Shillong: Fifty-two-year-old Trinity Saioo from the nondescript Mulieh village in Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills district was on Monday conferred with the Padmashree by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhawan for her leadership in the field of agriculture, particularly growing of the globally famous ‘Ladadong’ variety of turmeric, which has economically uplifted the lives of many farmers.
Saioo, a mother of six (three male and three females) and grandmother of eight, has motivated poor farmers who had been practicing traditional agriculture to cultivate the superior variety of turmeric, which has helped elevate their financial position to a great extent.
“I am humbled and honoured to be conferred with Padmashree. I thank the government, and especially K.N.Kumar (chairman of the Meghalaya Farmers (Empowerment) Commission) and others, besides the farmers of Meghalaya for this recognition,” an elated Saioo said.
“I was so happy that I cannot even express to you, especially when I was the lone farmer at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to receive the award among Bollywood actors, writers, social activists and politicians,” she added.
She has been leading more than 1000 women farmers in the state to cultivate and boost the popularity of the indigenous, high-curcumin content Lakadong variety of the spice since 2003.
Being poor and illiterate farmers, the majority of them were not aware of the superior variety of turmeric and it was only in 2003 that Saioo, a graduate brought the Lakadong variety and planted it in her own fields. As a result, she could earn twice the amount compared to income from growing the Lachein variety.
The very next year, Saioo persuaded her fellow villagers to switch to this new variety and many from her village followed her footsteps. However, the high cost of seed tubers was a dampener for the poor farmers as they could not afford to buy more in order to replace their traditional variety.
“It was not an easy task, but I convinced many women to take up farming,” Saioo, who also teaches at St. Margaret School, said.
The Lakadong turmeric, which is grown in Laskein CD block in West Jaintia Hills has become very popular in recent years due to its high curcurmin content of above 7 per cent and has high market demand for its unique taste, flavour, aroma and vibrant yellow colour.
The Lakadong turmeric variety was not a traditional crop in this village, where the farmers used to grow a different variety of turmeric known as ‘Lachein’, which had poor cucurmin content, less market demand and hence could not fetch favourable prices in the market.
Saioo has 100 numbers of Turmeric SHG’s under her federation and she is also the Assistant General Secretary of the Federation. Under her leadership, the federation is able to export Lakadong Turmeric to southern States like Kerala, Karnataka and the other North Eastern States.
Meghalaya’s Mission Lakadong 2018-2023 aims to produce 50 MT (metric ton) of turmeric per annum in the next five years. As per departmental figures for 2015-2016, the total area of turmeric cultivation in the state is 2,516 hectares, yielding roughly 16 MT of turmeric annually.
Most of the turmeric grown in East and West Jaintia Hill districts is the Lakadong variety with a combined production of nearly 9 MT.