Once notorious for liquor, this Mizoram village now lives on farming

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A minor irrigation project was implemented in Darlawng under the Community Development Plan of NERLP, leading to a substantial increase in farm yields and expanding the total cultivated area.

Once notorious for illegally producing local liquor ‘Rakzu’, a Mizoram village is now living on farming and allied activities following the intervention of a central government-run rural livelihood project for the northeastern region, funded by the World Bank. Located about 60 km southwest of state capital Aizawl, Darlawng village in Thingsulthliah block has a population of over 680, majority of whom had earlier, despite a statewide prohibition, depended on producing ‘Rakzu’, a kind of rice beer, for their livelihood as agricultural output was low owing to a lack of proper irrigation facilities.

However, in 2012, the village community decided to stop illegal production of liquor. And when the village was looking for alternative livelihood avenues, the North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP), run by the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Ministry and funded by the World Bank, made an intervention to ensure economic empowerment of the people.

A minor irrigation project was implemented in Darlawng under the Community Development Plan of NERLP, leading to a substantial increase in farm yields and expansion of the area of settled cultivation. Under the project, water was sourced from three nearby streams–Sahlam Lui, Darlawng tlang Lui and Cher Chawm Lui–and used for agriculture.

“This made a huge difference to the villagers. Farm yield went up substantially and the area of settled cultivation too increased from 20 hectares to over 36 hectares. About 130 of the 160 households in the village are now involved in agriculture and allied activities, whereas earlier the figure stood at about 70,” says Reuben Ranglong, Aizawl District Project Manager of NERLP.

“In addition, a road to aid the agricultural work was constructed by the community under MGNREGA, orange cultivation grew with assistance from the state horticulture department and several farmers received assistance for starting fisheries with help from the Integrated Watershed Management Programme,” he says.
These initiatives led to increased production of vegetables, bananas and ginger, thus augmenting the income of the villagers, Reuben adds.

Besides the irrigation project under the Community Development Plan, 11 self-help groups (SHGs) of 10 women each were formed in the village under NERLP. With financial assistance from NERLP, SHG members took up various economic activities like farming or running a poultry or piggery.

Under NERLP, an SHG is given Rs 1,00,000 in three instalments over a period of one year.

“Our focus is on training and capacity-building of SHG members and we monitor their progress regularly…We don’t want to give them fish, our aim is to teach them how to fish,” says Reuben.

“There are now many individual success stories in Darlawng village which was once looked down upon for its involvement in illegal liquor production.

“Take the case of Lalrozami, a 47-year-old SHG member. She used to sell ‘Rakzu’. But after Darlawng was declared a dry area in 2012, she struggled to make ends meet. After becoming an SHG member, she took loan from the group and started focusing on farming. She is now supporting a family of five with income from agriculture,” he says.

“NERLP has helped improve economic status of rural population, particularly women, in the northeastern region and much more is to be done in the coming days,” he says.

The Darlawng villagers too are hopeful about a better future.

“The project intervention has made a positive change in the village. It should be continued and there should be proper linkage with the market so that we can sell out farm produce. Besides, SHG members should be allowed to avail bank loans without having a guarantor,” says a woman in her 50s.

The objective of NERLP, a five-year project being implemented in Mizoram since 2013, is “to improve rural livelihoods, especially that of women, unemployed youths and the most disadvantaged, in four north-eastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura,” Reuben adds.

Source: Indian Express

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