My name is Urmila Chanam and I am a social worker, and newspaper and radio broadcasting journalist.
I have 10 years experience in reporting on rural development, reporting with special reference on women and children, art and culture, indigenous communities, public health, infrastructure and facilities, agriculture and horticulture, environment conservation and social justice with experience in managing social media communication to bring the spotlight on 'rural India' and the northeastern region of India inhabited by tribal and non- tribal communities and perhaps one of the most under represented region in the mainstream media in India .
The biggest challenge in rural reporting is the funds to get there and hang on (there) till you get the story (not just any story)- the story that matters to them and the one that needs to be told.
Most of what we read are concerns that affect people living in cities/towns when they are just the 33.54% of the population (World Bank consolidation of indicators 2017).
There is seldom any record taking of thoughts, beliefs, stories and practices in villages. Rural India is under represented in media and the current dialogue.
What comes to my mind is a memory from last year of spending the day in a village, talking to the family members of a household, sitting in their big kitchen near the fire, listening to stories from the elderly man who also sang few folk songs, welcoming me and my team of media persons into the folds of Rongmei Naga culture. That special man passed away due to an Asthma attack few weeks ago.
It is true that people are living libraries, capable of passing on to us a rich heritage of knowledge and wisdom they acquired in their lifetimes. And when they are gone, that library ceases to exist. Like that man.
Reporting trips in the rural parts of India are beyond journalism; they are an effort to conserve our culture and capture stories which will otherwise soon be lost.
I want to go for two reporting trips in October and December this year to cover villages in one of the most under represented regions, the northeast India and its indigenous community that have remained under developed even after 73 years of independence.
Through this I hope to enhance the knowledge base of India's 66.46 %, the rural people.
Last year I gave media coverage to the 15th State Level Orange Festival in Tamenglong, the most remote and under developed district in Manipur state. And encouraged by people's feedback, this year I want to travel and write about two other major agriculture-horticulture and rural festivals in the northeast region. My major costs are travelling, accomodation and sustenance in the field for me and my field assistant, hiring a vehicle to take us further inwards, production and so on.
If you support rural reporters like me that will serve to balance media representation and the national dialogue on inclusive development.
I need your support in terms of donation so that I can do these two rural reporting trips covering region and people the mainstream media never writes about. Any help, big or small, is a big help!
I am sharing an article that I wrote last year on Orange festival which was carried by three newspapers in Manipur viz., The People's Chronicle, The Morning Bell and Tamenglong based,The Gaanphiu Mail on 5th December 2018 throwing light on the district administration's (government) initiative to protect and conserve Orange Festival, the tribal communities and their culture. I will be sharing more stories from last year's festival in the consequent posts on World Pulse.
Orange Festival: Perfect Show of Government and People Camaraderie
Perched at an altitude of 3780 feet above sea level amidst lush green tropical evergreen forests and bamboo groves lies the beautiful home of Rongmei, Zemei, Liangmei, Inpui Naga and Kuki tribes of Manipur. This paradise never gets hotter than 25.9 degrees (in the month of May) and colder than 5.9 degrees Celsius (in January) making it the perfect destination for lovers of nature and a taste of tribal culture. Tamenglong is known for its oranges and is the largest producer of oranges in Manipur.
Tamenglong district may be just 158 kilometres from Imphal city but owing to the condition of roads and its hilly terrain, the development it deserves, the potential the region has in terms of attracting tourism, environment and biodiversity related activism, the investments and interests are yet to happen.
With the celebration of the 15th State Level Orange Festival from 8-10th December 2018 in Tamenglong District Headquarters at Mini Stadium, the district administration under the able leadership of its Deputy Commissioner Shri Ravinder Singh, IAS aims to achieve promotion of its oranges and encouragement and capacity building of its orange growers with an objective to enhance cultivation, boost farmer income and possibly, establish linkages with investors and innovations from both public and private sector and take the orange cultivation and marketing to the next level. The first Orange Festival was celebrated in the year 2001.
