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Of engaging rural youths gainfully by NABARD: A nice economic initiative for Manipur

Of all organisations, organisation of mind is most difficult, but most important. Unorganised minds produce unorganised society punctuated by syndrome of terrible troubles arresting the economy into the shackles of stagnation. Increasing burden of life in small world negates all charms of life including the spirit of success and achievement which is the lifeblood of growth. Here one finds reckless misuse of basic assets of development such as Land, Labour and Time. Now-a-days the distinction between economies is made with reference to the degree of care with which the resources are used. The failure to apply right use of resources means not only the immediate loss but also the opportunity cost.
Look at advanced countries which are efficiency and innovation driven, where waste turns into wealth. What can you expect from the economy which is neither efficient nor innovative? We cannot handle difficult challenges in the competitive era with only common sense. In advanced countries Think –Tanks manufacture and make available the menu of alternative choices in the knowledge-market for both academic and practical consumptions. Of course, the final decision is taken by political masters who get the foods for thought digested and take appropriate decision. Both short-term and long-term advantages and disadvantages are dovetailed and harmonised to avoid the possible tantalizing future. But very interestingly in underdeveloped and highly unorganised states like Manipur, there is no happy marriage between short term gains and long term contributions. The age-old issue of overlooked concerns, unattended grievances and neglected tensions remains threatening.
We have to accept the hard fact that MANIPUR LIVES IN THE VILLAGES virtually without any structural change. Look at the unchanged resources used, unchanged technology, unchanged composition of farm produce and unchanged marketing behaviour. Rural stagnation has ripple effect on the production, consumption and distribution of the whole economy.
Even after 67 years of economic planning in the country, 55% of rural employment is accounted for by agriculture and allied activities, followed by 9% of industrial sector and 38% by service sector. The relationship between farm and non-farm sector is extremely weak.
Agriculture in Manipur is essentially meant for mere survival, not for development. Marketable surplus is extremely low. It has become a losing engagement. It is not a surprise that 30% of households are in debt. Nearly 40% of the farmers are reportedly prepared to change the track. The rising trend of dispossession of land for alternative engagement speaks volume while Manipur is facing the problem of food deficiency. In fact, without the help of Food Corporation of India our stomach may remain empty.
The turn of the event has another deeper implication. The rural masses have now been exposed to the aggressive world of mass production mainly after globalisation; duly abetted by the inherent culture of high propensity to consume and ever enlarging phenomenon of consumerism under the harmful influence of Demonstration Effect, while they are not adequately given advantages of wide range of economic opportunities, social empowerment and built-in-mechanism against a number of risks. Downward spiral of poverty is by and large responsible for massive erosion on local resources including environmental destruction. Rising trend of migration to Imphal town brings with itself a number of problems. In short, the youth in Manipur are in wilderness in this troubled age. A number of ugly events of demographic disaster on a slightest pretext vitiate the entire atmosphere.
Two issues remain paramount. Lack of physical connectivity remains a major challenge. Externally, the state is inadequately linked with the rest of the country and internally, the state is marked by the abject state of transport and communication. The national highways, the state highways and the inter-village roads have yet to ensure their respective efficiencies particularly during rainy season. It must be kept in mind the low physical connectivity is invariably accompanied and followed by delayed technological change. Manipur is not free from the fear of failure.
Secondly, the low ground level credit is another challenge. Look at the dismal picture of financial inclusion. Bank branch per 1000 sq. km. is only 3. Population per branch is 33602 as against All India Average of 13916.
The per capita credit is only Rs 4170 as against Rs.19188 of Sikkim and All India Average of Rs. 27188 (2009-10). People in the rural areas feel that the banks are meant for the rich,— not for the poor. This is one of the reasons why informal rotating credit associations are flourishing in Manipur. This is not a good sign.
The recent attempt of NABARD for more engagement in non-farm activities, though encouraging from different perspectives, may not necessarily be smooth sailing in a state like Manipur where inter-sectoral and inter-departmental understanding is fairly weak. There is a need for better institutional understanding with other departments. Besides, the state is facing the acute problem of professional backwardness, low level of discipline and work culture. Lack of consistency is another issue. Engaging Rural Youth Gainfully demands a change of outlook and motivation.


by Mohendro Nandeibam

The writer was a Member of State Planning Board, Government of Manipur. (e-mail: profnmsingh@gmail.com)

Courtesy: https://www.thesangaiexpress.com/

In rural Manipur, women feel the heat of climate change

It is that time of the year when the weather is dry and windy. Hmuoki has to work even harder than usual to water and fertilize her four acres of farmland on the banks of the Khuga River in Churachandpur district of Manipur, north-east India.

