Post Mortem

We shall eat from our land

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/13/2020 1:42:12 PM IST

 The dark earth (chernozem) of Ukraine is so fertile that it was dug up and sold, fetching nearly a billion dollar annually reports Peter Frankopan in his book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. Ukraine is the one of the top grains producing countries in the world. Its corn harvest exceeds domestic consumption. 

Tulips and the Netherlands make a ubiquitous pair. The varieties of tulips, the tourists attractions around tulips festivals, the industry of tulip growing and exports make inviting images of Netherlands. According to trade statistics, floriculture exports of the Dutch are valued close to $6.7 billion. And to know that tulips are not indigenous to the country. Tulips are originally from the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey), and were imported to the Netherlands in the 17th century. 

Driving through the eastern states such as Pennsylvania in USA, one will usually meet horse-drawn buggies on the road. And if one pays attention to the person holding the reins, one would notice that the rider of the buggy is dressed in very plain clothes of almost single colour of darker hues, topped with a hat. These are the Amish, the descendants of European religious migrants, particularly the Mennonites of the Anabaptists group, who were most distinctly pacifists. As part of their religious commitments, the Amish live self-sufficient from the produce of the land. For modern people, accustomed to the all amenities and comforts of modern life, the Amish way of life might sound challenging, but there is much to learn of self-sufficiency and community sustenance from their life of simplicity that revolves around the land and its stewardship with resourcefulness. 

The examples make a point: that land is valuable, that self-sufficiency is attainable. 

As Covid-19 rages on, ushering in a new era of life and work and production and consumption, Nagas are not sparred. The chaotic preparations and operations of migrant returnees, the struggles of stranded migrants in the cities and the shaken confidence in the globalized economy should make us rethink of our relationship with the land of our ancestors. Our ancestors survived with their knowledge based on the seasons, we can today supplement their ways of life with our ways that modern science and technology provide, such as preservation, varieties, and distribution etc. 

As indigenous people, Nagas have local resources that can be harnessed and organised to enhance our communities’ flourish and welfare. Every time I have been outside the country, I have not been short of the quintessential fare of Naga identity: bamboo shoots. I just needed to locate the closest Asian store, and bamboo shoots from every country of Southeast Asia in an array of sorts: pickled, fermented, dried, fresh, canned invited my indulgence. Delighted I might be, but still the dried bamboo shoots and the distinct fermented ones from home could not be matched. Imagine my delight when I discovered axoni in a Japanese store! The joy was worth $3 for a small packet of the natto (Japanese fermented soybean).

Sticky rice is another Naga defining fare. Also called as glutinous rice, it is a common rice in almost all Southeast and Northeast Asian countries, often consumed in a variety of desserts, most notably, mochi of Japan.

Bamboo shoots, axoni, sticky rice are much loved food staples of the Naga Indigenous people, and found native to the land. We have the knowledge of growing, producing, preserving and consumption of these produce. We need to revitalize these knowledge and tradition of producing our native food. Covid-19 and its disruptions should make us reflect and rethink the social and economic conditions we have created or have not created. Naga communities need leadership that can provide the vision and guidance in organizing and networking to turn these native goods and traditions into sustainable livelihoods.

Dr. Atola Longkumer, Bengaluru


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