The three day long annual festival has been planned and envisioned with great deliberation by the district administration of Tamenglong in consultation and partnership with the community, local leaders and youth. Impressive is how the government has worked closely with the community to organize this festival and formed several committees to look into specifics, building their capacity in the process and nurturing a sense of unity.
The rich program schedule ranges from the best orange grower competition which come with a cash prize, sales of oranges in large number of stalls hosted by the orange farmers themselves, seminar for orange growers, kayaking and rafting at Barak river, trekking to Tharon cave and waterfalls, camping at Dailong village, talent competition, rock concert, a beauty contest for the coveted crown of the Orange Queen, vast display and sales of local handloom and handicraft and a huge spread of local delicacies, food items and beverages.
I met the Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong, Mr. Ravinder Singh, IAS to understand what the district administration’s vision is with respect to the festival, what are the major barriers to orange cultivation in the region and what are the solutions. Ravinder Singh's picture is attached in the gallery with this article.
Can you tell us what is the objective of the 15th State Level Orange Festival; what is different this year seeing how the celebration has been going on since 2001?
We want to support the growing community of orange growers in Tamenglong district and to publicise the indigenous orange variety which is among the best in the world. Towards achieving this objective, we are conducting seminars for the orange growers with resource persons from organizations that provide technical inputs for sustainable production like ICAR, CAU, NABARD. Through these seminars, we will try to help the farmers adopt organic and sustainable cultivation techniques. We are also conducting an Orange Competition where around 200 carefully selected and verified farmers compete with each other for the Best Oranges Award. This provides the growers an additional incentive for their activities.
Lastly, we organize events like Orange Queen contest, adventure sports, camping etc. which bring more focus to the aspects of biodiversity conservation and tourism, which have a positive feedback effect on sustainable orange production.
We have also increased our outreach through the use of social media like Facebook page, and are planning to showcase the event through live streaming via YouTube channel so that even people who are unable to attend the festival are able to enjoy it.
How was your experience of organizing the festival? The challenges that came your way and how did you and the district administration overcome these barriers?
Meeting all the stakeholders, discussions, forming sub committees for various events/aspects such as Orange Competition Committee, Seminar Committee, Camping & Trekking Committee, Orange Queen Committee, Lights and Sound Committee, Reception Committee etc helped us plan for an efficient and effective work allocation.
The idea was to use the technical expertise of various government departments, local clubs, agricultural research institutions etc. so that everyone can come together for a common objective.
Major challenges were in getting funds for organizing this festival and finding the right people for taking care of the various component events. The State Government provided most of the funds with North Eastern Council, public leaders, departments, individuals all coming together and pooling their resources.
What are the district administration's plans for agriculture, horticulture, tourism and community development?
There are plans to set up processing units for clusters of villages, at sub-divisional level; to focus on community resource management and improve the physical connectivity of the interior villages; to build agri roads along the fertile river basins especially for allowing the people to bring their produce to the market through national highways passing through the district.
All these efforts are expected to increase the incomes of the farmers through a thriving economy.
What message do you want to give to the global community and people from India on the occasion of the 15th State Level Orange Festival?
The farmers from Tamenglong have lot to give to the world as valuable learnings handed over generations. They have learned how to grow their produce in a sustainable manner using organic techniques and in harmony with their environment over time.
The people have used their traditional knowledge and practiced fertilizer free, pesticide free cultivation without putting excessive burden on their environment.
This is the reason why, compared to many other places in India, the people are better off here in respect of several health indicators despite lower levels of income. I hope that the rest of the world will also see the need to protect our environment and live in harmony with the nature before it’s too late.
As preparations step up with each passing day, the district administration of Tamenglong, its organizing committee and communities welcome you to the 15th State Level Orange Festival. Come this time to support the farmers. This year the focus is to call for action from the global and country civil society, development agencies, journalists and experts to support Tamenglong with investments, innovation, research, implementation assistance and best practices.
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The Orange Festival was organized very well by the government in partnership with the local community through the committes that were instituted involving every segment of the society. An interview of the Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh was broadcasted on Radio Active Community Radio 90.4 MHz, the link of which is provided with this article.
I am a World Pulse Voices of Future (Advanced Digital Empowerment for Women) alumni. Contact me at [email protected]