Orange Fest: Perfect show of government, people camaraderie
BY URMILA CHANAM
TML, 4th Dec: Perched at an altitude of 3780 feet above sea level amidst lush green tropical forests and bamboo groves lies Tamenglong, the beautiful home of Rongmei, Zemei, Liangmei, Inpui Naga and Kuki tribes of Manipur.
This paradise never gets hotter than 25.9 degrees (in the month of May) and colder than 5.9 degrees Celsius (in January) making it the perfect destination for lovers of nature and a taste of tribal culture. Tamenglong is known for its oranges and is the largest producer of the citrus fruit in Manipur.
Tamenglong district may be just 158 kilometres from Imphal city but owing to the condition of roads and its hilly terrain, the development it deserves, the potential the region has in terms of attracting tourism, environment and biodiversity related activism, the investments and interests are yet to happen.
With the celebration of 15th State Level Orange Festival from December 8 to 10 at Mini Stadium in the district headquarters, the district administration under the leadership of its DC Ravinder Singh aims to achieve promotion of its oranges and encouragement and capacity building of its orange growers with an objective to enhance cultivation, boost farmer income and possibly, establish linkages with investors and innovations from both public and private sector and take the orange cultivation and marketing to the next level.
The three-day long annual festival has been planned and envisioned with great deliberation by the district administration of Tamenglong in consultation and partnership with the community, local leaders and youth.
Impressive is how the government has worked closely with the community to organise this festival and formed several committees to look into specifics, building their capacity in the process and nurturing a sense of unity.
The programme schedule ranges from best orange grower competition which come with a cash prize, sales of oranges in large number of stalls hosted by orange farmers themselves, seminar for orange growers, kayaking and rafting at Barak river, trekking to Tharon cave and waterfalls, camping at Dailong village, talent competition, rock concert, a beauty contest for the coveted crown of the Orange Queen, vast display and sales of local handloom and handicraft and a huge spread of local delicacies, food items and beverages. When approached to understand the district administration’s vision with respect to the festival, major barriers to orange cultivation in the region and solutions, Ravinder said: "We want to support the growing community of orange growers in Tamenglong district and to publicise the indigenous orange variety which is among the best in the world. Towards achieving this objective, we are conducting seminars for the orange growers with resource persons from organisations that provide technical inputs for sustainable production like ICAR, CAU, NABARD. Through these seminars, we will try to help the farmers adopt organic and sustainable cultivation techniques. We are also conducting an Orange competition where around 200 carefully selected and verified farmers compete with each other for the Best Oranges Award. This provides the growers an additional incentive for their activities. Lastly, we organise events like Orange Queen contest, adventure sports, camping which bring more focus to the aspects of biodiversity conservation and tourism, which have a positive feedback effect on sustainable orange production. We have also increased our outreach through the use of social media like Facebook page, and are planning to showcase the event through live streaming via YouTube channel so that even people who are unable to attend the festival are able to enjoy it.
On experience and challenges in organising the festival, he explained that meeting the stakeholders, discussions, forming sub committees for various events/aspects has been helpful in planning for an efficient and effective work allocation.
"The idea was to use the technical expertise of various government departments, local clubs, agricultural research institutions so that everyone can come together for a common objective. Major challenges were in getting funds for organising this festival and finding the right people for taking care of the various component events. The state government provided most of the funds with North Eastern Council, public leaders, departments, individuals all coming together and pooling their resources," the DC confided.
He also highlighted that there are plans to set up processing units for clusters of villages at sub-divisional level; to focus on community resource management and improve the physical connectivity of the interior villages; to build agri-roads along the fertile river basins especially for allowing the people to bring their produce to the market through national highways passing through the district.
While observing that all these efforts are expected to increase the incomes of the farmers through a thriving economy, Ravinder noted that farmers of Tamenglong have lots to give to the world as valuable learnings handed over generations.
"They have learned how to grow their produce in a sustainable manner using organic techniques and in harmony with their environment over time. The people have used their traditional knowledge and practiced fertiliser free, pesticide free cultivation without putting excessive burden on their environment. This is the reason why, compared to many other places in India, the people are better off here in respect of several health indicators despite lower levels of income."
"I hope that the rest of the world will also see the need to protect our environment and live in harmony with the nature before it’s too late."
Ravinder also mentioned that this year the focus is to call for action from the global and country’s civil society, development agencies, journalists and experts to support Tamenglong with investments, innovation, research, implementation assistance and best practices.