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.

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