Visit to Kdlipalli, Sambalpur, Odisha
This is my first attempt at blog writing, I have thought of writing blogs a number of times but always thought that my right brain is partly dysfunctional and thus I can’t get my hands dirty with anything creative. But this experience called for challenging my own belief, so here I go-
Some craziness before the trip
On the night before my trip, the plan to go to Sambalpur from Bhubaneswar, was still hanging in midair. And since I was already struggling with network issues I decided to go and buy some fruits to make better use of time. While I was still buying fruits I got the call confirming the trip and now all I had to do was book my tickets. When it comes to booking tickets, I think I am the most optimistic person alive. I am saying this because I got the call of confirmation around 8:30 at night and I was supposed to book the ticket for a train that left Bhubaneshwar in the morning at 6:45. I was still calm, bought some fruits, got back home and started eating the fruits I had just bought (thinking I have the whole night to book the tickets). So after gulping down some 10-15 Litchi I decided to go out and ask for someone else’s laptop (as internet was not working on mine) at the guesthouse I was staying. Still maintaining my optimistic attitude I coolly logged into IRCTC only to find that the train that I had to board, had its chart prepared already, which means no more online reservations could be made now. Right – so now my panic button got switched on. I called up the person who was also accompanying me on the trip (with a confirmed reservation), discussed possible ways of reaching Sambalpur around exactly the same time or before he does (as he had made all the arrangements of visiting the village). So finally, it was decided that I would be taking a general ticket upon reaching station and if TT allows, I’ll sit in the reserved coach by paying the difference or else will go in general coach while listening to the unavoidable music of the train’s honk.
Starting of a memorable day
The next day started, everything went as planned (See: in the end things do fall in place and thus I continue to remain optimistic :P). So now I reached Sambalpur, the cute little city of Odisha, which is known for Sambalpur textiles and a very fun festival which is only celebrated in Sambalpur called Sital Sasthi (a festival where people get together to witness the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati) which coincidently was on the same day as my visit to the city.
Some important mentions
Before going ahead, let me make an introduction to Mr. Gyandip who works with a very big trust, which funds NGOs who help farmers in forming producer companies and in facilitating capacity building. So me and Mr. Gyandip reached Sambalpur around 12:15pm, here we met Mr. Pradeep, who heads the NGO funded by the aforementioned trust. Mr. Pradeep, took us to a village called Kdlipalli. This village is part of the 5 village cluster that is helped by Mr. Pradeep’s NGO.
“Against all odds”
We reached Kdlipalli and were welcomed by the farming tribe who had assembled there to discuss their issues. The discussion started with the introduction to the cluster of 5 villages of which Kdlipalli is a part; apparently 2 of the villages of this cluster(not Kdlipalli) still do not have even a trace of electricity. The villagers say that a lot of people have tried to help but the forest department does not allow placement of electric wires in the village as they fear the elephants in the area might die because of the electric wires.
But in spite of conditions like these, those villagers have built a water clogging system locally to support their irrigation requirements; and both those villages contribute in a big way to the cluster in terms of their agri-produce. Well, those villages are definitely living the “against all odds” idiom.
As for Kdlipalli, even though it is not one of the villages with no electricity, this village witnesses a number of snake bites. Black venomous snakes are common here and a lot of kids have also been targeted by them. Inspite of facing so many challenges in their day to day life this tribe had a very joyous and happy vibe to it. This tribe’s livelihood depends on agriculture, they majorly produce Ragi/Finger Millet (mandiya in Odiya) apart from that they also do pulses like horsegram, black horsegram, red gram, green gram, Sorghum, mustard, Jatangi (an oil seed), Kala Jeera rice (aromatic rice variety of Orissa) etc.
Tough battle between growing what is good for land or what sells
Since the land here is uneven, it is difficult for farmers to grow paddy here. The post-harvest processing is also a big challenge as rice milling plants generally refuse to operate for quantities less than 10 tons. So these farmers prefer to grow millets as it grows easily on their land and also consumes less water compared to paddy. But the challenge they face in growing millet is finding a market for it. Though they locally consume millets heavily, selling it outside of the local market remains a challenge and there is only a limit upto which the local market can consume their produce.
On further discussion, farmers also specified how the birds eat up their paddy field but the same birds do not feed on millets as millets have a hard covering. Also, because of the natural pest resistant nature of millets and awareness created by NGO towards usage of organic pest repellants, the farmer’s dependency on chemical pesticides has reduced to a great extent.
Delicious local recipes and their wonderful health benefits
Farmers also shared their various recipes-
Ragi/ Finger Millet (Mandiya) – In summers it is soaked in water overnight. It is then ground finely and then filtered. Some jaggery is added to the water that is extracted after filtration. This water has cooling properties and thus people consume it in this form during summers.
In Winters it is ground to make flour and then eaten in the form of chapati and something similar to a steamed idli. Ragi whole or flour warms the body thus it makes a good winter food.
Ragi is said to be good for people who are trying to lose weight or control sugar; it is good for bones and thus prevents joint pain; it is specially good for growing kids and pregnant women.
Jowar/Sorghum (Gangai/Junjuna) – Jowar is locally eaten as a rice substitute. It is also ground to make flour to make chapattis around the year. It is again very good for sugar patients (good rice replacement) and for people with joint pain.
Horsegram – This is generally consumed in the form of lentil soup. It said to be the most protein rich lentil. It is supposed to be very good for sugar control, heart diseases and kidney stone problems.
Why is all of this important for us?
On meeting these farmers I realize that we are surrounded by an amazing variety of food and taste which we barely appreciate. Probably that is the reason that these farmers have such wide smiles on their faces in spite of facing so many challenges every day and most of the urban population is struggling with millennial crisis in spite of having all possible comforts in life. Healthy food made into delicious recipes is definitely one of the secrets to a happy life.
Switch your daily wheat/rice diet to a variety of local grains! This simple act of keeping your body healthy by simultaneously catering to your soul might eventually affect many such sweet little local tribes for good.
Thanks for reading. Please send us your feedback or suggestions for our blogs or our products that can help us popularize indigenous foods and help our farmers grow what suits the environment and not what suits market shelves.
I am also posting a small video of the song that was sung by one of the tribal farmers-