Hmuoki struggles to ensure her family has enough food to eat during the dry season, which begins in November. From November till March, she plants crops like mustard, pumpkin, varieties of peas, beans, ginger and turmeric. She also supplements her food by working on farms in the hills surrounding the village, by going to Jhum fields or to collect wild fruits or herbs.

Women like Hmuoki play a major role in agriculture in Manipur. There are a large number  of women farmers working in the state, suffering from protracted conflict between authorities and armed groups. These women are also on the front line of climate change in the north-eastern state, where erratic rainfall, floods and higher temperatures are making daily life more difficult for rural farmers.

In mid February, a small group of women farmers gathered at Hmuoki’s home with a team from the civil society organisation Rural Women Upliftment Society (RWUS) to talk about their experiences in the fields and the changes they have witnessed in recent years. Hmuoki lives in Saidan village, 5 kilmetres from Lamka, the main town in the district.

February is the time when women prepare for Jhum cultivation – a traditional slash and burn agriculture technique used widely in the hills of Manipur. The women are also seeing more random forest fires, set off by people who want to hunt wild animals. This causes huge damage to the land. Burning for Jhum preparation, however, does not damage soil fertility or cause environment degradation, argued the women. For Jhum preparation a small forest area is cleared, and twigs, branches and waste from the clearings are dried and eventually burned. The ash actually helps the make the soil more fertile.

Forest fires also affect their water sources – natural springs, which are slowly shrinking and drying up.

For many years now certain areas in the forest surrounding the village have been declared a “forest reserve” by the village authority (under the Chief) to preserve its resources, mostly for fuel and wood. “Due to this we had to even go farther for our Jhum cultivation,” said Thiengi, a women who dropped into the meeting on her way to the Jhum fields. “Now our Jhum cultivation field is very far from our village,” she said. There is no time rest, as she goes to Jhum fields about an hour’s walk away, to get herbs and other edible leaves and plants.

Too little, too much water

The women dread the summer, when water will be really scarce. Saidan village, with over 100 households, has three public water reservoirs, but the women say this is insufficient. Rainfall, the main source of water for domestic use, has become sporadic and this sometimes leads to drought.

The women have also seen more frequent floods over the past decade. Floods become a major hazard during the monsoon. “My field/ farm was frequently destroyed by flood, damaging all crops in monsoon,” said Hmuoki. This is one reason why she works persistently during the winter months, struggling hard to keep her farm in good condition, so as to extend the crop-growing season.

Even if there is no heavy rain, water released from behind the Khuga dam sometimes inundates the whole river downstream, damaging crops, and houses around the river. Khuga dam is a multipurpose hydro-electric project located in south Churachandpur. During monsoon, water is released from behind the dam to relieve pressure. The dam was completed in 2010.

Water for domestic use and for agriculture and irrigation is a key concern. The burden of collecting water falls on women. Besides the drying of springs, one of the major causes of water scarcity is the lack of snowfall. “Ten or twenty years back we had snowfall in winter. There is no snowfall now,” explained Hmuoki. “Snow melt makes the soil wet and fertile”.

Therefore women farmers like Hmuoki have to put even more effort into raising their crops, which is their main livelihood. At the moment, her farm is on banks of the Khuga River, which provides irrigation. But Hmuoki is worried. The Lanva, a tributary of the Khuga that runs through Lamka town, has completely dried up during winter – though it still floods causing havoc during the monsoon.

Feeling the heat

The summer months are increasingly hot, said the women from Saidan village. February, once upon a time a cool, breezy month, was already warm and sultry this year. Though rural villages in Churachandpur have to bear the summer heat without amenities, in Lamka ceiling fans and standing fan have become a necessity. In peak summer, temperatures in Churachandpur have reached over 30 degrees Celsius in recent years. Record temperatures in Manipur reached 35.6 degrees Celsius in April 2014. Many families in Manipur have also fitted air conditioners at home. These changes have been distinct in the past few years, compared to the usually pleasant and moderate climatic conditions in Manipur.

Rising temperatures have made it more difficult to preserve seeds. Traditionally, seeds were preserved by drying them out in the sun or above fireplaces and keeping them in bamboo containers. In past generations seeds would be planted directly in the soil. Now seeds have to be germinated first with manure and water in nurseries at home before being planted in the soil, to ensure crops grow well.

The hard work doesn’t end there. Once the crops grow, they come under attack from a growing number of insects and other pests. “These days we buy and use pesticides and fertilizers, our home-made manure are not sufficient,” said Hmuoki.

It’s not only crops. Mangoes, one of the common fruit plants in Churachandpur, for instance, are vulnerable to infection, said Thiengi. “Crops like peas are impossible to grow now without insecticides and pesticides,” she said.

