Pughoboto | October 3
Coffee farming in Nagaland began in the early 1980s under the Nagaland Plantation Crops Development Corporation (NPCDC) in collaboration with Coffee Board of India (CBI). However, in 1991, the agency ‘abandoned’ the plantations, handing them over to beneficiaries for further maintenance, Renben Jami, Director, Land Resources Department (LRD) said.
As a result, many farmers abandoned coffee cultivation due to marketing issues. However, some continued.
'Walling Clan' in Khar village under Mokokchung district is one such entity.
Zoangningba Walling is among the new growers who joined the group in 2017 and will harvest his first fruit from around 2,000 coffee trees by the end of October.
On good years, depending on monsoon, he informed that the clan has produced a maximum of around 6000kg of parchment coffee. While this time (last year's harvest), they could produce around 3100kg. He said the village does direct trade with Dr Pieter Vermeulen from Nagaland Coffee.
Walling also informed that Khar village is the highest producer in the state, till date.
While sharing his views that the prospect of coffee farming looks promising, he also stressed on the importance of training the farmers on its technicalities beforehand.
"The marginal farmers will suffer without following proper instructions," he said.
Also, coffee being labour-intensive, it will be hard for marginal farmers to take up, especially during the initial years, he added.
Citing such plight of the marginal growers, Walling expressed that if the government is seriously taking up the project, then they should implement it in all sincerity. If the government should give financial assistance or any sort of aid applicable through the CBI, the farmers' initial load will be made easy, he maintained.
The clan has 25 growers at present, with 18 new growers who joined in 2018.
Around 20% of Toshilemba's coffee trees are fruiting this year for the first time. The youth from Yimchalu village, also under Mokokchung district started coffee farming in May 2018. While his farm is still in the initial stages and he cannot be sure on its outcome, Toshilemba expressed hope that coffee farming will be favourable.
With the government taking up the project, he said that if one is really interested, a little research on the technicalities before starting out would be of big help.
Kigwema and Litami’s coffee journey
In 2002, Lhekhele Yano stumbled upon abandoned coffee trees of the 80s in the now thriving forest of Kigwema village in Kohima district. Noticing the favourable fruiting, he procured the seeds and saplings from the old trees and started his own farm around the same year out of sheer interest.
Yano said he planted nearly 3000 of them without any guidance. He laboured consistently for 2 years, however after that; he was unable to maintain the labour costs.
Even as Yano approached several departments seeking help, he was informed that no such schemes for coffee were present during that time.
According to Yano, in 2016, the LRD and the CBI approached him and visited his farm where he has been planting at least a hundred saplings every year. At present, he is reaping harvest from his hardwork and the farm has around 2000 trees that fruits fine berries, he added.
Now, the LRD also buys coffee from him and he also has a small group of loyal customers, who buys grounded coffee from him.
Over the years, he has applied for some facilities and aids. However, none of it has been successful yet, Yano shared.
Kakuto Assumi from Litami village under Zunheboto district runs his family through coffee farming. He started farming in 1982 and is continuing to this day.
His farm stretches around 7 hectares and he sells around 1000kg of quality coffee annually. The seasoned grower has customers from as far as Ireland and the United States of America.
Assumi also runs a nursery and supplies saplings to parts of Wokha and Phek districts as well as Ghathashi village in Zunheboto. He has also established a government approved training centre in his farm, where he trains growers from other districts. Agri students from Nagaland University and other states also enroll for practicals in the centre.
Assumi has taken up various trainings under the CBI in the initial years.
According to him, Litami and Phushu villages under Zunheboto and Khar village in Mokokchung are the old producers faring exceptionally well to this day. On the State's prospect, Assumi said he cannot say for the entire State. However, after voluntary inspection of some districts, the lower range of Wokha, Phek, Ghathashi in Zunheboto and Khar in Mokokchung shows favourable success rates, he claimed.
Soil testing, he said is fundamental before planting, so that the right variety can be planted. "Should any grower need assistance, I am ready to help," assured Assumi, who also has the best flavor and organic coffee award to his credit.
He also advised against planting more than what one can maintain while starting out. Assumi expressed optimism that with the right techniques and hardwork, coffee farming in Nagaland will thrive in the near future.
(This final part of the three-part series)
Read Part I & II Here