Group farming initiatives in Bhavanipur Dakshin: The Road to Resilience

Bhavanipur Dakshin village is located near Kosi River in Pratapganj Block, Supaul district. As other Kosi belt villages, Bhavanipur also face problem from flood every year. When BALSK came to this village after flood in 2008, situation of the community was very poor. There was no SHGs and women’s presence in the village. Now the scenario has changed. They have a good base with SHG activities. What were lacking is resource and understanding issues locally.

During flood season, community experience loss of livelihoods, lack of labour and agriculture loss. Most of them are backward community and depend on daily labour. Changing climate and regular floods causes heavy damage to their lives and environment.

Local support from government officials and panchayat was meagre. Health and sanitation situation are also poor in this village.

The initiative

Vulnerability mapping was held in this village in 2012 as part of Misereor supported Resilience project, facilitated by SSP. They have identified recurrent floods are affecting their life and livelihoods. To overcome this problem women groups with the help of BALSK has participated in various meetings, learning exchanges and dialogues to learn resilience practices. Post mapping period, women groups organised local dialogue meetings with government officials to access government schemes and programmes that support vulnerable communities.

Regular interaction with officials and panchayat helped them to access MNREGA scheme for construction and improvement of road and bridges. While continuing the activities in addressing local development, women groups started doing own initiatives.

Learning exchange to GPSVS field area was an eye opening for women leaders from Supaul. They observed how women groups are doing collective action in bringing women members in one platform, talking to panchayat Mukhya on infrastructure improvement, accessing government schemes and implementing own initiatives in sustainable agriculture. The kind of recognition and status of women groups from model village opened the eyes of women members from BALSK field. This has strengthened their confidence and gained knowledge thru close interaction with women leaders and came back to their village with determination to do some good initiatives.

Durga SHG leaders took the lead in implementing initiatives after learning from the peer exchange. SHG leaders consulted the members and decided to start Paddy cultivation as the first step of group activity. The area is famous for different paddy varieties. Women community took 5 Biga land on lease and cultivated paddy. 9 women are involved in this activity. All the members from Durga SHGs are landless women labourers. It was not easy for them to bring everybody for the collective action. Initially 3 to 4 women voluntarily spend time in field and encouraged others to join. Slowly all 9 women members shared their labour and invested in it. Using resilience fund of 10,000 they bought paddy seed and sowed in 5 biga land.

During this period BALSK developed link with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Raghavpore to get training on sustainable agriculture. This was the result of learning exchange conducted to SSP Maharashtra field. Partners from Bihar has observed that SSP women’s federation has been facilitating with agriculture institutions and government departments to access knowledge, support and skills in new agriculture practices that withstand climatic risk. When BALSK approached KVK officials they were not sure women leaders ability in learning new things in agriculture.  When they heard that women groups already started the activity and looking for more information and training officials visited the field and understood women’s effort in bringing back traditional agriculture. After the visit KVK officials called 9 women leaders to KVK centre and provided training on various methods in agriculture practices. They learned water, soil and seed quality, different flood resistant varieties, types of machines available under subsidy scheme, vermin compost etc. Every member also received 5 KG Vermins as free from KVK.

The result from the paddy was very good. They got a good harvest and started the next season as vegetable. There are more women groups plan to join in these initiatives after seeing the good practice from Durga SHG members. Women members from this village have participated in state and national level learning exchanges and workshops conducted by SSP.

We have to live with pride. So we need to do different activities to earn income and support our family. Now we are confident to start new activities. Says Sarika Devi.

Local partnership

BALSK has been facilitating with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Raghavpur to get support for women farmers. Two meetings were held with agriculture scientists and officials on providing training support to groups.

In September 2013, 10 women groups from 3 villages visited KVK to learn new technology and flood survival crops and methods. Women members were able to learn new variety of crops that can survive in floods, benefit of vermi composting to increase the production and reduce investment. After learning from 2 days training women groups started the cultivation with knowledge they gained from KVK. They also got pamphlets and information materials on sustainable agriculture from KVK.

Local partnership with Block level officials and panchayat has improved with regular interaction and dialogue with them. Accessing social security schemes and govt programmes, community started implementing it. BALSK has facilitated thru women leaders to get widow pension and other social security schemes.

Since BALSK is a member of District Disaster Management Committee, they are trying to get space for grassroots women leaders in the committee.

Lessons and Achievements

Women members who don’t have land started agriculture in the leased land and provided good result. This has got them recognition as well as additional income to the family.

They were not aware about new techniques, seeds and flood resistant variety of seeds available. After the training from KVK they got the information and knowledge about various schemes, technology and support from government and institutions.