Plants and fruits that were once delicacies for the locals have slowly disappeared. One example is the zawngtah or “stink bean” (Parkia speciosa). The bean trees have slowly dried up and been infected by pests and the price of the beans has gone up in recent years. The plant used to grow in the wild as well as being cultivated.  Now the beans have to be imported from Moreh, a town and trade hub 270 kilometres away from Lamka on the Indian-Myanmar border.

Uphill struggle

Farming has become a real struggle for these women in Manipur. They want to take advantage of recent developments in technology and modern agricultural techniques to boost their productivity and experiment a new ways of farming. They also hope to find alternative ways to earn income. For instance, introducing new varieties of climate resistant seeds, or new varieties of crops, such as pulses.

It is rural women, particularly farmers, who see and experience climate change, said Mary Beth Sanate, secretary of the Rural Women Upliftment Society. They are the ones who are preserving natural resources, but unfortunately policymakers do not consider their knowledge and skills.  “Women are not part of decision making bodies, be it at the local level, or in traditional or state bodies,” said Sanate.

by Ninglun Hanghal

Ninglun Hanghal is a journalist based in Manipur.

In rural Manipur, women feel the heat of climate change

RWUS Women in Governance Team- Talk Show on IWD 2016

RWUS Women in Governance Team- Talk Show on IWD 2016 at All India Radio Churachandpur Station. A mass awareness and campaign for gender equality.

World Environment Day Observed

Theme: One World, One Environment.
Venue: RWUS Training Hall.

A hundred and twenty locals from in and around Churachandpur responded to the invitations sent by RWUS on the observation of the World Environment Day on 5th June 2015. Apart from this, a few special invitees were requested to speak on various environment related topics.
The day started with a keynote address from Mr Samuel Shakum, Program Manager, RWUS. He stressed that RWUS recognizes the fact that women play a bigger and more influencing role in the society’s attitude towards the environment. So, it has made it women-oriented and this has been one of the most important projects taken up by the organization. He also related to the audience that humans are the caretakers of God’s creations, our missions as Christians to take care of the environment. Half of the laws given in the Pentateuch were environment related. So, RWUS aims at this awareness. He concluded by quoting from the Bible, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”.

Four special invitees were invited; Ms Joycy Inbuon, Mr Simon Hrangchal, Mr Dennis Lallienzuol Hrangchal. They were each aptly presented with a tree sapling in occasion.

Mr Simon Hrangchal, Secretary, Relief and Development Dept., EAC spoke next on the topic Environment and Natural Resources. He foremost emphasized that the audience today were more important than the speakers, as they were the ones who would be the doers. He said that in earlier times, our ancestors respected the environment and they worship and revere it but in the future, we might have to go to the extent of buying oxygen.

In world talks and conferences, the issue of the need to reduce carbon emission of every country came foremost. However, under- developed and developing countries refused to cooperate saying that developed countries were trying to hinder their development. In the same way, in this corner of the world we may feel that we are not doing much to deteriorate the environment but we must all realize the need for accountable responsibility. We can only start developing this attitude if we feel that the environment is ours.

With the topic “Biblical perspective on Environment”, Ms Joycy Inbuon, Women Coordinator, Reformed Presbyterian Church stressed on how humans are the caretakers of all of God’s creations. That includes all of the things, living and non-living on earth. She quoted from Genesis 2:15, Deuteronomy 20:19, Psalm 104 and Rom 8:18 in support of this. We need to recognize that it is not only the RWUS’s responsibility but our individual responsibility to take care of and protect the environment. And that is our Christian duty.

The programme continued with Mr Dennis Hrangchal, Social Activist on Climate Change Adaptation. He firstly emphasized on how we need to consider everyday as World Environment Day. It would produce a great change if we could be as green, every other day of the year, as today. Climate change is a negative change and with every change comes consequences. The world is suffering of these consequences. To counter climate change, we must know that we need to change ourselves. We must take care that everything we do should be eco-friendly. The Swach Bharat campaign is a good example of this. Also, to adapt to climate change, we must have proper forest management, waste management, water management, disaster management, promotion of cottage industries and capacity development. He concluded by saying that that we own one world and one environment. We all share it, so each of our actions affects the other. We are never too old or too young to change.

What made the day special was the introduction of the concept of “Adopting a tree” taken up by Ms Lalnunnem. This idea stresses on the adoption of tree saplings by an individual as how he would adopt a child. The tree sapling was to be nourished and cared for judiciously.
Ms Lalnunnem stated that when God created the earth, He was satisfied with what He saw because everything was perfect i.e. there was ecological balance. However, humans who are the caretakers of this earth, have made it like an orphan. We do not share responsibility of this world like we are supposed to and we need to each individually realize this. The audience were urged to take pledges to do what they can to help the environment in any way they can.

