‘Hilltop Conservation’: Women farmers in Achikuchu leading way towards sustainable agriculture

Women farmers interact with Dr Auto Yeputho, District Project Officer, FOCUS-Nagaland, Zunheboto, at Tsukoto peak in Achikuchu village. (Morung Photo)

Women farmers interact with Dr Auto Yeputho, District Project Officer, FOCUS-Nagaland, Zunheboto, at Tsukoto peak in Achikuchu village. (Morung Photo)

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | May 14

Placed at an altitude of 2020 meters above sea level, Tsukoto peak in Achikuchu village under Zunheboto district is known not only for its scenic beauty but also for the unique conservation efforts of the community.

Surrounded by 6 villages including Achikuchu-A, Achikuchu-B, Nihoshe North, Tazuhu, Tuzuhu, and Koiboto, the hilltop has been preserved for conservation since 2021.

This nopel initiative of conserving the hilltop was conceptualised as a result of the IFAD-funded project of Fostering Climate Resilient Upland Farming Systems in the Northeast (FOCUS) in Nagaland state.

During the time of slashing for jhum cultivation, the group of women farmers from these 6 villages leaves the hilltop untouched and carries out the process in the downhill where they engage in intercropping.

 In the area where they practice jhum, the farmers cultivate different crops depending on the season such as maize, job’s tears, kholar (kidney beans), peas, cabbage, carrots, radish etc.

Dr Auto Yeputho, District Project Officer, FOCUS-Nagaland, Zunheboto, who has been instrumental in the hilltop conservation and farming activities of the farmers in the area, highlighted that there are individual land as well but has been given out to the community for cultivation.

“These farmers have no idea what bazaar stuff is,” he related to The Morung Express. The farmers have never bought or felt the need to buy vegetables from the market. 

Moreover, their only access to market is in Zunheboto, which is located about 45 kilometers away from Tuzuhu village and takes more than 4 hours to reach because of the deplorable road condition.

Observing that there is a lot of potential for the farmers in the area, Dr Yeputho pointed out that another potential is that crops like peas grow throughout the year.

 “Many of these farmers are able to earn their livelihood out of it, and also provide for their family and send their children to school,” he highlighted.

New income sources 
One of the striking features about the women farmers cultivating in the downhill of the conserved “hilltop” is that they have never felt the need to buy vegetables from the market. 

“People from other villages buy vegetables from shops but we have never done that,” Lead Farmer of Achikuchu-B village, Kahuli put across.

Expressing that “we, mothers are not into any service” and most of them are farmers, she expressed gratitude that they have been receiving varieties of seeds through the FOCUS project.  

In the recent past, they have received seeds such as peas, kholar (kidney beans), carrot, cabbage, etc.

According to the women farmers, they have been associated with farming all their lives, and the intervention of the project has remarkably improved their household incomes.

“We have no scarcity of vegetables and we have also been able to sell our produce, which is adding to our household income,” Kahuli shared.

 “We are also able to support our children’s education with the additional income,” she added, echoing the sentiments of the farmers in the area.

In this regard, she expressed that they have also been able to spare enough during festivities through the income generated while particularly citing the Christmas season.

They have further been able to multiply the seeds. “With this kind of support, we will continue to prosper and also work with zeal and vigour,” Kahuli added enthusiastically.

In respect of kholar, each farmer involved in the cultivation has harvested at least 10 tin (a local measure)  each in the recent past. Unlike kholar, the woman farmer said, “there are farmers who have sowed two tins of pea seeds and harvested about 5-10 kgs of peas.”

 The farmers sell their produce in Zunheboto. With farming as their only livelihood option, they hope to yield better produce with each passing year.