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Meghalaya’s Mission Mode Project propelling the state towards financial autonomy

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Shillong: With over 80% of the population directly dependent on agriculture for the livelihood, Meghalaya has a wide variety of crops, vegetables grown all around the year. With the abundance of rainfall and fertile landscape, the production of these crops becomes easy.  For instance, Meghalaya was once the largest producer of ginger in the whole country. The pineapple is popular in not only the surrounding states but also all across the country and the uniqueness of the Lakadong turmeric needs no introduction.  However, with the ever-increasing population the pressure on the land has been increasing gradually. Adding to that, lesser market connects and lower focus on the farmers has led to the steady decline in the production quality and quantity. Post-harvest losses, lower bargaining capacity, no processing facilities have added to the woes of the farmer. When NPP took over under the leadership of Conrad Sangma, it was imperative that there needed to be a system for the all-around development of the farmers and the community who are directly or indirectly dependent of the Agri and allied activities.

Thus, there was an initiation of formation of an elaborate system for the farmers starting from input support, training to processing units and farmer’s markets. The Mission Mode Project was one such component that is an umbrella under which several major products of the state like the Turmeric, Ginger, Piggery, Honey, Aroma, Milk and many more such missions fall. Currently the Mission Mode projects are benefitting around 1 Lakh households through collective marketing centers, integrated village cooperative societies, Farmers Markets, processing centers and many more.

Lakadong turmeric is well known across the world because of its medicinal and culinary qualities. Many entrepreneurs knew this and have been trying to showcase its qualities. But the low production and fragmented supply chain became the major challenge in meeting the global demand of the product. To counter this bottleneck, the Lakadong mission was initiated. This mission ensured good quality seeds, training on the cultivation practices that would directly result in improvement of supply and ultimately help fetch good prices for the product. The success of the project can be attributed to the fact that 13 times more farmers have now been brought under Lakadong Mission than when it was launched 4 years ago. The producers are getting 60% more price for their produce and the area under cultivation has increased by 66%. There are hundreds of beneficiaries across the state who are earning good profits and living a better life through the success of this mission.

Meghalaya was once the leading ginger producing state of Meghalaya. However, challenges like low quality input supply, no proper training on cultivation, has led to the gradual decrease in production.  Ginger Mission was launched under the purview of improving the production and quality of ginger in the state, so that Meghalaya could once again become the National leader in the ginger production. With a target of producing 150,000 MT of ginger in 3 years, 120 crores have been allocated for the mission. Now, more than 17000 farmers have been engaged with the Ginger Mission and more than 2500 MTs of superior quality seeds have been supplied to them.

The government of Meghalaya initiated India’s Largest Piggery mission with a 209-crore budget. Till now, 253 cooperatives have been formed and 44.85 crores have been transferred to beneficiaries for the setting up of 3866 Fattening Units & 1108 Breeding Units across the state.

Aromatic spices are extensively used in cuisines across India, for their medicinal properties as well as delectable flavor. Spices like turmeric and ginger have been studied for centuries and used by different cultures to enhance nutrition in food. The agro-climatic conditions in Meghalaya support the growth of a wide range of aromatic as well as medicinal species of plants that are often native to the region. As agriculture has traditionally been the primary source of income for Meghalaya’s population, and the administration has recognised the potential for the people to gain economically from agriculture’s allied sector. More than 70% of the Meghalaya’s total population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities, which also contribute around 22% of the State’s GDP. Meghalayans have traditionally used the medicinal and aromatic plants in the state to treat a wide range of illnesses and conditions. The Government has taken the initiative to ensure that these agricultural components are incorporated into the Mission Mode Project in order to safeguard and patent this traditional information and skill.

The Meghalaya Aroma Mission was started in 2019 and has positively impacted over 40 villages and more than 1,600 farmers, 6 IVCS, 9 VECs, 52 SHGs, 9 cooperative societies, and 4 farmer groups. Meghalaya is endowed with an abundance of medicinal and aromatic plants, the most notable of which are turmeric, ginger, chili pepper, bay leaf, and black pepper. Over the course of the mission, the area under production of the aromatic plants has grown from 5 to 236.5 hectares, with an aim to increase the production area to 1000 hectares with an investment of Rs 18 crore. This mission seeks to amplify the indigenous knowledge of rural producers and simultaneously improve their financial situation by providing a steady income through organic farming. The mission also includes provisions for the production of oil and other medicinal products from notable plant species, including Solanum khasianum, Dioscorea composita (barbasco), Catharanthus roseus (periwinkle), Artemisia nilagirica (mugwort), Taxus baccata (English yew), Litsea citrata, Gaultheria fragrantissima (Fragrant Wintergreen), Potentilla fulgens (Cinquefoil), Smilax glabra, etc. Since the initiative’s commencement, more than 3.5 tonnes of oil per year have already been produced.

The Meghalaya Mushroom Mission, also established in 2019, has rapidly developed mushroom production in the state from 27 metric tonnes per annum to 287.44 metric tons, aided by a budget of 62.37 crores. The mission has supported over 3,000 mushroom farmers and entrepreneurs through a cluster-based approach. The mission’s primary focus is on the production of oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms in the 7 districts comprising the villages of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Southwest Khasi Hills, East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, and West Garo Hills. In addition, a regional centre for training and mushroom production in the northeastern region, funded by the Northeastern Council, has been established at the agricultural complex in upper Shillong to promote mushroom production.

The Meghalaya Mission Mode project has had a tremendous impact on the region, creating employment opportunities and helping to improve the incomes of those involved in the various categories of the agricultural sector. It has been instrumental in developing rural markets and fostering an environment of self-reliance and business opportunities within farmer communities. The mission has expanded the state’s production capacity by providing farmers with the technical assistance, training, and funding they need to increase their yields and better market their products. Maximum emphasis has been placed on agricultural productivity, cropping intensity, irrigation coverage, application of fertiliser and pesticides, credit flow, organised marketing facilities, the construction of an adequate number of warehouses, crop insurance, and production of large quantities of value-added products for the development of the agricultural sector in Meghalaya and to bring it at par with the rest of the country.

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