Under this programme to “adopt” a tree, RWUS distributed around 200 tree saplings to individuals on this day.

The day ended with a vote of thanks by Ms Hrilrohnem, Chairperson, RWUS and a blessing by Ms Vanlalkung.

Workshop on SRI for farmers

A workshop on SRI (System of rice intensification) was held on May 21-27, 2015 at RWUS training center, Churachandpur, Manipur under the guidance of Department of Agriculture, Manipur.  204 farmers from 17 villages in Churachandpur district participated in the workshop.

The workshop covered SRI Process, seed treatment, nursery preparation & management, transplantation & techniques, water management, fertilizer application process, and pest management.

The farmers were given seeds, fertilizers, etc.

International Women’s Day Observed

 The International Women’s Day Celebration program for 8th march 2014 was planned in a way that maximum numbers of Gun widows, women violent victims, women survival and women who are in isolation could attend and participate in the celebration program
 The participants of the International Women’s Day celebration are Women promoters form different villages covered by RWUS, WinG promoters, Gun widows, violent victims, and members of WinG networking partner in Churachandpur district.
 Inmates from Pricilla Home not only attend the program like the other year, this year they could entertain the participants by preforming a short play (drama).
The program was hosted by Mrs. Lalnunnem Faiheng, she start the day program with a word of prayer and she quoted out a verse from the Bible expressing her thoughts that Women are created by God with a special purpose, special idea and a special structure to take good care of their family and husband in turn should love and affectionate their wives knowing that they are the ones God sent them as a gift from heaven. Women are compared with a brittle pot in Bible because they are bound to be given special care. Ms Nissi conveys welcome speech and Keynote addresses. She speaks about the history of how IWD was celebrated all over the world every year, she also said that Inspiring Change the 2014 theme for our international women’s day encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality, vigilance and watchfulness inspiring positive change. The vast array of communication channels, supportive spokespeople, equality research, campaigns and community responsibility initiatives means everyone can be an advocate inspiring change for women’s advancement.
Speech from Darthangmawi: She was extremely happy and excited to be a part of the International Women’s day celebration and was truly speechless to see many Youths, young widows and women from different community who come together to celebrate the special occasion. She thanks the organization and the working partners of RWUS who come up with the thought of organizing such a program for women.
She shared that is high time that we accept change in our Family, Society, Church as well as political organization. We are more backward comparing to the other parts of the world, the reason behind is that women in Northeast India feel really difficult to accept change. There can be two simple definition for change; one reason ‘Change for a good purpose and the other change for a bad purpose’. Today by inspiring change we mean change for a good reason.
Women have many opportunities to join hands together to make a change even though it looks difficult, at least we should try our best to make our society gender equity where women feel free to raise their voice for the betterment of the society. Many laws and amendments are made for empowering and upliftment of women in India and even at the international level but the implementation level at ground level is poor, we can see many laws and amendments even in the Bible it’s the work of the Christians to follow them. In the Bible we see many women who are agent of change, taking an example of Tirza and her sisters who claim for their own property rights after their father’s death. After fighting for their rights new laws was made like ‘A family without a son to inherit their father’s property should transfer their rights to their daughter not to their paternal uncle’s. .’
She suggested certain steps to be followed to bring out change for a better purpose for inspiring change-
1. Making space for the vulnerable women to come up and stand up for their rights
2. Should have a generous heart giving priority to others
3. To uplift the poor and assist them with whatever resources we have in us
4. To mold the younger generation not to have inferiority complex as they have more access to the new technologies and have more mobility.
5. Should be self determined, straight forward and have patience
6. Have a specific vision, mission, objective and a clear thoughts how to move forward
7. Should be self sustain instead of depending on others
Ms Vanlalkung shared that she feels happy to be a part of the IWD celebration and thank RWUS for inviting her and remembering her. She was hardly invited by any NGO or any people for such an occasion after her husband was killed by an insurgent group. She was humiliated and was isolated by the villagers, but she strive forward to her best to look after her family and with the help of God she could now stood up in front of others and make speech. The whole house was amused by her speech, how could women be so humiliated after their husband passed away?
Ms JL Sawmi shared that we should be proud of our special day (IWD) and we all need to joint hands accept change and inspired each other’s to bring positive change in the family, Society and so on.
Mary Beth Sanate Secretary, RWUS shared that we should not only focus on those leaders who are great agent of change but we should also keep in mind and focus on the women who make and contribute for a change. We need to know what we have done at our own level to bring and inspire change and also we all can be a change agent at our own level.

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