If only...

A special Assembly session for passing the Municipal Act with reservation of seats for women intact, the ENPO agreeing to participate in the annual Hornbill Festival,  the Chief Minister calling out the 2001 Census data and manipulation of E-Rolls, Nagaland getting another ‘biggest church’ in Asia, Nagaland turning 60, Hornbill Festival, a mesmerised US Ambassador, a corpus fund for Persons with Disabilities, NDPP retaining the Tapi Assembly seat, remembering the Oting massacre, Nagaland Honey Bee Day, a representation to the Governor for repealing the Prohibition law  would be some of the important state-centric events that appeared in the news from November till date. 

Out of all the aforementioned events, the Hornbill Festival would, in all likelihood, remain in the collective memory, followed by a shared wish for the partial repeal, at least, of the Prohibition law festering on.

The Hornbill Festival has to its credit putting Nagaland on the global tourist map, while the latter has the ignominy of promoting IMFL smuggling and illicit cash, some of which end up as charity notes. 

All that aside, there is one sector that has been bringing the state not only much needed positive publicity but also enhancing rural livelihood over the past 10-15 years. It falls in the farming sector.

A rare success story among a directory of failed state government undertakings, honey from the state has become a legit brand, coming to be known as ‘Nagaland Honey.’ A journey that began in 2007 with the formation of the Nagaland Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM), it served as a catalytic vehicle organising traditional beekeeping, while earning ‘Nagaland Honey’ organic branding and countrywide appeal. The state government has even set a date— December 5 as Nagaland Honey Bee Day though overshadowed by a higher profile Festival.

From 120 metric tonnes in 2007, production almost tripled to 420 metric tonnes by 2017-18. The honey story however has not been as dynamic since, held back by a wide demand-supply gap. Conservative estimate point to production falling short of domestic demand tipped at over half a thousand metric tonnes. 

As per the latest count in 2023, production stands at 440 metric tonnes per annum, an increase of only 20 metric tonnes in 5-6 years. Relatively low production, as opposed to other places in the country, also had Nagaland Honey losing a potential bulk buyer like Dabur. 

Till 2022, the state had set an annual production target of 2000 metric tonnes by 2030. The target, however, has been scaled down to 800 metric tonnes in 2023. At the 4th annual Nagaland Honey Bee Day in 2022, the then NBHM Team Leader and his Deputy were optimistic of achieving the 2000 metric tonnes target. 

The production stagnation over the past 5-6 years has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and effects of climate change. But the challenges have not been limited to these factors alone. It includes, foremost, enhancing state funding from the prevailing Rs 1 crore or so. This should be combined with the employment of additional resource personnel in the honey mission and improving road connectivity to ensure that the produce reaches the market at the lowest possible expense. Another essential aspect is the establishment of a dedicated and well-equipped apiculture resource centre.

If only dedication and resources were channeled into economy-building initiatives with the same fervour as would on managing glitzy events and building churches.

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to imkongwalls@gmail.com