Poly Culture Technology – Raising temperatures amongst the cold winters

Generally perceived to be boom, water, for Mr. Bolin Bora, a resident of Bahokita village, Bordoloni block, Dhemaji district, Assam, is a sign of potential trouble. Farming is the only livelihood option for him. He cultivates winter rice locally known as Boro Rice, which is sown in the cold winter months of November-December and harvested by early spring (May/June). The annual cycle of floods in his low lying village prevent him from reaping a safe harvest. To restrict damage to his crop by floods, he was encouraged to attend trainings on restructuring of cropping patterns.

An important component of crop restructuring was the promotion of innovative poly tunnels, introduced to cultivate winter rice. They are naturally ventilated climate controllers. Operating on the basic principle of green houses, they trap terrestrial radiation, causing temperature inside the poly tunnels to be 5oC more than the surrounding. Using simple and locally available material like bamboo and plastic, he was trained to construct a poly tunnel in his field. For a nominal cost of Rs 500, he was able to construct poly tunnel in 10 meter square of his land. With the help of poly tunnels in his field, the rice saplings germinated faster enabling early transplantation; reducing the growing period. This helped him in reaping an earlier harvest (April/May) prior to the onset of the monsoon.

After adoption of poly tunnel technology, he has been able to improve the yield to 5.2 quintals/bigha in winter rice from the previous yield of 2 quintals/bigha. It has helped him generate an additional income of Rs 1280/bigha. Poly tunnels come with additional advantage of quick germination; good seedling vigour due to reduced effect of cold, and reduction in disease due to healthy growth. He has started using the same technology to raise vegetables as well. Poly culture technology has provided him with a new and better idea of raising seedlings during winter than the traditional technique.

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Raising Beds to cultivate in water logged areas

Well aware about the short comings of his land, Mr Gulok Mandal of Dharampur knows that cultivating crops in soil of high moisture content (water logged) can weaken young samplings and affect overall productivity. The practice of late sowing adopted by him is associated with a spiral of water shortages in the summer season and late harvests. Such crops also fetch below average market prices, resulting in lower incomes earned.

With ‘Live Better with Floods’ being implemented in his village, he was exposed to a gamut of technological options which would help him improve incomes. A technological intervention of relevance to him; and one in which he showed a keen interest was the practice of cultivating on raised beds.

With an average elevation of approximately one foot above the ground, he constructed a bed of 5 meters square using mud, compost and water hyacinth. He also used bamboo to reinforce the structure and prevent its sides from being eroded. With bunds around his fish pond also developed as part of the IFS model, he decided to improvise with the technology and replicate it along the bunds. Traditional mesh like structures locally known as chang/jeng were also constructed and placed over the raised beds to support cultivation of creepers.  By reducing contact with the saturated soil, as well as improving drainage, he is using these raised beds to raise both saplings and cultivate crops permanently.

He has effectively used these raised beds to cultivate crops like bottle gourd, pumpkin, brinjal and cabbage. He is also using these raised beds to nurture saplings of rice, for subsequent transplantation in the field.

His is an example of successful adoption of existing technologies. While increase in productions were not really his target, timely sowing and harvesting of crops despite the waterlogged conditions have helped him fetch a higher market price for his produce. These market prices have added an additional Rs 19,700 to his kitty. One of few farmers to have adopted this technology, he hopes to be an inspiration to others faced by the same challenge.

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Promoting Low Cost Protective Irrigation in Rainfed Agricultural Systems

