Ukhrul: The Ukhrul Squash Festival 2023, now in its fourth edition, is underway at the 35 Assam Rifles Outpost in Tahao, Wino Bazar. Organised by the Hunphun Self-Help Group (SHG) Federation, the festival has attracted 20 SHGs and features a dazzling display of 47 unique squash varieties. The event will conclude tomorrow.
Squash, known as the “green gold” of vegetables, has become a staple in Manipur, originally hailing from Mexico but flourishing in the northeastern region of India.
Ukhrul’s Deputy Commissioner, Kengoo Zuringla, inaugurated the festival, stressing the importance of consuming local seasonal crops for good health. She highlighted the numerous health benefits of incorporating indigenous food crops into diets and called for expanded squash cultivation to boost the local economy.
Zuringla emphasised the need for collaborative efforts to explore improved marketing avenues, which would not only uplift the rural economy but also empower women to seize entrepreneurial opportunities.
Shangam Shaliwo, the District Forest Officer (DFO) of Ukhrul, commended women SHGs for preserving locally produced squash, creating a lasting legacy for the community. He noted the unique taste and high demand for Ukhrul’s squash in markets beyond the district and proposed value-added products like squash juice or chips to enhance farmers’ livelihoods and the local economy.
Agnes Shaiza, the festival’s convenor, revealed that this year’s event boasts the largest collection of squash varieties for sale. However, she expressed regret that customers from Imphal were absent due to the ongoing ethnic crisis in the state.
During the festival’s competition, Mathuk SHG secured the first position with their extensive display of squash varieties, followed by Lankhok SHG and Machon 2 SHG in second and third place, respectively.
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Special guests included Colonel Manoj Shinde, Commandant of 35 AR, Ringyuichon Vashum, Director of UDWIM, and Major Josephine. SW. Suisa, a guest of honour, suggested implementing a rotational weekly market day programme to enhance the marketing system.
The Ukhrul Squash Festival celebrates the diverse squash varieties found in the region and the commitment of local communities to preserve and promote this nutritious vegetable.
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