15th NEN Biodiversity Festival: ‘Biodiversity-Building a shared future for all’

15th Biodiversity Festival, organised by North East Network at Chizami village witnessed ‘Seeds Exchange’ between 12 farming communities.

15th Biodiversity Festival, organised by North East Network at Chizami village witnessed ‘Seeds Exchange’ between 12 farming communities.

Chizami, March 7 (MExN): “Sowing a seed in the soil is an act of faith,” stated Amba Jamir, Independent Policy and Development Strategist in his keynote speech at the 15th Biodiversity Festival, organised by North East Network at Chizami Village, Phek district, Nagaland. The 15th Edition of the NEN Biodiversity Festival was held on March 6 and 7 at Chizami with the theme, 'Biodiversity-Building a shared future for all life’. 

The festival aimed at increasing awareness on the importance of biodiversity and environmental protection, highlighting traditional knowledge and sustainable practices of participating communities, celebrating biocultural diversity, facilitating knowledge exchange and exploring pathways for sustaining biodiversity through conservation and livelihoods, and fostering solidarity amongst diverse communities.

Amba Jamir emphasised on the connection between biodiversity conservation, indigenous food systems and lifestyles. To protect biodiversity, farmers have to be recognised as knowledge custodians, climatologists, seed and soil experts, and create robust support systems for farmers' livelihoods so that they can continue with sustainable food and farming systems. He remarked that losing a single seed variety represents not only the loss of potential crops but also loss of valuable knowledge and language. While highlighting on the uniqueness and potential of the Nagaland Biodiversity Rules which recognizes the importance of community intellectual property rights, he encouraged local communities to proactively use these rules to safeguard their biodiversity. He also maintained that research and documentation is a crucial aspect for biodiversity conservation.

In his speech, guest of honour, Mhabemo Yanthan, IAS, Agriculture Production Commissioner, Nagaland highlighted the multiple benefits of biodiversity for the survival of species, health and integrity of ecological systems. He remarked, “The value of biodiversity can be understood through the lens of the relationships we form and strive for with each other and the rest of nature. These relational values are part of people's individual or collective sense of well being, responsibility for, and connection with the environment.” He stressed on the crucial need for participation of women in all decision making processes, amplifying and making visible women’s knowledge of biodiversity, their significant role and contribution in managing and sustaining biodiversity.

Other speakers were Heirang Lungalang, Chairman NCCAF, Rev Mese Rhakho, Community Elder, Thangsoi M Khiamniungan, Independent Filmmaker & Conservationist, and Keneile Thopi, Women Leader & Member, Chizami Village Council. 

The festival also witnessed ‘Seeds Exchange’ between 12 farming communities. Special and Cultural performances presented by Women Farmers of Mesulumi & Chizami Students Union, Meluri Millet Sisters and “Songs of the Forest” by Thanamir Biodiversity Conservation Initiative.

Day one of the Festival was celebrated with the sub-theme, “Biodiversity-Weaving Conservation & Livelihoods” and activities consisted of workshop with Weavers on Natural Fibres in collaboration with Li Cheh Kro Weavers Producer Company; and workshop & dialogue with Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) organised in collaboration with Chizami Range Public Organisation (CRPO) and Nagaland Community Conserved Areas Forum (NCCAF).  

The dialogue with Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) witnessed a participation of 80 representatives from different communities under the CCAs. The discussion was moderated by NEN and speakers from NCCAF, WCS India, Nagaland, CRPO, Khonoma Nature Conservation & Tragopan Sanctuary, Thanamir Biodiversity Conservation Initiative and Sendenyu Community Biodiversity & Wildlife Reserve.

Among other speakers Amba Jamir gave the opening remarks, and greetings were extended from the President, Chakhesang Youth Front and Neiwekha Wezah, DFO Phek. The natural fibre workshop focussed on grass coat making and traditional cotton processing which was attended by 31 women from Chizami, Thetsumi Mesulumi & Chizami town.

Indigenous Tunes - Women Farmers, Mesulumi

Community film Screenings was organised where 3 films were screened- Honey Hunters of my village by Thangsoi M Khiamniugan and Bhutan Glory Eco Club by Tsesuki, Unity in Conservation by Longso Yim and discussion facilitated by NEN team with 100 local community members viewers. 

The second day of the Festival was participated by 202 diverse stakeholders including farmers, community leaders, women and youth from 23 villages from 6 districts of Nagaland,  community-based organisations, government representatives from department of Agriculture, KVK Porba,  NGOs- FES, NCCAF, Highland Institute, Pabhoi Greens, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Nagaland, and educational institutions such as Dimapur Government College, DIET Pfutsero, etc.

Other highlights of the event included the Biodiversity Exhibition & Farmers Market that witnessed more than 200 visitors consisting of students and community members. The exhibition stalls showcased photography by photographers &  conservationists from Green Hub, Natural Fibre & Traditional Dyes by NENterprise - Chizami Weaves, Chizami Community Seed Bank, Medical Plants curated by NEN and Uncultivated Edible plants by Enhulumi Community Knowledge Holders, Traditional Potters from Runguzu Nasa and exhibition of Posters by Chizami students. 

The Farmers Market participants consisted of the SEWA Dukaan, Kohima, Dzudu-Honey, Khutsami village, SEWA Shamator, Phor Millet Sisters, Local women entrepreneurs from Chizami, Phughi Bamboo Youth collective, Pathso Youth Collective - Bamboo & Natural Fibre, Li Cheh Kro and Chizami Weaves.  

It may be mentioned that since 2010, the NEN Biodiversity Festival has been celebrated annually. It has brought together diverse stakeholders including farming communities from within and outside the northeast region, to celebrate biocultural diversity, foster discussion and dialogue pertaining to issues such as climate change, food sovereignty, traditional knowledge; facilitate knowledge sharing and seed exchanges, showcase and sell locally produced food and crafts etc.