Health, education, and water in Nagaland, India
The Indian state of Nagaland spreads over an area of 16,527 square kilometers, bordered by Assam, to the west and north, and Burma, to the east. Its population resides mainly in rural areas. Kohima, its capital, Dimapur, and Mokokchung are its most important towns. Nagas have evolved into a generic term for many tribal communities in the NorthEast. Of the 32 such tribes, 16 major and numerous sub-tribes spread over Nagaland’s seven districts. The Konyak, Ao and the Rengma, are a few examples, each with their own distinct culture and lifestyle.
Ghani Zaman has been a frequent visitor to Mokokchung District in Nagaland since 1971. In late 2004, Zaman and Jason Powers, both photographers, met in Kolkata (Calcutta) for a photography tour of North East India. On their trip, these two became acquainted with the substantial needs of villagers in northeast India while trekking through the region over the next three weeks.
In particular, the small village of Yimjenkimong had a powerful impact on Mr. Zaman and Mr. Powers. Welcomed with a traditional tribal dance and offered locally made gifts upon arrival, he and his friends were informed that they were the first foreigners to visit that village since the late 1880's when a missionary, Dr. E.W. Clark, came to the area.
Sitting more than 3,000 feet above sea level, Yimjenkimong is a small, isolated village steeped in the traditions of the Ao tribe (pronounced ‘ow'). The Mokokchung district, where Yimjenkimong is located, is one of the great centres of Ao Naga tradition. The prowess of the Ao warriors is reflected in gorgeous red and black shawls with the white decorated band that signified their victory over their enemies. The Ao are also known for their many annual festivals. The town is home to about 800 people.
The North East India Project (NEIP) works along side villages to assist and support in the areas of health care, education, water resources, and economic development, while preserving their culture and basic way of life. Zaman and Powers launched this project as a way to contribute to Yimjenkimong. The NEIP is a project of The Mountain Fund.
The NEIP focuses on five major areas of development:
- Economic Development
- Children's Education
- Computers and Training
- Health Care
- Water Infrastructure
A trip in late 2008, made possible through generous contributions, brought much progress in each of these areas.
One of the major issues in the village is simply the lack of opportunity and ability for each family to produce a basic household income. Farming is the most widespread occupation, but it is difficult for farmers to produce excess crops for wholesale. NEIP is helping residents to find ways in which they may be able to produce supplemental income.
On this most recent trip, NEIP held a vocational program for women, teaching them how to extract silk from the silkworm cocoon. Throughout this year, we will continue helping them to produce a good quality silk thread and find resrouces for them to sell this thread for one means of a supplemental income. The women in this village are also working on weaving and handicrafts, such as bookmarks and bamboo cups.
Through generous contributions from last year, NEIP was able to send 47 children back to school for this 2009 school year. On average, these children's parents make between US$20 and $100 per year. Most of the parents are only able to work in cultivation, which generally only provides enough food for the family, and little or no extra money for their child's education. NEIP will be working with the parents over the next year to help provide ways of producing a supplemental income, which the hopes that some of it can be used to send their own children back to school in the near future.
Computers & Training
In late 2007, NEIP provided the village with their first two computers ever. In December of 2008, the team brought them one more computer, a laptop. We also held computer training workshops for some of the teachers and youth. Everyone was very excited to learn.
NEIP was also able to provide the village with basic health care packs. These packs included toothbrushes, toothpaste, antibiotic ointment, hydro-cortisone cream, q-tips, and more. There are no doctors in the village, and most of the people in the village could not afford one if they needed to go to the hospital for any reason. We hope that these basic health care packs will be just the begininng stage in the process of providing adequate health care.
NEIP is working on installing a water system which will pump clean water to the village. Yimjenkimong Village is located on a hilltop, and the only nearby source for water is a natural spring down the mountainside. Most of the homes have set up bamboo rain water-harvesting systems on the rooftops, which catch and run the rain water into containers, which they in turn use for drinking and cleaning. Untreated water is one of the primary causes of health problems in teh village, causing many deaths each year.
NEIP is working on installing a pump system which will pump clean water from the natural spring. An engineer joined us for our most recent trip and details are being worked out for the purchase and installation of the new pump system.
The North East India Project is working to provide continuing support through 2009.
To see Nagaland's government website, please click here.