345 tribal (Khasi) inhabitants of Ummong Village of Umsning Block in Ri-Bhoi District, Meghalaya were unable to exercise freedom to select, especially in terms of the kind of crops they could cultivate; only because of the restricted irrigation facilities in their village. With agriculture being the main source of livelihood for these villagers, growing only paddy in one season was impacting their livelihood capacities.
But, this is a practice of the past for 18 out of 45 households today. The Diversion Based Irrigation System that has been developed on the gravity flow concept in the village has improved the crop production potential considerably. Under this system, command area development works of Umrew River have been undertaken, since it is a perennial source of water. The works include an 1850 metre long pipeline, a check wall, a sedimentation tank and a storage tank. Each of these was constructed by the community members themselves under the MGNREGA, thereby contributing 20 percent of the project costs. As a result, 18 households who own a total of 21 acres of land down-slope, now have assured irrigation for their fields year round. This has lead to three crop cycles, i.e. Kharif, Rabi and Zaid, in a given year. Therefore, from having no other choice than to cultivate paddy, approximately half the population of the village has the freedom to select a variety of crops (such as ginger, beans, tomato, chilly, turmeric, carrot, cabbage, brinjal, potato and radish) to cultivate along with the main crops. This has increased the yearly crop production of the Earthen Dam Constructed in Ranichuan Village farmers by 29 percent

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Promoting better management practices in cotton through Integrated Pest Management

Mr Kirit Meraj Patel has for the past 25 years been cultivating cotton in 10 acres of land, located in Dudapur village, Dhrangadhra block, Gujarat. His crop is susceptible to the attack of varied types of pests such as sucking and larval pests, beetles and mealy bug infestation. A remedial measure actively adopted by famers like him has been the use of pesticides like Acetamiprid, Monocrotophos, Buprofezin among others. Although objectives of crop protection from pests are met by the use of these chemicals, the social and environmental hazards associated with such processes are increasingly becoming evident. Increasing toxicity of pesticide on plants, emergence of pesticide resistant pests and pesticide residues in food and soil and water have emerged as some of the critical challenges affecting his cultivation of cotton.

With the intention of promoting Better Management Practices in cotton, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was adopted as one of the project approaches to reduce the application of pesticides in cotton cultivation. Based on training conducted in his village, he was mobilized to adopt mechanical and biological measures in controlling pests in cotton cultivation. Measures like use of Trichogramma as natural predators, inter cropping, phermone traps and neem seed kernel paste were introduced as biological control measures to reduce the application of pesticide. Hand picking and manual destruction of larve were also introduced as measures to reduce pesticide application.

Based on his learning’s on IPM and implementation in 1 acre of his field, he has reduced the application of pesticides in his field by 50 percent. Immediate benefits were observed in terms of reduced costs and corresponding higher net profits and incomes. The long term benefits will help him produce cotton which is environmentally sustainable in the long run. Based on the success of the new approach in his field, he is actively engaged in propagating the adoption of a similar approach by others in his community.

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Having complied with BCI Minimum Production Criteria

Ahmad Hassan is one of the 35 cotton farmers that form Learning Group (LG) No. 40 from Sindavadar village, Gujarat. Partners in the adoption of poor practices in cotton cultivation; they all held belief systems that, greater inputs culminate in greater outputs. Realizations that such practices were detrimental to the environment and an unnecessary expenditure were either non existent or abysmally low.

Ambiguity with project objectives and benefits which they stood to accrue were part and parcel of their group formation process. Motivated by the local Krishi Mitra they overcame initial reluctances to form LG No 40 in March 2012.

Overcoming initial glitches, they started regularly attending the trainings on Better Cotton Systems and its Minimum Production Criteria (MCP) being conducted by AFPRO. These MCP provided them with a broad framework, working within which they could produce cotton which was both profitable and environmentally sustainable.  Through four trainings, sub criteria related to sowing techniques, integrated nutrient management, crop protection and soil moisture, importance and techniques of marinating fiber quality of their produce was shared with them.

Having understood the power of a group, they all prefer taking decisions on selection of seeds; and application of fertilizers and pesticides together. Not only have they started jointly purchasing inputs but have also started sharing their problems and benefits of new practices adopted in their fields. There choice and procedures of pesticide application have changed, with an increase in quantity of organic fertilizers and micro nutrients. Adoptions of drip irrigation; and alternate row irrigation among those who cannot afford the expenses of drips have also been taken up as water saving practices.

Outshining other LG’s, LG No 40 has received the coveted BCI License. There cotton is not only certified to having been produced using sustainable practices ‘Better Cotton’; but also giving them leverage to access BCI  registered Ginners. For the first time they had Ginners visiting their fields for purchase of cotton. Encashing this privilege they been able significantly reduce transportation and storage costs. They now like to sell their cotton in groups as it is beneficial for them in getting optimum price.

