Khonoma: The first green village of India

By Prasanta Talukdar

A green village is a human settlement that enables its residents to live a good quality of life while using maximum natural resources. The green villages adopt a holistic approach to sustainability which would result in multi fold benefits, both tangible and intangible. The most tangible benefits are the reduction in water & energy demand and better handling of solid waste in the village. The intangible benefits of green villages include access to safe drinking water and sanitation and the basic facilities like healthcare, schools, transport and recreation. Green village is a process that can keep a village attaining sustainable development. Its habitat where one can live in pleasant environment. The village should follow Energy conservation, efficient transportation, biodiversity, waste management, watershed management, rain water harvesting structure, on conventional resources.
Mahatma Gandhi’s dream comes true through the village of ‘Khonoma’ India’s first green village, where villagers never cut trees and preserve the forest. The village got its name from ‘Khwuno’, a small plant that is found in abundance around the village. Angami tribes are the main inhabitants of the village, they are known for their bravery and martial skills. The village is also known for its master craftsman’s in the art of weaving with bamboo and cane.
Khonoma is located in approx 20 kms west of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. Khonoma is a hilly area at an altitude of 5300 feet above mean sea level and spread over the123 sq.kms area. The village is situated in the beautiful mountains in mysterious way so that one cannot see the village until they cross the ceremonial giant gateway, which welcomes the visitors. The village is almost at the base of mountains and shielded by mountains on all sides, also known as ‘hidden village’. A big monolithic stone, engraved with the details of Green Village has been installed at the entry way to village. Towards one side of the village were green hills whose peaks were covered in clouds and on the other side the terraced paddy fields could be seen. To promote the green village concept and increase the eco-tourism, tourism department Govt. of Nagaland and Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture has launched the Khonama Green Village Project’ (KGVP) on 25th October 2005, inaugurated by the Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio.
‘Khonoma’ has been identified for the Green village project, due to its advantages over other villages such as location, flora-fauna, forest conservation, ban on hunting, jhoom cultivation, construction technique, social infrastructure and great history. KGVP was the first project of its kind and Khonoma is the first Green Village in the country. The aim of the project was to make Khonoma a model for all villages in Nagaland and other states for eco-tourism. The project has gained widespread attention in India. Though the government has come forward to help and funded the project, but it was initiated by the local peoples.
After Khonoma green village is considered to be 700 years old settlement, known for its past heritage of fighting and warfare. Naga’s has grown up hunting and spending half their life in the woods, head hunting was their one of the favourite game. Khonoma was for a long time the stronghold of the Angamese ‘head-hunters’ warriors who resisted until 1880 against the British invader. A memorial was built which has been carved to give tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to the vision of free Naga nation. Also, there stands a stone pillar in memory of Mr. G.H. Damant, a British Officer who was the then Political Agent of the British and four other officers who were killed by the village militia in 1879 when the British expedition team came to the village. Khonoma had etched its name into the history of Indian resistance to the colonial invasion. Christianity was introduced in the village in 1890, now most of the villagers are of this faith. Famous leaders of the “Naga National Movement” were born here as A.Z. Phizo.
After Following concepts are being practiced by the villager to make their village green. The Naga tribes are hunter by born, hunting is the game as well means of livelihood for them. In 1993, they realized that trapogan birds are endangered species and 300 of them were killed in few times for their meat in the village. From then some of the ecologically sensitive villagers launched a crusade against hunting. The residents of Khonoma, Nagaland, did something that no one else in the country had ever done before. They declared a chunk of their forest as a conservation reserve- the ‘Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary’ (KNCTS). Until then, only the government had identified forests worthy of protection. The village is preserving about 70 sq kms of its community forest. The sanctuary is one of the few community conserved areas in India. Each person of Khonoma, let it be either boy or girl, young or old are the member of one or other bodies of Khonoma such as- village council, Village Development Board, student union, Khonoma Women’s Organisation etc. In addition, all villagers are part of an ‘age group’, such groups are formed by boys and girls, who carry out social activities like construction of rest-houses, village paths, and the formation of singing and dancing groups. Each age group is assigned a guardian, who is considered a spiritual parent.
In 2005, the state forest department initiated a proposal for this area to be declared a Community Reserve under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act as amended in 2001. To protect the sanctuary rules were laid down for the management. In which there was financial fine from Rs. 300 to Rs. 3000 depending on the seriousness of the violation. But more than monetary punishment, the family’s loss of face was a more effective deterrent. Youth bodies like, the Khonoma Students Union (KSU) and Khonoma Youth Organization played active role in facilitating this movement they are the one who does monitoring, implementation of rules and levy the fines. Khonoma received the epithet of a ‘green village and accolades’ in the media. The Naga tribes are known for wildlife hunting for their livelihood. To make the village green the villagers come to ban the hunting in entire forest area of the village extending to 125 sq. kms since 1998. Within a short span of time after the ban of hunting, sightings of deer, wild boar and porcupine, has been started. Many farmers also reported the damage of their food crops by wild animals. In order to deal with this problem, hunting of animals sighted in the fields is allowed but the meat is not allowed to be sold.
The ‘Morung’, is popularly known as centre of learning. It is also the house of decision making, as an important centre of the village. In these morungs, the duty of the ancients is to inculcate moral values, social responsibilities, craftsmanship, agriculture, various sports such as wrestling and folkloric traditions such as songs and native games. Khonoma has high literacy rate of approx 85%, there is good educational infrastructure consisting of six schools in the village. Khonomaians celebrates 1st September is as the village’s ‘birthday’. To celebrate it, they come from far and wide. The KNCTS is not a legal government body. However, the Village Council Act of Nagaland gives the Village Council authority to devise mechanism for management of forest resources. Therefore, the Village Council and the entire community under the prevalent customary law recognize KNCTS as a legal entity.
Khonoma is also well-known in agricultural circles for its sophisticated cultivation techniques. Farmers use a form of shifting (jhum) cultivation, in which they change the land for farming for two years and use Nepal alder (Alnusnepalensis) trees interspersed with the crops and cut their branches occasionally. By cutting smaller branches and leaving only the bigger branches they’ve succeeded in farming without cutting trees. These trees return nitrogen to the soil, thereby helping the land to rapidly regain fertility when farmers abandon it to move on to the next plot. The village has developed the terraced fields for cultivation since ages, primarily used for rice cultivation. For farming they don’t use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers instead the villagers use sewage and tree as organic manure. Khonoma is home to over sixty varieties of rice, and a diversity of millets, maize, Job’s tears, a tall grain-bearing tropical plant, citrus fruits and other crops. The village is rich in biodiversity a large number of birds, primates, reptiles, amphibians, orchids, and medicinal plants and many rare flora and fauna have been inventoried as part of the Green Village initiative. The state bird, ‘Blyth’s Tragopan’, a pheasant now nationally endangered, is reportedly found here. Villagers have taken resolution to conserve the biodiversity and wildlife in the village.
Students union of Khonoma takes care of the cleanliness and solid waste management. At every junction of the village garbage bin has been placed and maintained by the student union. The Village Council has made it mandatory for every household to have dustbins. Once in a month, sanitation drive is carried out. Open Defecation has been stopped. School children are trained to keep their village and houses clean. Community water tank has been constructed at different location for the proper supply of water to houses. They also practice the Rain water harvesting system, re-use of water and underground water recharge through pond and well. The Naga families practice to cook food in the center of house so that the fumes and smokes kill the insects and the wooden structure could remain intact for years.
Although the village is very small but the proper signage’s has been used for one way traffic, bus stands etc. Fresh air, good food, simple life style and sports are the key, which makes the Khonoma people healthy. Primary Health Centre facility is available in the village. Sports and cultural activity spaces has been built at many places in the village. Since 1994, Centre for Environment Education (CEE) has played an important role to make the Khonoma a First Green Village of India.
The India is taking a lead role to develop its villages in sustainable model. Khonoma is the successful example of such initiative and became the first green village of India. The village has been placed on the tourism map of the country and has attracted many wildlife enthusiast, conservationists, researchers and tourists. The green village initiative has firstly taken by the indigenous inhabitant of Khonoma and further supported by the government. The soul of India lies in its villages. If the villages are green and villagers are happy, then the smell of pesticides in the food could be avoided and environment could be healthy.

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