Seeds of success: This Nagaland man makes self-sufficiency his goal by planting 'alien' seeds in nursery
When L Hangthing started collecting fruit and vegetable seeds not indigenous to his village and planting them in his home nursery, people thought he was crazy. Today, he has become a household name.
GUWAHATI: Thirty years ago, L Hangthing, a resident of Noklak village in the remote same-name district of Nagaland, traveled across the state and adjoining Assam to collect the seeds of fruits people ate and threw away.
When he began bringing these "alien" seeds back home and planting them in his nursery, people thought he was crazy and laughed at him. But Hangthing is known as one of the hardworking and progressive farmers of Nagaland. It is he who introduced the villagers to kiwi, litchi, cardamom, and a lot more.
He taught them how to grow oranges and potatoes as well. Everyone appreciates him as he helps the poor villagers across Noklak, which shares its border with Myanmar, eke out a living through farming.
The journey for Hangthing, started in 1987. "I grew up fighting poverty in a 12-member farmer’s family. There were times when we had to struggle even to get two square meals, let alone the comforts of life. I wanted to get out of want," recalls Hangthing.
"When I was in Class 10, I hit upon the idea of setting up a nursery, and have not looked back since," says the 54-year-old farmer. His siblings lent him a helping hand. To begin with, he planted fruits and vegetables that were locally available.
The Noklak of those days did not have orange plantation, so he went to Nagaland's commercial town of Dimapur to search for orange seeds. On seeing wasted oranges dumped by a fruits shop, he extracted the seeds and planted them at his nursery.
With time, as Nagaland townsmen came to interact more with Assam's, he thought of doing the unthinkable - planting fruits, vegetables and trees alien to Noklak locals. "The thought that I should do something different made me take to cardamom and coffee plantations. I collected coffee seeds from the department of agriculture and horticulture in Kohima. I tried apple plantation, but gave up after realising the soil of Noklak is not ideal for its plantation. I am now doing kiwi plantation, and even fish farming," says Hangthing.
In the 1990s, Hangthing came across litchi for the first time in Dimapur, and collected its seeds. Today, some 100-150 families of Noklak have litchi plantations. Inspired by him, many villagers have started growing potato that was initially transported from Assam.
Success, one after the other, made him expand the size of his nursery. Today, his plantation area straddles across 40 acres. He moves around not just Noklak but also the neighbouring districts of Tuensang and Kiphire and earns around Rs 60,000 a month by selling his produce. The poor get it free. "I have customers from Myanmar as well. They come up to the border to buy my saplings," says Hangthing.
He visits around 40 villages of Noklak regularly to share his expertise with the locals and check their plantation. "I want people to not buy something that they can grow. My effort has been to show them the way and continue doing so," Hangthing says.
The district administration has recognised his efforts. Noklak Superintendent of Police Pritpal Kaur, who has become widely popular for her various interventions beyond policing, says, "When I first met him, he asked me if I can take him to Punjab or Haryana so he can learn more about progressive farming."
The SP fulfilled his dream by bringing Punjab and Haryana to Noklak. At her invitation, Dharambir Kamboj, a President of India awardee, visited the district recently to share his experience and knowledge of farming with Hangthing and fellow villagers.
"Farming is the backbone of every society. The people of Noklak are hardworking. We formed their groups and registered their farmer producers’ organisations under NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India). People are trained in food processing and manufacturing of cosmetic and herbal products. The production is going to start soon," says Pritpal.
A machine, provided by the administration to Hangthing, is helping the farmers extract oil and make soaps, shampoo, juices, jams, ginger and garlic paste, cardamom oil