They are doing this activity as a group in first time.

Learning exchange to Birpur and SSP Maharashtra played a role in building local partnership and accessing govt support and knowledge. This has resulted in partnership with KVK in Raghavpore.

Emerging women leaders from this initiative is a good sign of scaling up to new villages. They are attending workshops and meetings organised by BALSK and other partner NGOs, motivating neighbouring villages to share their practices.

Backward community in Khagaria district lives with the certainty that the monsoon season will bring kind of suffering and loss. The question is, how much? Farmland flooded with local river water and homes torn apart their life. Villages in Khagaria is surrounded by seven rivers, Most of them are originating from Nepal namely, Koshi, Baghmati, Gandak, Kamla, Ganga, Budhi Gandak, Ghaghara and these receive huge quantity of rainy water from higher parts of state. So Khagaria is a highly flood-prone district.

The initiative:

At Khagaria District, community belongs to marginal farmers and agricultural labourers. Agriculture has had the main occupation and maize and wheat is major crop of the locality. Poor communities suffer food scarcity during disaster every year. They were not able to manage their livelihood in disaster flood situation. The poor/vulnerable communities are the worst hit during disaster. Recurrent flood   wipes out their earned assets in one go, pushing them once again in the vicious cycle of poverty. After our intervention in the resilience building initiative facilitated by SSP and supported by Misereor, SHG members has started learning the practices in disaster resilience initiative and climate change adaptation with peer communities. Initiating resilience building practices that enhance community to address local development, risk and vulnerability through strengthening local partnership, vulnerability mapping, secure livelihoods and local food security, grassroots communities in Khagaria joined together to bring changes in their local settings.

In order to address food security, it is necessary to enhance community capability to undertake activities which helps to reduce their risks and vulnerabilities. After mapping and learning exchanges with peer groups, attending workshops and trainings, the community initiated the approach of established collective agriculture to support livelihood and food security. At Chotti Balha village, cultivation agriculture has created good impact with community for the last 6 months. The community received Rs.15000 as demo fund under the resilience building initiatives.

After receiving the fund, community decided to start collective vegetable cultivation on leased land. They took 5 khatta land on lease at the rate of Rs. 3,000 per year. Climate was favoring  them, they got good profit of Rs. 10,000 from the 1st crop. This was really a changing phase of women’s life. Encouraged from the group vegetable cultivation, they are planning to take more land on lease (atleast 10 khatta) and expand the group vegetable cultivation to more area.

Motivated women leader told that they have no fear of livelihood scarcity during and after disaster. It is through collective action that community women get an exposure to protect families and surroundings. The local resources which are unseen earlier become accessible. Monthly meeting, increasing the savings, internal lending, repayments of rupees on regular basis, not only promote thrift among members but also encourage unity among them. Thus community women build such capacities can help them shielded from livelihood scarcity that disasters bring with them.

“Earlier our life was very miserable. We were struggling to feed our children and family during disaster. Now we are thinking collectively and working united for common cause. We never thought we can do this activity with success and recognition.”

Local partnership

After showing the initiative as a group, they are attending workshops and meetings organized by NGOs. One of such meeting was conducted with local PRI member and block officer. After hearing the story of women groups about their experience in group farming practices, block officer visit village and SHG group with local Panchayat Mukhya and provided support from MNREGA for village road repair with partnership of SHG groups. Block agriculture Department provides training on new agriculture practices to save money, reduce investment and get good production.

Lessons and Achievements

  • Women groups produced good harvest and marginal income from the collective agriculture.
  • More women leaders emerged from neighboring villages and started group initiatives in Bhariyahi, chooti blaha and Purvithatha villages using resilience fund.
  • Learning exchange and workshop was very useful for women members to start new agriculture practice in this area.
  • Gram Panchyat started work partnership with SHG women lead member.
  • Women lead member are attending gram sabha meeting and approved DRR plan by gram Sabah
  • Three village different module use of reliance fund.
  • Women member are prepared compost then sale for other farmers

Changing the life of community: Collective Action in resilience building

Mahatma Wasa is a remote village in Alam Nagar Taluka, Madhepura district. The village have 130 households in which 70 % populations belong to Maha Dalit communities. They are poorest of the poor and facing multiple range of marginalization. They don’t have access to Govt. Programmes, entitlements of social security and food security schemes. They are not getting wages work under MNREGA. Health centre situated at Aalm Nagar is lacking facilities, doctors and services and the status of pregnant women is disturbing. The village community don’t have proper road to reach Alam Nagar for any emergency situation.

