Khonoma : The First Green Village in India

Khonoma, Nagaland

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Khonoma is an Angami Naga village located about 20 km west from the state capital, Kohima. The village is referred to as Khwuno-ra. The total population of the village is about 1943, settled in 424 households. It is the first green village in India.

Khonoma village is located about 20 km from the state capital, Kohima. The village, referred to as Khwunoria (named after the Angami term for a local plant, Glouthera fragrantisima), is estimated to be around 700 years old and is spread over an area of 123sq.km. The total population of the village is about 3000, settled in 600 households. Khonoma is famous for its forests and a unique form of agriculture, including some of the oldest terraced cultivation in the region. The terrain of the village is hilly, ranging from gentle slopes to steep and rugged hillsides. The hills are covered with lush forestland, rich in various species of flora and fauna. The state bird, Blyth’s tragopan, a pheasant now nationally endangered, is reprtedly found here.

Over a hundred years ago, advancing British troops found themselves facing a determined warrior tribe in the highlands of Nagaland. The Angami men of Khonoma, famed for their martial prowess and strategic skills, fought a resolute battle to safeguard their territory, inflicting heavy casualties on the foreign soldiers. The village is recorded to have resisted British rule in the region from 1830s to 1880. Finally a truce between the two stopped further bloodshed, but meanwhile Khonoma village had etched its name into the history of Indian resistance to the colonial invasion. Christianity was introduced in the village in 1890, and today most of the villagers are of this faith.

Preliminary ecological studies done so far record the use of about 250 plant species, including over 70 for medicinal purposes, 84 kinds of wild fruits, 116 kinds of wild vegetables, nine varieties of mushrooms, and five kinds of natural dyes from the surrounding forests in the village. Local people have recorded about 204 species of trees, nearly 45 varieties of orchids, 11 varieties of cane, and 19 varieties of bamboo. Villagers also record 25 types of snakes, six kinds of lizards, 11 kinds of amphibians and 196 kinds of birds (of which English names for 87 have been identified, including the grey-billed or Blyth’s tragopan, a threatened bird mentioned in the red data book of IUCN). 72 kinds of wild animals have also been reported by the local people; however English and scientific names for all have not been recorded yet. These include tiger, leopard, serow, sloth bear, Asiatic black bear and common otter.

Today, Khonoma is witnessing another historic struggle. In an incident reminiscent of the British invasion, in the mid-1990s the villagers had to physically resist timber merchants who came with several dozen elephants to carry out logging, unfortunately aided by some insiders. Over the last decade Khonoma, inhabited by the Angamis, one of Nagaland’s tribes, has made giant strides in establishing or strengthening systems of natural resource management, conflict resolution, village administration and appropriate development, all coupled with a resolute will to conserve biodiversity and wildlife. All this is embedded in the traditional ethos of the village, without fighting shy of experimenting with new technologies and thoughts from outside. The results are impressive enough to warrant yet another key historic place for this village, this time in the annals of India’s environmental movement.

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