Why farming Makhana is the best choice for Indian farmers in Bihar
Most of us are familiar with traditionally grown crops like corn, barley, and rice. They’re relatively popular worldwide and are a part of almost all of our diets. Unfortunately, those crops are also very susceptible to weather related crises, making them risky for farmers in Bihar, which is often hit by weather uncertainties and flash floods.
Farmers have therefore turned to farming makhana, from the plant prickly water lily (euryale ferox) since it grows in the still waters of wetlands and ponds. Though all of India is familiar with makhana, the state of Bihar is responsible for 90% of the world’s production. Considered the most suitable crop in times of climate crisis, it has given farmers in India - who for a long time struggled with unpredictable weather conditions - hope and success and the ability to generate a reliable source of income for themselves and their families.
A typical day on a sustainable makhana farm during harvest season
It's an early start for the whole family during harvest season. Since makhana grow in pond water and wetlands, the pods containing the seeds have to first be collected. Farmers will wade into the water to collect the pods, found under flowering lily pads, entirely by hand. They leave the roots intact after every harvest, meaning that extensive planting does not need to happen every single year.
The pods are then cut from the lily pads and the seeds are removed individually, and then left out in the sun to dry out entirely. Once completely dry, they are ready for popping.
All the seeds begin in the first wok, at the lowest temperature, and make their way up the line to end up in the last and hottest wok, for a final popping, where a farmer is using a traditional wooden cutting board and hammer, called a pitna to strike each individual seed, thus breaking its outer shell and revealing the puffy, crunchy makhana you see in our bags.
A family affair that sustainably farms
The villagers who live near where we source makhana are hard working and entrepreneurial. They have honed their skills for generations, passing down techniques from mother to daughter, and father to son. The village is so small that it does not currently have a school, or a library.
Our ultimate mission for this beautiful place is to build a school, and a library, to further empower these women and their families to develop their farming, should they wish to do so.
Every Dear Snackers bag helps us reach this goal and we thank you for your continued support.