Kosi and Gandak Rivers are passing thru this village and create problem every year. During rainy season the villages are flooded and affect agriculture and livelihoods. Most of the community do not own land and depend on daily labour in agriculture. Due to difficulties in bringing up families, 90% of the men are migrated to cities and other states for work. During flood time 4 months they can’t do any work in agriculture.

The initiative

Learning exchanges always provide some wonderful insights and lessons for the communities. They are quick to learn from the model initiatives and try to implement with changes in their field. This has happened with communities in Mahatma Wasa as well. When Samanway Tirth organised learning exchange in February 2013 to GPSVS model village in Birpur, has changed the thinking and learning practice of women. There were 15 women from 3 villages visited Jage Araji village, in Birpur. They learned how to start group initiatives involving vegetable farming with the use organic fertilizer, local seeds and partnership with institutions.

When they came back to their village after the visit, Maharshi Mahi SHG had organised a meeting with 13 members to discuss on what kind of activities will start to address their problem. It was decided that they will do cultivation as a group initiative. This was the first time they organised in a group to started activities. Members from Maharshi Mahi group have contributed Rs. 1000 by each to open bank account.

Leaders like Rasmi Kumari, and Rupam Kumari took the lead in negotiating with land owner to get land on lease for cultivation. They got half acre land from the owner at the rate of Rs. 4,500 for one year. Firstly they started Maize cultivation on the leased land in May 2013. All the 13 members have contributed their time to prepare land, sowing and taking care off. After the harvest in July they got a profit of 5,600.

Good result from Maize has strengthened women’s confidence. They took another half acre land to expand the resilience activities. In the second season they have cultivated paddy in one acre land. Paddy cultivation was very good and they got a good profit from this. It was a huge success. They got Rs. 15,000 profit from Paddy cultivation in October 2013. Resilience fund has grown from 13,000 to 33,000. The profit from both crops was 20,000. (Rs. 5,600 from Maize cultivation and 15,000 from Paddy cultivation). Encouraged and motivated women members are planning to start vegetable cultivation in December in one acre land.

“This is the first time we are doing this activity as a group” says Vimala Devi

This was a big success in their life. One of the poorest community in the area, isolated without proper road and infrastructure has changed their life into a new beginning. They started smiling with confidence and tell us “they are able to send their children to schools, buy at least one set of uniform etc.

While continuing these initiatives, women groups addressed other issues as well. When they learned children are not going to school, they have decided to support poor children for tuition classes. They each contributed Rs. 20 to support the poor children.  This is a new beginning. When the women members started thinking collectively the process has yielded result in creating a safe and secured community.

Now they have 12 khatta of land for agriculture. They are planning to take more land to do collective farming in the coming season.

Discussions are already started with KVK officials in Madhepura to give training support for agriculture.

I came from a poor family. After joining SHG, i got lot of knowledge thru meetings and learning exchanges. I have empowering my knowledge and earn income to support my family from agriculture. Money gives me confidence and power to start thinking positively, says…. Anupama Devi, Durga SHG.

Local partnership

There was no support from Panchayat and local government to this village. After showing the initiative as a group, they are attending workshops and meetings organised by NGOs. One of such meeting was conducted with Krishi Vigyan Kendra officials in Madhepura. After hearing the story of women groups about their experience in group farming practices, KVK officials are ready to visit the village and provide training on new agriculture practices to save money, reduce investment and gain good production.

Challenges

Banks are not supporting: Initially women groups approached banks to finance their activities. But officials were not ready to provide helping hand for the vulnerable community. Using Resilience fund provided by SSP thru Samanway Tirth, women are showing that they create successes in agriculture and livelihood. This has changed local officials’ mindset. Now Banks are ready to provide support for the groups.

Lack of transportation, a huge time expend on foot travel: The village is very remote and travel to places is a huge problem for them. There is no proper road to reach the village. When flood comes community can’t travel to outside villages, students can’t attend school, emergency health issues are a problem etc..

Poorest community are landless and extremely poverty: Since they are Scheduled cast community they don’t have a single piece of land. They have to depend on land owners’ mercy for daily labour. That also reduced a lot since many land owners stopped agriculture cultivation and migrated to cities.

Lessons and Achievements

Women groups produced good harvest and marginal income from the collective agriculture.

They have increased the resilience fund from 13,000 to 33,000. Rs. 20,000 increased from the profit from group agriculture. Now they are planning to do the agriculture in more areas and different varieties.

More women leaders emerged from neighbouring villages and started group initiatives in Dalha and Neptollia villages using resilience fund.

Learning exchange and workshop was very useful for women members to start new agriculture practise in their area.

Now they are visiting neighbouring villages and sharing their best practice experiences.