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Thursday, April 14, 2016

UMLAKRO FARM – Model for Sustainable Horticulture Tourism Development


A View of Umlakro Farm at Jirang, Ri-bhoi District

During the British rule when Meghalaya was part of undivided Assam, Khasi Mandarin Oranges were reported to be growing in abundance in the hill tract under Jirang C&RD Block of Ri-Bhoi district. However, lack of adoption of scientific procedure for cultivation and management practices caused poor productivity and these trees began to decrease vigorously thus leading to citrus decline and dieback. The District Horticulture Office begun to explore ways and means how to regain back the past glories and today Umlakro Farm has emerged as a model of sustainable horticulture development combining modern hitech horticulture technology with horti-tourism.

The genesis of this story took roots when the Department of Agriculture was gifted 7 hectares of land from the Syiem of Jirang and his Durbar in the year 2004, with the expectation that the land could be used for the overall development and upliftment of agriculture in the region under Jirang C&RD Block.

During 2009, this land was transferred to the Directorate of Horticulture to develop but it was only in 2012 that the office of the District Horticulture officer, Ri-Bhoi could start work on the project for setting up a horticulture farm. Thus Umlakro farm was created to not only re-nurture Khasi Mandarins, but also to experiment with other citrus varieties like Nagpur Orange, Assam Lemon, Sweet Orange. The farm also aims to provide farmers of the district with high quality seeded and budded plants. Furthermore, the farm will also facilitate students of Horticulture to conduct in-depth study on the functional, productivity, efficiency and a holistic understanding of oranges, mandarins and lemon. Students will also be able to learn from the farm through hands on approach which will enhance their personal development.

In the past, the life of a farmer is dictated by the weather gods -when the rain god, the sun god, the god of the earth are favourable on them, the farmer can begin to rejoice and thank the heavens for their season’s harvest. But apparently all the rituals practiced by our farmers and their sacrifices have become futile with the changing time and technology has taken over many aspects of farming. With the aim of bringing development closer to the people in the villages, creating basic infrastructure to provide gainful employment opportunities for the people and empower them so that they may have the liberty to work as employers rather than employees, the Directorate of Horticulture released fund of Rs. 6.25 lakhs for developing basic infrastructure construction of shade  house, overhead water tank and land development to develop Umlakro as a model horticulture farm.

A Birds Eye View of the Farm 
Furthermore, after conducting adequate studies on the land, soil and climate of the area, the horticulture development officer in-charge of the farm opted to raise mother plants in order to  produce quality planting materials of different citrus crops  such  as  the famed Khasi Mandarin, Assam Lemon, Sweet Orange etc. The Office began to treat Umlakro Farm as a future hub which would provide quality planting  materials  to neighbouring  villages and  their  farmers.  A model Floriculture Centre was also set up during the year 2013-2014 as the area was found suitable for the cultivation of flowers such as Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis and Blue Vanda.

Before these intervention by the District Horticulture Office Nongpoh, Jirang was known for  widespread jhum cultivation practices broom grass cultivation  and timber logging. The forests in the State are major carbon sinks and home to agro-biodiversity which needs to be protected  adequately. Jhum cultivation leads to removal of tons of biomass, higher rate of run-off of rainwater leading to drinking water shortage and even drought.

Today the farm has managed to integrate horti-tourism elements alongside establishment of modern nurseries for citrus, poly houses, mother blocks, hi tech green houses, water harvesting structures, power generators, vermi compost units, root stock blocks etc.  

(The Writer works as Assistant Director of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture Meghalaya and can be reached at

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Meghalaya State Agricultural Marketing Portal wins in eNorth East Award 2016


Team Members receiving the Trophy from Dr.C. Lyngdoh, Chief Guest

Meghalaya State Agricultural Marketing Portal (, an online web based Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS), which was designed, developed and hosted by NIC Meghalaya in collaboration with the Directorate of Horticulture, Meghalaya and Meghalaya State Agricultural Marketing Board was awarded the RUNNERS UP place in the eNorth East Award 2016, under the category e-Governance and Citizen Services Delivery, which witnessed 11 nominees presenting their projects before a 3 member panel of eminent experts as Jury Members. The Experts were from IT Department, Government of Meghalaya, IIM Shillong and IT department Govt of Sikkim. 

The Meghalaya State Agriculture Marketing Portal was first launched in the year 2005 and then again revamped in 2014 with Microsoft .NET framework and MS Sql Server 2008 as the back end RDBMS database. The portal is hosted in NIC National Data Centre, New Delhi which is a 3 tier datacentre. The site has received more than 31000 web hits and is being used regularly by the farmers and the traders from the State as well as other parts of the country. 

All the finalist team had to give a five minutes presentation in front of the jury members who then awarded points under several parameters like Innovation Challenge, Implementation Plan, Timelines, People Benefitted, Scope of Replication and Revenue Model.  The 5 minutes presentation was followed up by another 2 minutes of questioning by the jury members. After the score were compiled, the Winner and Runner’s up were selected from each category.
Our team was represented by C.S.Shabong, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and Aiborlang Wanswett, Principal System Analyst, NIC Meghalaya who gave a power point presentation in front of the jury members and also replied to all the queries and questioning by each jury member.

Given below is the list of Challengers under the category: E-GOVERNANCE & CITIZEN SERVICES DELIVERY which comprised of 11 nominations having the largest number of nominees under the category.
-Online Monthly Expenditure Reporting System, National Informatics Center, Mizoram
-Mahanagar, District Administration ,Kamrup (Metro), Assam
- Common Portal to Send Bulk SMS(s) to citizens by Multiple Departments,NIC Mizoram State Centre
- Nagaland Police SMS Based Vehicle Monitoring System,  - WINNER
- Meghalaya State Agriculture Marketing Portal, Directorate of Horticulture, Government of Meghalaya - RUNNERS UP
- MIS for State Finance Commission, Assam, National Informatics Centre
- Project E-Tendering/e-Procurement system for Govt. of Assam/Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya- Nexprocure/NPX, Nextenders,
- DRISTI, Ofce of the Commissioner, Panchayat & Rural Development, Assam
- Online Payment of Road tax, Passenger and Goods tax in Mizoram Transport Department, NIC Mizoram State Centre
-Assam Secretariat e-Pass Application, NIC, Assam
- APDCL e-Services, Assam Power Distribution Corporation Ltd., Assam

The 6th Edition of the eNorth East Award 2016 is organised by NEDF, Guwahati and Impulse NGO Network, Shillong in collaboration with MITS, Meghalaya and was held on 26th February 2016 at the NEC Auditorium, Nongrim Hills, Shillong.  The event witnessed a participation of 71 Finalists under various categories where one Winner and one Runners-up  was declared from each category, which was adjudged by eminent jury members comprising experts from the IT field, media, educational institutions and industry.

The Inaugural function was graced by a host of dignitaries comprising of Shri.R.Muivah, IAS, Secretary NEC, Shri.R.M.Mishra, IAS, Principal Secretary Planning Department, Meghalaya, Shri.D.P.Wahlang, IAS, Commissioner & Secretary IT, Meghalaya, Shri, Amitabh Singhal, Board Member, Public Interest Registry etc.

The eNorth East Award platform is an effort to mainstream the North East region by bringing the progressive digital initiatives into national and international focus, recognize good IT practices from the region and felicitate these practitioners and projects for their innovations.

(The writer is Assistant Director of Agriculture(Agro)in the Department of Agriculture Meghalaya and can be reached at