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Nagaland

Women farmers celebrate biodiversity, exchange seeds

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By EMN Updated: Dec 15, 2018 12:34 am
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Participants from four villages in Phek district take part in seed-exchange ceremony at the event.

Dimapur, Dec. 14: With an aim to protect biodiversity in the face of climate change and modern development pressures in order to building a resilient community, women farmers from four villages of Phek district namely Akhegwo, Meluri, Phor and Chizami converged at Akhegwo Village in Meluri block on Wednesday.

Organised by the North East Network (NEN) and hosted by Akhegwo village, the biodiversity festival themed “Building Resilience for a Food Sovereign Community” began with Ghenyi Chugho, Head GB of the host village, inaugurating the exhibition of both the cultivated and uncultivated food diversity found in the area.

Chugho told the gathering that “that the introduction of certain income-generating crops has led to decrease in crop diversity especially millets.” He added that millet was part of the community’s culture that needs to be revived, and collectively cultivate to minimise pest (animals and birds) attack on the crop.

Dwelling on the theme of the festival Wekoweu Tsuhah of NEN highlighted the forces of market and modern science that has threatened indigenous communities’ local food systems and culture. These threats are further exacerbated by climate change impacts, making communities vulnerable to poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, and losing community’s control over natural resources, she said.

She urged the farming communities to be ‘seed-sovereign’ and assert their rights by conserving and exchanging traditional seeds amongst themselves; promote climate-resilient crops such as millets and local cuisines. She called on the local communities to define ‘our own alternative development that is sustainable and inclusive; to recognise the contribution of women in biodiversity conservation and give them equal rights, and also to engage youth in community development process.’

Seed-exchange ceremony was held between the four villages — Akhegwo, Meluri, Chizami and Phor — from Phek district that took part in the programme to reaffirm that ‘communities can defend their ecological and cultural rights only through solidarity, sharing and exchange of knowledge and seeds amongst farming communities.’

Extending his solidarity towards safeguarding biodiversity, president of Apoksa Range Public Organisation (ARPO) Z. Chumda Tsang expressed his hope that the festival would revive climate-resilient crop especially millets that has a significant longevity. He also appreciated the organisers for introducing such an event in the range for the first time and hoped that it (biodiversity festival) would get bigger in the future.

Exhorting the gathering vice president of Pochury Mothers’ Association Shilu Thurr stated that Nagas have survived for centuries mostly depending on agriculture and stressed on the fact that “though our religion have changed, we cannot lose out our cultural identity which is strongly rooted in our food and agriculture systems.”

Seno Tsuhah of NEN stated that ‘where there is biodiversity, there is life,’ adding that ‘protecting our natural resources is a political activity.’ She also encouraged farmers present at the event to consider and protect the forest resources that are the lifeline to the rural communities.

About 150 women farmers from four villages — Akhegwo, Meluri, Phor and Chizami — officials of Pochury Mothers’ Association (PMA), Akhegwo Area Public Organisation (ARPO), and community leaders from Akhwego participated in the festival. It was also marked by folk tunes and dance, seed-exchange ceremony, solidarity messages, and traditional food.

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By EMN Updated: Dec 15, 2018 12:34:15 am