Variety of seeds on display at the “Rural Women’s Confluence” in Kohima on October 14. (Photo courtesy: NEN)

Kohima, October 14 (MExN): Organized by the North East Network (NEN) Nagaland, a two-day event to commemorate International Rural Women’s Day, “Rural Women’s Confluence,” kicked off in Kohima on October 14.

About 135 participants from Phek, Kohima, Tuensang, Mon, Shamator, Zunheboto, Peren districts in Nagaland, and representatives from Assam and Manipur are attending the confluence, according to a press release. The event began with the inauguration of a photo and seed exhibition by ten communities in Nagaland.

Temsuinla, co-director of the National Agricultural Research Station, Yisemyong, Mokokchung, delivered the inaugural speech.

She highlighted the important role and contribution of women farmers in conserving genetic diversity and ensuring food and nutrition security for her family and communities. She encouraged women to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and leave behind practices that have become obsolete in the current context. She stressed the need to improve jhum practices, to maintain seed purity while saving them.

Wekoweu Tsuhah, State Coordinator, NEN Nagaland, welcomed participants and set the scene for the two-day confluence.

Dr. Pauline Alila, Professor, SASARD Medziphema delivered the keynote speech at the workshop session “Millet and Women – Successes, Challenges, Strategies” where she highlighted the nutritional value of various millets and the recognition by the government of crops as nutri-cereals. She stressed the importance of proper documentation of seed diversity by collaborating with research institutes, the importance of education and awareness to encourage consumption, and the critical need to recognise, engage and enable their access to agricultural resources.

A panel discussion on “Rural women enable sustainable food systems – voices from the ground” brought together six women farmers from Phek and Tuensang districts, who shared their collective initiatives in saving traditional seeds through community seed banks and promotion of millet-based bio-agriculture. diversified agriculture for food and nutrition security. Seed and millet concerns and challenges were highlighted. The session was moderated by Akho Phira NEN.

Another panel discussion on ‘Millets and seeds – government and NGO programs/initiatives’ was moderated by Nagato Aye, NEIDA. Speakers from the Department of Agriculture, FOCUS of IFAD, and NGO representatives from RNBA Manipur, DAN and NEN Assam and Nagaland shared various initiatives and strategies undertaken by them to promote traditional seeds, millet and the challenges that resulting. The session ended with a reflection on the way forward, towards the co-creation of good and resilient and sustainable agricultural systems. Among the reflections and recommendations were the need to recognize biodiversity as the first principle of millet cultivation; recognize the knowledge, roles, contribution and inclusion of women farmers in all decision-making bodies and community processes, encourage and support collective farming to increase production; raise awareness of the nutritional value of millets to increase consumption; facilitate policy support to farmers by providing appropriate technology, market linkages, institutional strengthening support; and the need for collaboration and partnership among various stakeholders, i.e. government, communities, NGOs, educational and research institutions, etc.