The cultivators hope to double their income with the alternative crop
Lothavi (Nagaland): For long, Hevelie Shohe and her family have been growing upland paddy on their traditional ‘jhum’ (slash-and-burn cultivation) land on the hills of this Sema Naga village of Nagaland, but have had little to save.
This autumn, the 45-year-old farmer is busy taking care of the jatropha saplings she planted on one hectare of jhum land.
She hopes to double her income when they mature and their seeds sold for extraction of green fuel.
Along with the jatropha saplings, Hevelie Shohe has planted Naga Dali (soya bean) that is not only required to prepare Akhoni (an everyday dish of fermented soya bean), but also help her get an income of Rs.5,000 after 120 days of planting till the jatropha plants mature.
Ms. Shohe said that the income that her family of five got by selling the excess upland paddy in the market of Dimapur — the commercial capital of Nagaland — was only about Rs.15,000 a year. Returns from jatropha would only be secondary income as the farmers would be carrying on with their present livelihood options.
Zingchar Bio-Initiatives Private Limited, floated by first generation Naga entrepreneurs Lawrence Jamang and Cinglei Jamang, has given a buyback guarantee of jatropha seeds to jhum cultivators of the village after distributing the saplings free of cost.
Employees of this company tour the villages to motivate the farmers to undertake jatropha cultivation. They also train the farmers, besides explaining the economics of bio-diesel.
Mr. Lawrence said that Zingchar Bio-Initiatives had so far motivated 3,800 jhum cultivators of Nagaland and Manipur to take up jatropha as an alternative crop to help them overcome poverty and backwardness.
Kikhu Sema, the village headman, told The Hindu that all the 130 families of the villagehad started jatropha cultivation on their traditional jhum land.
The free distribution of jatropha saplings among the farmers and buyback guarantee are part of an ambitious project initiated by D1 Williamson Magor Bio Fuel Limited to create sufficient feedstock for production of bio-diesel at 400 million litre a year by contract farming on 2,00,000 hectares in the east and north-eastern region by 2010.
Kaushik Saikia, Chief Project Manager of D1 Williamson Magor Bio Fuel Limited, said that so far 40,000 hectares of wasteland like jhum land in northeast region were covered under jatropha.
He said that a seed expelling unit will be set up in Dimapur next year.