Orange Festival: Perfect Show of Government and People Camaraderie

Urmila Chanam
Posted September 16, 2019 from India
Interviewed close to 100 orange farmers across different age categories in a remote village in Tamenglong to understand the tradition of orange cultivation, the lessons passed down the generations and the current challenges orange growers now face. (1/20)

 

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.

* * *

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 urmila.chanam@gmail.com

Comments 17

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Anita Shrestha
Sep 16
Sep 16

Dear Urmila
Thank you about sharing this great festival. And your focus of this year is great. It will replicate in other area too.

Urmila Chanam
Sep 16
Sep 16

Dear Anita Shrestha,
Women have a very big role in the nurture, protection and conservation of mother earth. Through journalism I am working to contribute to that. Thanks for your encouragement. Looking forward to hear about your work too on World Pulse.
Love always,
Urmila Chanam.

Anita Shrestha
Sep 16
Sep 16

That is great things that you always impressed me.

Beth Lacey
Sep 16
Sep 16

Yes, Urmila. I will be in touch

Urmila Chanam
Sep 17
Sep 17

Thanks sister Beth for supporting my work even from so far. I love my World Pulse family.

Lisbeth
Sep 16
Sep 16

Thanks for sharing your up coming event with us. I really wish you the best with your fund raiser.
Have a good day.

Urmila Chanam
Sep 17
Sep 17

Dear Lisbeth,
Women are needed in all spheres and functionalities, even media and communication so our inputs and perspectives are incoroprated in governance and discussions. I am very excited about these reporting trips, I learn so much too. Thanks for reading and your wishes.
Prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
India

ANJ ANA
Sep 17
Sep 17

Dear Urmila,
Wish you a very best for the forthcoming Orange festival. Sounds amazing and interesting specially the events like Orange Queen contest, adventure sports and campings in natural beauty. Wow....I am thrilled ... really....
The connection between nature and women are so close... women can be the real changemakers in biodiversity conservation and tourism of course. I would love to read more about this.
Wish you a very best Urmila and the organizers
Best regards,
anjana

Urmila Chanam
Sep 17
Sep 17

Dear Anjana,
Thank you for writing from Nepal, my favorite destination! I visited Nagarkot/Nepal in 2017 winters, how beautiful it is. I agree that women have a big role in biodiversity conservation; women are the ones who nurture. India's woman workforce contribution is just 24% so you can imagine how much we are lagging behind in many spheres. Orange Festival had only one lady reporter that was me and I will make sure I am always there to represent all the sisters of World Pulse.
Love always
Urmila Chanam

Jill Langhus
Sep 18
Sep 18

Hello Dear Urmila,

How are you doing? I'm looking forward very much to hearing about your two upcoming trips:-) Good luck! I'm sure the reports will be just as inspiring as the one you did for the Orange Festival last year:-)

Hope you have a great rest of the week!

XX

Urmila Chanam
Sep 18
Sep 18

Dear sister,
I am doing well by the grace of God; I hope you are doing well. I am thrilled to be doing these reporting trips; the exhilaration from exploring living stories, meeting and interacting with people, trekking long distances and living under the sky/star constitute my idea of paradise as a journalist.

But that does not take me away from realizing how tough it is to survive doing this just from the point of view of operations and funding support. Nevertheless, the show must go on!

Love and hugs,
Urmila chanam,
India

Jill Langhus
Sep 20
Sep 20

Great to hear:-)

Yes, I'm doing well, thank you!

Sounds awesome, and definitely sounds like you're doing the right thing with your life, i.e., living it on purpose, and loving what you do:-)

Yes!

XX

Hello, sister Urmila,

I hope you will have the funds you need and sponsors who will support you for the rest of your life. Thank you for updating us on World Pulse!

Urmila Chanam
Sep 19
Sep 19

Dear Karen,
Humanitarian work has a unique quality; it can be carried out in big amount of money and in very minimal amount of resource too. I try to exist in between these two extremities depending on the situation, but like they say, the show must go on.
Love you,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Yes, dear. That’s true. May you always find generous sponsors. If I have the resources, I would support you, too.

Stay strong and blessed, dear! The show must go on, of course. :)

Dawn Arteaga
Sep 20
Sep 20

What a brave and important effort Urmila to bring voices out into the world that are not being heard. I will look around for sources where you could get funding for your reporting trip - I found this one for photojournalism that might be relevant but will keep looking! https://www.alexiafoundation.org/grants

Urmila Chanam
Sep 21
Sep 21

Thanks a lot my dear sister Dawn for your wishes. I will be working on studying what options are available to me for these reporting trips.