“Land is important, productivity is managed by farmer, grouping of farmer is good for sharing, environment is important aspect, Systematic farming like BC System with optimum resources use take farmer towards approach of sustainability”.

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Converging with a local loan scheme to build a sanitation facility

Mrs. Surekha Suresh Rathod belongs to Ghatana village located some 30 kilometers from Yavatmal. While working with women like her in this village, the need for household sanitation facilities and bathrooms was felt. They did not like having to travel distances for defecations and preferred the comfort of a household block. However, financing the cost of construction of such a structure has always loomed large and prevented them for moving forward.

The Jankalyan scheme of Vidarbha Kshetriya Gramin Bank, within whose service area Ghatana fell was a perfect source of meeting the requirements of these women. They were not only providing a loan for construction of sanitation facilities, but also purchase of solar lanterns. To meet the precursors of the bank, the women were organized into four Joint Liability Groups of four members each. The determination among the women to construct these toilets was such that each of them contributed the mandatory beneficiary contribution – 20 percent of the support amount.

Individually having deposited Rs 8,000 with the bank, each of these women received the 1st installment under the scheme. Guided by the team they are now proud owners of a combined toilet and bathroom complex. Having judiciously utilized the amount received from their 1st installments, 16 such complexes can be observed in their village. They no longer have to defecate in the open.

Regularly repaying their monthly installment of Rs 500, they are hopeful of receiving the final installment from the bank, from which they will purchase a solar lantern.  Construction of these toilets is good example where determination and financial support can culminate in improving rural areas. They represent examples from the field of the much spoken about ‘Convergence’ approach.

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Budgeting water to plan for secure future of drinking water

While the competition to use water is stiff; the drinking water requirements of some 900 odd inhabitants of Manighatta Mitta, a small habitation located peripherally to M.Gollahalli village is often overshadowed by its more demanding agricultural sector. The presence of three bore wells does not define the supply side, as functionality is restricted to a sole bore well, courtesy persistent groundwater drafts in the past. While a yield of 36,000 liters/day meets current drinking water requirements, locals face a parched future if continued dependence on this well is faced.

Breaking down the science behind groundwater holds the key to initiating a more sustainable groundwater utilization regime. Ignorant about the drinking water requirements of their habitation, they were unequipped to estimate demand, identify key competing sectors, correlate it with existing supply; and also measures which will help ensure that the future water requirements of their habitation are met internally.

Water Budget Estimations were found be an engaging tool to capacitate the locals on simplified methods to calculate the total water requirements of their habitation – drinking, livestock and agriculture. The eagerness among the locals to quantify surface and groundwater in their village was palpable during the exercises. To push enthusiasm to the next level, necessary hand holding was provided towards computation of the water budget for their habitation.

Standing tall with a water demand (domestic and irrigation) of 3,66,130 cum per year, the supply fell far short at only 75,942 cum per year. Shocking deficit of over 400 percent, were swift triggers to generate a demand on identifying those measures which will help reduce deficits.

Based on an understanding the water scenario in their village, locals identified some key measures that will help them ensure that water is available for the future. Guided by the team, the deal at point source recharge measures, roof water harvesting, and introduction of low water requiring agriculture and irrigation practices was sealed.

Having prepared a ‘Drinking Water Security Plan’ for the first time, people who participated in the exercise were enthused to take this to the next level and start working towards reducing their groundwater drafts vis-à-vis giving back through recharge measures.

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Decentralizing governance through financial strengthening of WUA

Govta WUA is the largest WUA that we have been working with. The reservoir within whose command area (covering 17 villages) they fall has a storage capacity of 11 million cubic meters. Since the prerogative of maintaining these channels has generally lain with the Water Resources Department, those that depend on waters from these channels have rarely had to apply themselves towards its up keep. Even generation of financial resources to fund expenses was never really their concern, with revenue department engaging its operative at the village level to do the needful – local patwari. However, man power requirements to ensure collection of relevant tariffs and timely repairs have failed to cope up with local demands. The burden therefore fell on water users of the irrigation system, whose access to critical irrigation stood compromised.

Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) was taken to the field, with Water User Groups comprising of beneficiaries lying within the command area created. Even though intense capacity building exercises were conducted, drawing them down were inadequate financial resources to manage among O&M expenses initial routine expenses.

Irrigation tariffs have been standard instruments adopted by local patwari to generate revenue. Equipped to estimate water tariffs based on type of crop owned, they have been maintaining such farmer wise records. However, issues of inequity have often plagued the regularization of this process. Unsatisfied with allocations of water, there is an unwillingness to cough up legitimate dues. Also once actual transfers of powers materialize, streamlining processes of tariff collection will contribute to valuable incomes of the WUA.

Concerted efforts were made during the meetings with the WUA to initiate processes of tariff collection. Successes have been recorded with several members of the WUA contributing their share of the irrigation tariff.
A significant feat has been the arrival at a common consensus among all members for collection of irrigation tariffs twice the highest tariff. Having successfully initiated processes of tariff collection, they are amongst the few to have done that.

While troding the path of 100 percent compliance in terms of tariff collection is a challenge;, Govta WUA found that these small stepping stones were strong starting points. While Govta WUA will have to intensify efforts for addressing the issue of equity in distribution of its waters, acceptance and effective implementation of the ‘barabandhi system’ of water distribution might not only improve equity but also bring greater number of irrigation tariff payers into the loop.

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Planning cropping patterns based on participatory monitoring of groundwater

10 acres of land and a dug well of 32 feet are two assets that Raju Uttamrao Eche can pride by. While 7 acres are diverted towards cultivation of soya bean, 3 acres are put to the cultivation of cotton. Purely dependent on rainfall his crops are often victims of its erraticness. Since both rainfall and availability of water from his dug well are unreliable, he tends to confine himself to a kharif crop, underutilizing the potential of his land by keeping it ideal for the remaining part of the year.  Excessive runoffs in the upper catchment also do not contribute wonders to the recharge of his well.

He came in contact with the programme through a watershed project being implemented in his village. Based on meetings with the Village Watershed Committee and the location of his field vis-à-vis the watershed, his dug well was finalized as one of the five observation wells in his village.

A reluctant farmer, constant hand holding was required to maintain ground water records at his observation well. However, daily recordings of the data; and observing changes in groundwater levels with season he began to take a keen interest in the programme. Courtesy the success of water conservation measures implemented through a watershed programme in his village, he began to take note of improvements in groundwater levels especially during the rabi and summer seasons. Water Budget estimations taking into consideration groundwater levels in his well, planning of crops for his field was also streamlined.

Eche is now the owner of an asset that reaps dividends. He has taken to cultivation of a second crop.  He has diverted 3 acres of his land under soya bean to the cultivation of a mixed crop of vegetable and orange and the entire tract under cotton to orange. Caution instilled in him during the water budget estimations, however have guided him towards the adoption of water reducing irrigation practices. Although he cannot claim to have reduced groundwater drafts from his well, the adoption of drip and sprinkler irrigation in both his kharif and rabi crop is definitely a step in the direction of using groundwater more sustainably. Wisely utilizing his water during the kharif also ensures that he can provide at least critical irrigation to a summer crop.

His field is sound representation of planning crops based on available water resources. He is not only contributing to sustainable utilization of water but is also not compromising in incomes earned.

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Where there is a will, there is a canal

Recently, AFPRO had the opportunity to lend technical assistance to a self-generated effort of villagers in the Nalanda district in Bihar. The district is characterised by a flat topography, criss-crossed by rivers, pynes (high-level canals) and reservoirs. The most important of the rivers is the Paimar, the ‘Sada Neera’ or the ‘perennial river’. The river is the main feeding source for a wide network of canals and pynes including the Kolhuan pyne that used to irrigate 80-85 villages of Nalanda and Islampur regions in British times. By the end of the Zamindari system, landlords registered submergence lands surrounding the pyne in their own names. This and the lack of timely maintenance made the Kolhuan pyne fade into the background for the next five decades. Shrinking sources of irrigation made the surrounding villagers take a fresh look at the pyne.

