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Success story of Nagaland apple

Kohima: Three apple saplings gifted to a Naga village guard in the Saramati mountain range in Nagaland by an Assam Rifles soldier way back in 1980 have triggered an apple revolution in the area bordering Myanmar. Hundreds of Naga villagers are now engaged in the cultivation of the fruit on a massive scale, although they are yet to reap commercial gains from the produce in the absence of proper transportation network.

The story began in the late 70s when armed conflicts between Naga insurgents and security forces were at their peak, prompting the Assam Rifles to erect a check post at Thanamir village nestled in the Saramati range. During this time a government-appointed village guard from Thanamir had befriended a Nepali soldier belonging to the Assam Rifles posted at the check post.

The soldier gifted him the saplings in 1980 which the villager planted in the backyard of his house. The village guard taught himself to multiply the apple plants through root cutting and distributed them to his fellow villagers.

As the fruits grew in most of the households of the village, the Thalami apples started to spread to other villages around the Saramati range due to its suitable climate where average temperature ranges between two to 20 degrees celsius. Visiting government officials found the first sapling to be still standing there at Thanamir village – a full grown tree now.

Although the villagers in the remote Saramati range in Kiphire district have been growing quality apples for quite sometime, it was not known to the outside world until the arrival of a missionary of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council, Tangit Longkumer.

With the assistance of NBCC and Horticulture Department officials, the pastor along with the village authorities organized the first edition of Apple Festival at Thanamir on September 29, 2010. A second Apple Festival at the village organised in the second week of September, this year captured the attention of apple lovers from all over the state. Kaisa Rio, wife of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, along with wives of a dozen legislators attended the festival.

Now the village council of Thanamir has resolved to make it mandatory for each household to plant at least a thousand apple trees by 2014. Some families by now own about 300 apple trees with technical and financial support from horticulture department under Horticulture Technology Mission-NE (HTM-NE), mission director N Benjong Aier informed.

Encouraged by the enthusiastic villagers, the department has already distributed more that 10,000 low chilling apple grafts to the farmers. The organic apples grown in the area have added advantages since the farmers neither use chemical fertilizers nor pesticides, the department officials said.

The visiting officials to the festival pointed out that although the villagers were relishing fresh and delicious apples from their kitchen gardens, there were hardly any commercial returns so far due to lack of transportation. So, the Thanamir villagers used their home-grown apples for juice making and as fodder for pigs. That could hence be the sole reason why the nation is not as much aware about the apples from Nagaland like apples of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.  

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