~ Integrating tourism with strawberry cultivation, the Strawberry Festival aims to boost livelihoods and enterprises in Meghalaya~ 

Shillong, April 12 : The much-awaited celebration of Meghalaya’s flourishing Strawberry fields and rich agro-tourism offerings, the Meghalaya Strawberry Festival commenced today in different parts of the state. The inaugural ceremony of this two-day vibrant celebration, aimed at spotlighting the luscious strawberries of the state, kicked off with great enthusiasm and fervour.

This two-day extravaganza unfolded across different regions in Meghalaya, each offering a unique blend of activities. Locations such as SohliyaUmsning, Ri Bhoi District, IewpynsingNohron, East Khasi Hills District, Kynktieh, Syntung, East Khasi Hills District, and Darechikgre, West Garo Hills District, welcomed visitors to participate and immerse themselves in activities such as strawberry picking, cycling treks, live music, cultural performances, amalgamated with a special workshop on local beverages, among others.

Dr Vijay Kumar D., IAS, Commissioner and Secretary, Department of Tourism, stated at a programme held in Sohliya that strawberries thrive in Meghalaya due to favourable conditions and hardworking farmers. Additionally, he highlighted tourism as another advantage. Festivals like the Strawberry Festival, by integrating tourism with strawberry cultivation, thus aim to boost livelihoods and enterprises. He said that the strawberry cultivation could be expanded from 25 to 100 acres next year and possibly to 500 acres if market opportunities are tapped. This expansion is expected to significantly improve lives. 

The village headman of Sohliya, Ostander Lyngkhoi, expressed his gratitude to Dr Vijay Kumar for supporting and making this festival a success. Lyngkhoi is also a pioneer in the cultivation of Strawberries, the first in the Northeast. It may be mentioned that Ri Bhoi produces 2 to 3 tonnes of Strawberry production annually presently.

Meanwhile, speaking at one of the inaugural events at Syntung, Smt. Isawanda Laloo, IAS, Secretary, Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Department, expressed her gratitude to the Sordar, the people, and especially the farmers for their hard work through which the strawberries of the village has garnered recognition.

She said that it is the first time that the strawberry festival is being held at Syntung, stating that the conditions for growing strawberries in the village are feasible, producing sweet and juicy fruits. The strawberries grown in the village can change and enable growth prospects of the entire village and region as the sales are growing exponentially and the farmers have gained income. She stressed agro-tourism as the way forward being one of the ways to create employment opportunities and hoped that in the coming years, the strawberry cultivation in Syntung and in the whole state will improve and give more opportunities to farmers and Agri-entrepreneurs.

At a separate programme, held in Nohron Smti. D. Sohtun, Director Horticulture Department said that officers of the department provided training for strawberry cultivation. She urged the farmers to not leave the strawberry cultivation if strawberry cultivation has given them the much-needed earnings.

In Nohron, a Strawberry farmer Oscar Nongrum informed that the cultivation of the fruit in the village started in 2015 which has sustained the livelihood of the villagers. He added that the farmers steer clear of the use of chemicals and are into organic strawberry farming.

In Darechikgre, the Deputy Commissioner of West Garo Hills Jagdish Chelani said that the strawberry festival has come out well to celebrate a product of Meghalaya which is a very nascent and niche market which can be developed beautifully. 

“The strawberries with further processing of food can be utilized at a much higher price for the farmers of the region,” he said.