Villages in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are blessed with conditions suitable for the cultivation of fruits. However, until recently, the existing orchards were in a deplorable condition due to farmers lacking technical knowledge on fruit farming and management of orchards. As a result, most plantations in the area were damaged by insects and ravaged by diseases.
Likha Toruma is a resident of Yazali village in Arunachal Pradesh and lives with his wife and three children. Mr Toruma is a member of AAB AKIN SHG, Yazali, and has an orange orchard. His orange orchard too met the same fate as that of his fellow villagers, with pest infestation resulting in low yields and not much of monetary benefits. Mr Toruma’s orchard produced around 500kg of oranges and he earned merely Rs20,000 for his produce per annum. Consequently, over the years, he lost interest in the orange garden and decided to plant other crops.
When North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA), a Tata Trusts’ associate organisation, started its intervention in the region, the AAB AKIN SHG approached NEIDA for support for livelihood interventions. Mr Toruma also attended the training programmes on the rejuvenation of orange gardens, imparted by NEIDA. He started practicing the cultivation methods that he learnt as part of the training. He trimmed and pruned his orange plants. Then he set up half-moon terraces for the conservation of soil moisture and to arrest erosion. He learned how to prepare Bordeaux mixture and apply it in his fruit garden. After adoption of improved orange management practices, Mr Toruma observed that his plants were becoming healthy – the colour of the leaves turned dark green and the fruit drops reduced drastically.
Mr Toruma’s annual yield of oranges grew to 2,000-2,500kg. He sold his oranges at Rs50/kg and earned around Rs125,000 for his produce – more than six times of what he used to earn earlier. He spent most of the additional income on his children’s education and the maintenance and extension of his orchard. Mr Toruma says, “Now my heart is at peace. My income has increased due to NEIDA. I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Another inspiring story is of Mr Lalchhandama from Chengpui village in Mizoram. Mr Lalchhandama depends solely on his jhum cultivation field and orchard to earn a living. He started horticulture with a lemon plantation in 2014 in a small plot of land. The small lemon plantation was insufficient to provide for his family of five. Mr Lalchhandama sometimes had to work extra hard to meet his family’s needs. Yet, they barely earned Rs4,000 per annum from their plantation.
In 2017, the region was selected as a part of the Integrated Livelihood Promotion (ILP) programme being implemented by NEIDA. Mr Lalchhandama too registered enthusiastically with others from his area. Mr Lalchhandama’s family had never enrolled in any government or non-government schemes prior to ILP.
After the implementation of NEIDA’s intervention, Mr Lalchhandama received banana suckers and orange saplings to plant on his farm. He further expanded the land under horticulture cultivation. Regular monitoring and training by NEIDA and appropriate nutrients to the plants resulted in an increase in production. The location and condition of the orchard too played an important role in controlling the mortality rate of the plants.
Mr Lalchhandama’s income increased substantially through NEIDA’s intervention. Last year, he earned approximately Rs50,000 just from selling the bananas. He is eagerly waiting the additional income that will flow in once the oranges are harvested and sold.
NEIDA’s strategic interventions in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram have transformed countless withering plantations to healthy orchards that promise bountiful harvests and better lives for farmers such as Likha Toruma and Lalchhandama.