Kohima (Agenzia Fides) - Farmers, artisans, merchants: Garo tribals in the Indian state of Nagaland in northeast India, have become entrepreneurs and have improved their standard of life dealing with cultivation, processing and resale of rubber. This was possible, as Fides learns, thanks to a nun of the Medical Mission Sister congregation.
Sister Rose Kayathinkara, 74, originally from Kerala, arrived in Nagaland in 1972 and noted that the land was fertile and the tribal population of the Garo were joyful and willing to work. So she decided to help them. In 1986 Rose organized a "door to door" campaign to convince the population of the village of Mendipathar, about 225 km from Shillong, on the border between Meghalaya and Assam, to cultivate rubber as a source of income. In the beginning the tribals were not convinced of her plan, because, to have profit, rubber requires a long period of management. Once the product was finally ready, it was necessary to develop a marketing process to help farmers to put the product on the market and find buyers.
Sister Rose had the idea of creating a cooperative to help farmers and their families. The Mendipathar Multipurpose Cooperative Society was launched in 1998 with social capital formed by government departments and contributions of farmers, who were accompanied to become good entrepreneurs. The cooperative sells the rubber sheets to ensure profits for farmers and their families.
Also, today, the range of products to sell has expanded, including poultry and other agricultural products such as turmeric and black pepper. The cooperative buys them from farmers and provides them to warehouses and shops. This activity has allowed to create employment for young people and the Garo women. Alongside this activity, awareness campaigns were initiated to increase awareness in the fight against domestic violence or violence against women, which is widespread in the villages.
"When I see that familiars send their children to school and have a decent standard of living, I am very happy", says Sister Rose to Fides. "These children from poor and marginalized families have the opportunity to study in good schools and integrate into society", notes the nun.
Thanks to the economic and productive process started with the nun, a rubber farmer can earn enough for himself and his family. Today the nun is determined not to let Garo farmers count only on "monoculture" (which has risks) and has begun to encourage coconut plantations. The Garo tribe, hardworking people, have lived in Nagaland for ages along with other tribal groups. In the past they suffered discrimination and marginalization also by state institutions and this is why they have migrated to other territories. They are also present in other Indian states in the Northeast (about one million people) and Bangladesh. Many are Christianized. (PA-SD) (Agenzia Fides 17/12/2016)