A group of youth started a relentless campaign among the villages for a revival. Slowly the movement gathered momentum, and people from all sections irrespective of caste and creed joined them. The community organised themselves into a ‘Kolhua Sangharsh Samiti’ (The Kolhua Endeavour Committee). Since the new canal alignment was falling along a different route, the Samiti decided to buy the lands falling along the canal line. About 3,10,578 rupees were collected from the farmers whose lands were falling in the command area. The money was used to buy 1.64 acres, and the rest registered in the names of the 160 members of the Samiti (2 from each of the 80 villages). For excavation work, they approached a locally active voluntary organisation, the Lok Swarajya Sangh, who in turn approached FORRAD, New Delhi, for assistance. AFPRO planned the 7-kilometer long excavation in two phases, of which Phase One is now complete. The mouth of the canal has been opened to bring the river water in, and 35 villages at the mouth of the village have grown their Kharif crop with Paimar water. At the end of the project, when the whole canal would be de-silted, all 80 villages will get enough water to save both their Rabi and Kharif crops from droughts.

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Drought Relief in Chhattisgarh

Large sections of the population of the newly formed State of Chhattisgarh are dependent on the rains to grow crops. This is especially true for the 32 per cent tribal population of the State.

In recent years, Chhattisgarh is facing one of the worst droughts in recent years, with a shortfall of 300 mm of rainfall from the usual 1100-1400 mm per year. At places, the shortfall is as much as 500 mm. Severe damage to the kharif crop inevitably led to large-scale hunger and migration. The district of Mahasamund was the worst hit.

In response to the alarming situation, several NGOs have initiated relief works. AFPRO, CARE, World Vision and the Public Health Engineering (PHE) departments of the government and village panchayats have come together to in a programme to provide succor to about 65,000 villagers in 103 villages across 43 panchayats in Mahasamund. The programme is supported by the Australian High Commission and co-ordinated by CARE.

A total of 24,226 person days of employment were generated in 32 villages. Cash-for-work in repairing and deepening ponds and tanks, construction of water diversion structures, strengthening existing dams and canals were implemented in the programme period 1st February to 1st May, 2001. The local practice of wage employment, called the Godi system was followed, whereby digging one Godi of land measuring 13ft.x13ft.x1ft. makes a person eligible for a payment of Rs.105.

In collaboration with the PHE department, AFPRO also trained 14 youth in repairing and maintaining hand pumps. The new mechanics will be given a toolkit each, and will operate in 43 panchayats. 28 non-functional hand pumps will also be repaired. Combating droughts however requires a long-term vision. AFPRO has already worked out the design details and cost estimates for soil and water conservation structures for 22 villages in the Mahasamund block. The communities where the structures are planned are cooperating enthusiastically, voluntarily guarding raw materials and supervising construction work.

A campaign is on in these villages, propagating the importance of conservation to mitigate the effects of future droughts. Drought-resistant varieties of saplings have been distributed in all 103 villages.

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Water Funds in Maharashtra

Nanaware Vasti, a small dairy community of 187 people and 160 cattle in Ghoti village is making news. Water overflowing from a bore well fitted with a submersible pump used to inundate the surrounding area, resulting not only in the loss of precious ground water but also creating unsanitary conditions due to water logging around. In a village meeting, the community suggested constructing a tank to store the excess flow. Technicians from AFPRO worked out the estimates, and the tank was complete at a cost of Rs. 80,000, including Rs. 30,000 contributed by the community. People get piped water for drinking now, and the excess is used for horticulture activities on 10 acres of village common lands. The income from this will go into a Water Fund that will maintain the drinking water supply scheme.

35 villages in Vidharba and central Maharashtra (including Ghoti) are part of a broad-based programme for providing drinking water and sanitation facilities and encouraging enhanced hygiene. The programme supported by Water Aid, is touching the lives of 27,140 villagers in these villages. In its fourth running year, the programme has been instrumental in bringing in changes in personal hygiene and availability of drinking water.

