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.

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