, Chairman, Afro-Asian Development Consortium, entrepreneurs and turmeric farmers of Jaintia Hills.

Speaking on the occasion as Chief Guest, the Governor said Meghalaya climatic condition is conducive for growing a variety of spices, the prominent ones are turmeric, ginger, chilli, black pepper and bay-leaf. Jaintia Hills District is home to one of the finest turmeric varieties in the world and the most famous one being the Lakadong turmeric with a curcumin content of more than 7% is highly sought after by the market, added the Governor. He further added that Lakadong turmeric is a rare type of turmeric and has the potential to change the lives of countless farmers if its uniqueness is properly exploited and there is an established demand for the variety and buyers who are willing to pay a premium for its quality.

“I am aware that this chemical free turmeric is much sought after for use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industry. However, despite such good demand, farmers have not, till date, been able to realise the full economic potential of this crop because most of them are small and marginal, and due to non availability of planting material and low volumes. The negative influence of the middle men is another major factor. I understand that there are at least 1000 farmers engaged in the cultivation of Lakadong Turmeric in Laskein and Thadlaskein Blocks, and the area is about 2500 hectares. I have also ascertained that the total production is just about 10,000 M.T. per year. This kind of volume is not sufficient to create a global foot print for our Lakadong. So, there is a necessity to undertake a mission mode intervention to increase the production of Lakadong Tumeric to at least 50,000 M.T. per year and more than double the area” he added.
The Mission Lakadong was launched to lend exclusive focus on one of Meghalaya’s most well known spices, the Lakadong turmeric, also known as the golden spice and to put in place targeted interventions aimed at the improvement of livelihoods of turmeric farmers by leveraging upon its default organic status  and its high curumin content, which at more than 7% is the highest in the world, to capture and meet the demand for this valuable spice from markets and industries especially the pharmaceutical industry.

Photo 2: A lady Entrepreneur Smt.Isabella Pakma making slices

The Mission will adopt an end to end holistic approach to organic Lakadong cultivation and will put in place interventions to increase that area under from its current status of 6367 acres (2577 hectares) to 15,000 acres (6070 hectares) over the next five years while improving the productivity from 6 MT per hectare to 8 MT per hectare, introduction of the latest technologies of plant propagation to increase and improve the availability of planting material, post harvest technology induction including solar dehydrators, product aggregation, the creation of a dedicated Hub and Center for Excellence for Lakadong, mobilization of farmers into Farmer Interest Groups, training, capacity building, creation of an ecosystem for promotion of turmeric based agri-businesses and a dedicated supply chain linked to markets for turmeric.

The main objective of the Mission is to enhance the livelihood and income opportunities of Lakadong turmeric farmers by leveraging on the uniqueness of Lakadong to tap the current and emerging opportunities in the spice sector. This will call for setting a target of 50,000 MTs of Lakadong in a period of five years.

Building up the brand equity of Lakadong as a uniquely Meghalayan premium product, both online and offline, that is synonymous with quality and purity. This will call for investment to register the Geographical Indication for Meghalaya’s Lakadong.

Induction of the latest technology and management practices for enhancing the availability of quality planting material. This will call for establishing Tissue culture Labs in key locations of the state and using the available resources of NEHU, Forest and Agriculture Departments and creation of an ecosystem that catalyses the emergence and growth of local private enterprises in the value chain. This will call for sustained capacity building of the potential entrepreneurs and establishing market linkage by the Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship.

Others who spoke on the occasion were Shri Nujorki Sungoh, MLA, Shri K.N. Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, Shri P. Sampath Kumar, Commissioner and Secretary, Agriculture Department, Smti M. N. Nampui, Secretary Agriculture Department, Smti B.N. War, Director of Horticulture, Dr. S. Rama Rao, Professor and Head, Biotechnology, NEHU and Shri A. Madhukar, Chairman, Afro-Asian Development Consortium.

Later, Technical Session was held on the topics, namely; Brief about the Mission, Market Access-Future Ready, Inducting Technologies, Rapid Multiplication of Lakadong through Tissue Culture, Bio-Diversity, the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmer’s Right Act 2001, Organic Cultivation of Turmeric and Presentation on 1917iTEAMS.

(Source: Official Press Release by the DIPR, Government of Meghalaya)