Gramin Samasya Mukti Trust, one of the partners, have already taken the first steps towards sustaining the effects of the programme by forming a water and sanitation committee, whose job it is to ensure participation from others. A federation of 13 villages and 18 hamlets have also been formed, which has started a Water Fund to repair and maintain the created infrastructure.

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Optimising Water Use Through Appropriate Distribution

Community water distribution from a single overhead storage reservoir (OHSR) faces the problem of vandalism on the distribution side, with acute consequences in areas where water supply to the reservoir is low. The AP III project of the Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to replace OHRSs with multiple medium-level storage reservoirs (MLSRs) for rural areas in the Vijayanagaram district. The project is assisted bilaterally by the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the Government of India. AFPRO took up the job of calibrating the drinking water schemes in five habitations in Jami Mandal. The multiple MLSRs avoid wastage and ensure better maintenance of the system. Besides system calibration, Public Stand Posts (PSPs) calibration has also been carried out in order to ensure a similar filling time for all the MLSRs.

A drinking water scheme like this can sustain only when there are well-defined systems with clear roles and responsibilities to monitor and maintain it. Thus, a people’s body called a Manisa has been formed for each system. In all, 12 MLSRs have been calibrated by AFPRO for the five habitations, benefiting 3,652 inhabitants of the area.

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A Safe Water and Sanitation Programme for Schoolchildren in Manipur and Tripura

Diarrhoeal diseases account for as much as 40% of serious pediatric health problems that amount to a staggering 300 million cases in the country every year. The close association between the occurrence of diarrhea, malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities is well known. Unfortunately all efforts to address this issue consider diarrhea as medical problem. An integrated approach incorporating all dimensions is a felt need in the country.

The role of AFPRO in North-East India has evolved over the past two decades of its involvement from a predominantly welfare-oriented approach to one based on integrated development needs for the village communities. As part of this integrated approach, we are now working as UNICEF extenders in the North-East region to facilitate integrated projects in water, sanitation and nutrition in West Imphal and South Tripura districts. The Governments of Manipur and Tripura have taken up integrated water and school sanitation programmes with funding support from UNICEF and technical support by AFPRO. The aim of the project is to develop an operational model to reduce the diarrheal cases by 25 per cent before December 2002, and facilitate the community based capacity building programmes towards achieving convergent services.

The overall objectives of the programme are to provide access to safe drinking water, to reduce incidence of diarrheal diseases and to enhance the nutritional status of children and pregnant women. AFPRO as a resource support agency will co-ordinate help from officials of the respective State governments and local NGOs to implement the programme in the four Rural Development blocks selected for the programme. The initial phase of two years 2000-2002 is planned as a pilot phase. AFPRO will also be involved in planning and monitoring of all the activities in the program. Some of the main activities include co-ordination of baseline studies, conducting orientation workshops and trainers training programmes providing technical assistance in installation and maintenance of hand pumps and training of masons for constructing low cost toilets.

The integrated WATSAN and nutrition project and school sanitation project is underway in Amarpur and Bagafa blocks of South Tripura districts, Tripura and CD blocks I and II of West Imphal district, Manipur.

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Community Experiences in NRM

The Community-based Human and Natural Resources Development (CBHNRD) Programme in Karnataka funded by EZE and implemented by AFPRO is on in 20 villages where the project is being implemented jointly with 9 local partners. Here are a few glimpses from the areas.

The physical components for soil and water conservation, including bunding, gully plugs, check dams and essential repairs have brought water and hope to all the villages. A highlight of the programme is the thrust given to indigenous methods of bunding and water conservation rather than capital-intensive structures. Only 4 check dams have been constructed, with cost effective budgets. As an elderly person from Huluvangala village, Kortagere taluka, Tumkur district lucidly puts it, “Earlier people from our neighbouring villages were reluctant to marry their daughters in this village because of the water scarcity. Now they happily come forward.” Water as a bride’s best friend?

