05-12-2017 01:30 PM
Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream      70
Khonoma is a breathtakingly beautiful place where people never cut trees
It takes considerable courage for villagers who are totally dependent on nature for their livelihood to agree to stop hunting and cutting trees, but the inhabitants of Khonoma village have done just that with the result that Khonoma was declared the first green village of India.
This 700-year-old village located in Nagaland is spread over an area of 123sq.km. There are 600 households in this village which has a total population of about 3000. The green village is breathtakingly beautiful with a hilly terrain ranging from gentle slopes to steep and rugged hillsides. The hills are covered with lush forestland, rich in various species of flora and fauna.
This village has an impressive history which boasts of determined warrior tribes that resisted British troops. The Angami men of Khonoma, famed for their martial prowess and strategic skills, fought a resolute battle to safeguard their territory, inflicting heavy casualties on the foreign soldiers. To stop the bloodshed on both sides, a truce was formed, and by then Khonoma village had etched its name into the history of Indian resistance to the colonial invasion. In 1890, Christianity was introduced in the village and people even today follow this faith.
A giant gate welcomes you to the village which is nestled at the base of mountains and hence the village is also called the ‘hidden village’. Studies have revealed the use of about 250 plant species, including over 70 for medicinal purposes, 84 kinds of wild fruits, 116 kinds of wild vegetables, nine varieties of mushrooms, and five kinds of natural dyes from the surrounding forests in the village. The grey-billed or Blyth’s Tragopan, a threatened bird mentioned in the red data book of IUCN) is also found here.
Wildlife hunting is a way of life with the Naga tribes, and a large number of birds and animals are killed every year, including the endangered tragopans. A report which stated that 300 tragopans were killed in a year shook the villagers, especially Tsilie Sakhrie, who had in the 1980s been a contractor dealing with the Forest Department.
The villagers decided to launch a crusade against hunting. They met with severe opposition from many villagers as hunting was their major occupation. Finally, over three years, through extensive discussions in the village, the majority were convinced. A wildlife sanctuary was established and its foundation stone was laid in December 1998; it was also decided to ban hunting in the entire village, not only the sanctuary area.
The villagers were also successful in resisting timber merchants who came with several dozen elephants to carry out logging. Mr. Tsile also introduced ‘renewable jhoom cultivation’ in which alder trees are planted. These trees resist fire and can grow back from nothing. By cutting smaller branches and leaving only the bigger branches they have succeeded in farming without cutting trees.
The villagers have gained a lot by going green.It has become a role model for all villages in Nagaland and other states to follow. Khonoma, inhabited by the Angamis, one of Nagaland’s tribes, has made giant strides in conserving biodiversity and wildlife. They have succeeded in using resources mindfully, resolving conflicts, propagating the development of village without fighting shy of experimenting with new technologies. At the same time, they have stuck to their roots and follow a life with values that are embedded in the traditional ethos of the village.