Kharkutta in North Garo Hills district is among the most promising constituencies in Meghalaya in terms of agriculture and tourism and yet it is lesser known to the outside world.
Located strategically along the borders of West Khasi Hills district and Assam, Kharkutta is a gateway to major parts of Garo Hills. It is in an advantageous position in all aspects as it is blessed with internal road connectivity that includes major highways of Boko to Paikan-Krishnai of Assam-Meghalaya and NH62 connecting Dudnoi-Rongjeng-Nengkhra-Nangalbibra-Baghmara-Dalu.
This favourable position has enabled the constituency and other parts of the district to facilitate easy transport of men and goods within the constituency, in the district and to the Assam markets and beyond.
The 37th constituency in the state has made immense progress in agriculture and horticulture over the past few years.
Kharkutta has an abundance of bananas, areca nuts, rubber, ginger, black pepper, pineapples, broomstick, jackfruit, mango, tapioca, yam, oranges, guavas, litchi, chillies, ridge gourd (jhinga) and pumpkins, among other vegetables.
The area is also known for various species of rice, such as sticky rice and aromatic rice or joha variety. There are many food processing units in Chilpara village which produce banana chips, banana honey and banana wine. Honey farming and honey-banana food products like wine and chips, are produced at Mendima and other villages.
The local MLA, Rupert Momin, has taken initiatives to form cooperative societies. The Nangrime Integrated Village Cooperative Society Ltd at Gairong under Haru Momin and Billingston Marak was formed to start a pseudo-banana stem manufacturing unit, the first of its kind in the village that is close to NH62.
To implement what was planned by the above society, A’We Banana Pseudo-Stem Co-operative Society Ltd, Gairong, was formed under Arthaban Sangma as its president and Demure T. Sangma as secretary. It has members not only from Gairong but other adjacent villages. The sole objective of this venture is to manufacture fibre, waste paper, soda, compost, animal feed and other products from banana stems, which are otherwise thrown away as waste.
“If the venture is successful, it will be replicated elsewhere in the villages of the constituency,” said Demure.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) has shown interest in partnering with local farmers to tap the potential of agri-horticultural activities, like beekeeping, through cluster-based units. One of the agencies is Salt Range Foundation on A.T Road in Guwahati. The agency will form farm producers’ organisations and register them under the Registration of Companies Act. It will also train the members and support them for three years in apiculture.
Among the forest produce are sal, teak and other timbers.
The other economic potential of North Garo Hills, especially that of Kharkutta, is tourism. North Garo Hills is blessed with natural abundance and beauty. This is also true for Kharkutta. Its landscapes are highly captivating. The community forest cover is thin but the lack of green cover is compensated by the vast banana, areca nut and rubber plantations.
The broomstick plantations look green during summer, autumn and a little part of winter before harvest time. The presence of beautiful crystal-clear streams and rivers like the Manda, Chil, Rongchong and Aldek, which are ideal for angling can be perfect destinations for tourists. The streams have local varieties of fish, such as nanil, nadang, nachi, nabat, narong and na.ek.
There are several picnic spots like the banks of the Aldek, Manda, Chil, Rongchong, and N.kachikong and Mokma waterfalls, Rong.ma Gitil rock and other big rock hills.
For those who love adventure sports, there are spots which are favourable for enchanting paragliding.
Though the state government’s intervention in promoting agri-horticulture, and developing roads has been commendable, little has been done to improve water resources, health, education, fishery, tourism and sericulture. With a proper road map and funding, the government can push the constituency towards all-round development. So, it is important that the state government identifies the potential of Kharkutta and other parts of North Garo Hills and promote it as an agri-horticultural hotspot and tourism site.