Sechium edule (Piskot- in khasi) is a widely cultivated crop grown with least amount of investment. The crop is abundantly grown in the Khasi Hills region of Meghalaya. This crop is harvested during the period between June and October and is even exported outside the state up to West Bengal because of its low price. Realising the need of value addition of this crop in order to facilitate better income to the cultivators, the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) in collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) of India and the Meghalaya Institute of Entrepreneurship (MIE) are working on the promotion of Chow Chow or Squash or Chayote (Sechium edule) as a viable crop for economic development of the State. In this regard, SIRD has identified the villages of Laitkseh and Marngor Clusters and a few villages situated in close vicinity of the Rural Technology and Livelihood Promotion Centre, Nongbah Myrdon to pilot the project. Samples of the fruit have been sent to the Anand Agricultural University and National Chemical Laboratory, Pune for testing the scope for value addition and a preliminary study has been conducted by SIRD and MIE. Recently information, based on preliminary experiments, has been received from Anand Agricultural University stating that the juice is bland in taste and it can be blended with any other vegetable or fruit juice to reduce the cost of fruit based juices and the vegetable can be used for value added products such as bottled juice, squash, dried slices and sweetened candy. Further the report received based on very preliminary experiments indicate that we can make a pickled (fermented) Chow-Chow on the lines of sauerkraut as made in the Germanic countries. The taste of the fermented product made in the NCL Laboratory is very promising and suggest that it is quite close to sauerkraut in taste and texture. The fermented sauerkraut is free of alcohol and has predominantly lactic acid and some other products of fermentation which give it a nice, sour, tangy taste. It will have fairly good keeping qualities as the pH goes down to 4.0, much like our pickles.
Opening up of the world economy and removal of trade barriers have made it indispensable for entrepreneurs to adopt and promote a culture of sustained competitiveness. Researches on clusters for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) indicated that they have shown the ability to grow, innovate and compete successfully under the fast changing demand patterns, even under recessionary conditions. However, quality and productivity improvement, technology up-gradation, market and export development and value chain up-gradation will be the major source of competition. It is widely acknowledged that the cluster approach helps overcome the barriers faced by the MSMEs.
Cluster Development approach facilitated by EDI, Gujarat, is of relevance in the context of Meghalaya, taking into consideration the pattern of distribution in rural areas where the villages are sparsely populated and scattered. The potential clusters in Meghalaya are ginger, turmeric, broomstick, honey, chow chow, eri silk, handloom and handicrafts, strawberry, floriculture, fisheries, etc. Prior to Cluster Development Programme collaboratively by EDI, SIRD and MIE. The exercise would include mapping of the Chow Chow and Eri clusters in the state of Meghalaya. This would enable in identifying clusters in a state and knowing their present state of affairs and to understand the cluster eco-system properly. The cluster mapping exercise would also enable us in developing a comprehensive understanding of the clusters in a state, the eco-system, primafacie issues of the enterprises located in those clusters and identifying the scope for improvement. The Cluster mapping exercise for Chow Chow and Eri clusters is proposed to be undertaken in four districts of Meghalaya viz., Ri Bhoi, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and Jaintia, considering the concentration of economic activties and other factors in these districts. Further, a sub-committee is constituted consisting of members from SIRD, MIE, EDI and IDFC for this purpose. The terms of references of the committee are to identify potential clusters for Chow Chow and Eri, coordinate and monitor the cluster mapping exercise, to suggest development intervention in the mapped areas and to collaborate with institutions of excellence for the development of clusters.
The Rural Technology Park (RTP) at NIRD, Hyderabad has inspired the establishment of the Meghalaya State Rural Technology and Livelihood Promotion Centre (MSRTLPC) at Nongbah Myrdon, a village situated about 10 KMs north of Umsning. The centre will showcase various adaptable technologies for rural housing and infrastructure, rural energy, rural sanitation and provide a podium for expanding the business opportunities for the rural poor and entrepreneurs. The Centre spreads over an area of 5.5 acres to cater to the eastern region of the state comprising of the Khasi and Jaintia hills. The SIRD Meghalaya being the Apex institute for rural development in the state of Meghalaya has been entrusted with the task to oversee the entire management of the RTP.
The objectives is to spread awareness and popularise rural technologies through dynamic interactive processes outlined below:
It is envisaged that the centre will have the following scope:
Eventually, the centre can evolve as a centre for exchange of technologies among other states/ countries.
The technology involved in the setting up of the RTP is pictorially shown below: