TURA: As many as 200 families from 14 villages under Rongram development block have joined hands to be part of a project that aims to boost fruit production and nutritional security in Garo Hills while celebrating World Environment Day, on Friday.
Tura MP Agatha K Sangma inaugurated the Integrated Tribal Development Project at Babadham village under Rongram block in the presence of North Tura legislator Thomas A Sangma and BAKDIL director Fr. Sunny Mavelil and a host of invited guests including Auxiliary Bishop of Tura Rev. Fr. C J Jose.
The ITDP project which is funded by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development will be implemented through the Garo Hills based NGO BAKDIL through its various women self help groups.
At a cost of Rs. 1.6 Crores the project is being implemented within a time span of six years during which the plantations will begin bearing fruit.
Giving her support to the project Agatha Sangma told the gathering of women SHG members it would empower them economically and financially as well.
“This lockdown that we have gone through for the past two and a half months due to the corona virus had taught us a very valuable lesson- the need to be self reliant. This project is one such opportunity for all of us to become self reliant,” said the Lok Sabha MP from Tura.
Agatha Sangma added that the community support often rendered in times of need was a shining example of the state’s uniqueness.
“During this crisis we have witnessed how communities came together to set up quarantine centres and provide food to the returnees. This is one of the gifts Meghalaya stands out for,” she remarked.
Under the project a family with 1.5 acre of empty land is eligible to join a SHG and farmers club through which they will be trained and cash supported for plantation of fruit bearing trees such as mangos, gooseberry, tamarind, jackfruit, among other varieties. Once the trees bear fruit the harvest will be directly procured from the farmers and processed in a local unit before export to the markets.
Adviser to Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and North Tura MLA Thomas A Sangma pointed out that the move towards mass plantation of fruit bearing trees would result in Garo Hills becoming an exporter of nutritious and organic produce to other states in a few years time.
“Only recently the western world, particularly the USA, have discovered that jackfruit is a good supplement for meat as it contains high fiber and multiple vitamins and demand for it is growing. Here in Garo Hills we have abundance of the fruit and we ought to look at ways to exporting this exotic fruit which has been native to our region since ancient times,” said Thomas Sangma.
Auxiliary Bishop of Tura Rev Fr C J Jose pointed out that the only way for Garo Hills to progress is to save the environment by planting more trees and preserving nature.
BAKDIL director Fr Sunny informed the gathering that their NGO has placed a target of Rs 20000 monthly income for every family by 2025-26 with an annual income of Rs 2.4 lakh.
He revealed that this success story would be replicated across the Garo Hills region where ever there are women SHGs present.
The block development officer of Rongram Block, Mrs S Ch Momin also spoke about the abandoned crop fields, particularly the many hillocks once used for jhum cultivation.
She suggested rejuvenation of the abandoned jhum fields by starting bamboo plantations which would help retain the soil and moisture content.
To celebrate the start of the ITDP project, the first saplings of fruit bearing trees, particularly mango and orange were planted on selected plots inside Kemragre and Urienggre villages of Babadam by the invited guests and SHG members.