Agri Minister Thongam Biswajit appealing to the public to resist the construction of structures in the paddy field by defying the Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014 is one of the most important things to implement. Agri tourism in Manipur will protect paddy lands and also boost the state economy.
Agri tourism is the latest buzzword in several developed as well as developing cities. Even in India, we find Agri tourism as one of the best options to conserve and promote paddy lands for our sustainable livelihood.
In a state like Manipur which doesn’t have enough natural resources, tourism is one of the potential sectors. We must encourage youths to foray into the Agri sector, for this a state policy to promote Agri Tourism is expected from the Minister.
The father of Agri tourism in India, Pandurang Taware empowered around 600 farmers and helps them to earn Rs 58 crores.
In the very words of Pandurang, the Agri tourism concept is simple — stay like a farmer, engage in farming activities, experience the bullock cart, tractor ride, fly kites, eat authentic food, wear traditional clothes, understand the local culture, enjoy the folk songs and dance, buy fresh farm produce and in turn help the farmer maintain him home and earn an additional income.
People of Manipur love outings festivals. That is why we have the Pineapple festival, Watermelon festival, Singju Festival, Orange Festival, etc. We love to spend thousands of rupees for picnics at Waroi ching, Sangaithel, and Andro eco-parks. A little addition of Agri Tourism will boost the economy of our farmers as well.
The concept has reached Manipur, we see tourists visiting the apple farm of Chura Meitei in Palem Panthou Anigi Heikol at Kakching and Farmer Lairenmamit at Wangoo. This is just the beginning of opening the door of Agri Tourism in Manipur.
In 2015, an NGO based in Thoubal district, Women Income Generation Centre (WIGC) have started the Agri Tourism project at 1000 Sangams of paddy fields in the Lisam Lok hillock and Thoubal Khunou. Advisor of WIGC, Oinam Indira was expecting the project to be completed by 2018 when she planted around one lakh of U ningthou.
The so-called urban areas have eaten up several hectares of paddy fields and converted them into industries and schools which. The Lamphelpat, Sangaiporou, Mantripukhri, Sangakpham, Canchipur, and the list is too long when we go a little further to the district headquarters.
Similarly, the stretch from Patsoi to Khumbong along the Imphal Jiri road is also slowly swallowed by the brickfields and stone crushers. We are worried about the degradation of paddy fields along the Indo Burma Sugnu road where several oil pumps and brickfields have been set up in the last few years.
To save the paddy fields, Agri Minister Th Biswajit must take strict action and punish violators of the Manipur Paddy Land Act. While dealing with the violators, Biswajit must not surrender to the pressure as these encroachers are not ordinary common people. But, most of them are politically and financially strong. They bought the paddy land from poor farmers and instead of cultivating the field, they are setting up industries.
Financial institutions like NEDFI, NABARD, and Banks should not promote such industries and business setups. Financing them will encourage others to convert their paddy fields into other businesses. They should not encourage funding to non-agricultural projects in the paddy fields.
Th Biswajit said that Prime Minister Modi has given certain action plans and parameters to all state governments for the overall strengthening of the country during a quarterly review meeting with the Chief Ministers.
He said that in order to eradicate poverty, maximum benefits are made available to the farmers by ways of introducing schemes such as KCC, Soil Health Card, PM Kishan Samman Nidhi, and others.
For this, the Biren-led government is also trying to introduce nano fertiliser and give focus on natural and organic farming by ways of intervening with technologies.
Saving and preserving paddy lands is the need of the hour for increasing the socio-economy of the state by doubling the income of the farmers.
Highlighting the New India vision of a USD five trillion economies, he said that the government will organise competitions in all districts with ‘one district one product’ to boost productivity by ways of giving all sorts of logistic support. While doing so, Biswajit must also plan for one Agri Tourism spot in each district, where collective farmers can come together to preserve their paddy fields and make a profitable venture.
Farmers are complaining paddy cultivation has no future, which is not true. The value addition of rice has not been fully exploited by the entrepreneurs in the State. Moreover, there is no rule that only paddy must be cultivated in the paddy fields. Several youths have converted their unproductive paddy lands into apple orchards and vegetable farms which must be promoted as well.