123 groups have been formed till date in these villages, with 1541 women and men members. The point to note is that women, at 55 per cent, outnumber men in these groups.
In Kallahally village, Mysore district, teenage girls have come forward and formed a Yuvathi Mandali (Young Women’s Association). The 18 girls, four of whom are attending college, have learnt tailoring under the programme and are active participants in all the activities. Saving 5 rupees every week that they met, they have now collected Rs. 60,000, now deposited in a Savings Bank Account. The weekly meetings are used as a platform to discuss issues of importance to the village and the girls themselves. All of them have resolved to bring awareness among the villagers on their areas of concern. They tell us none of them would get married before reaching their eighteenth year.

The CBHNRD programme covers a population of 15,953 (2788 households) and 5,107 hectares of land. Of these, 78.5 per cent are small/marginal farmers or landless. The programme cost works out to Rs. 5,500 per hectare.

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Towards Improved Agriculture

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) optimises land use to grow not just food crops but horticultural produce and forests as well. It thus enhances income levels as well as food and fodder availability within the community. More than 1000 persons have participated in the SALT-related training events and demonstrations organised by AFPRO during the year of reporting.

10 villages in the Aravalli hills, a semi-arid zone in southern Rajasthan, have been selected for a project to implement SALT in partnership with 4 local NGOs. In all, 415 farmers with 200 hectares of land are part of the initiative. Disseminating the uses of the practice were a main concern in the first year of operation. The area being one of limited water availability, SALT involves many water-saving techniques such as liquid manure with dung and urine, and using plant waste through mulching. Agro-forestry groups have been formed among the villagers, which has promoted their interest in the workings of SALT. As part of the agro-forestry groups, the women of the villages are getting an opportunity to come out of their cloistered roles and take on questions of land productivity along with their men folk.

The villagers who have adopted SALT techniques demonstrate a combination of appropriate technology and management techniques, the cornerstone of conservation.

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Integrated Rural Development Programme for the North-East

The seven states of North Eastern India are similar in terms of development challenges faced. EZE-EED has been supporting small NGOs to start various projects under AFPRO’s overall coordination since 1982. Package Programme VI, the latest running project, went through an assessment in 2000 to see the impact of such initiatives given the macro situation for the North Eastern states.

Technical support in the form of building irrigation and water supply structures, biogas plants, low-cost toilets have gone towards fulfilling much-needed infrastructure requirements of the villagers. Designs have been modified in certain cases to suit local needs, as in the Shramik Bandhu Biogas Plant, made of locally available bamboo instead of bricks, an expensive commodity in this hilly region.

Apart from providing assistance to villages through the 19 partners, the programme had a decided thrust on capacity building, both for the villagers as well as the partners. There are many instances of poor families becoming self-sufficient through timely assistance from the programme. A family in Manipur grows a local plant called Yenam (from the garlic family) that is very popular in the local market and gives returns amounting to as much as Rs. 750 per day. In another village – Hengbung, Hahat Kipgen, a Kuki woman, shares her views on the thrift and credit programme for women: “Men are jealous of us as we are the poineer moneylenders in the village. We feel very powerful to be lending out money”.

Interventions like supply of oil-engine pumps to lift irrigate paddy, pineapple and pepper cultivation has considerably increased household income.

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Livelihood Support for Coastal Orissa

The super cyclone that struck coastal Orissa on 29th-30th October 1999 and the floods following it necessitated relief measures on an emergency basis – timely support that helped people to survive in those critical days. When things settled down, however, many were left without any means of livelihood. The poor in general – small and marginal farmers and fisher folk – did not have resources to rebuild their lives. Migration in search of labor started from the coastal districts.

AFPRO’s response to the crisis came in the form of post-disaster support to enable the cyclone-affected persons to generate livelihoods in their own villages. The Orissa Livelihood Restoration Fund, conceived by SDC, aims at rebuilding lives in all six coastal districts, with AFPRO covering 4 of them. In all, 3416 families are being covered under the programme, working out to an average of Rs. 1,539 to be invested per family. All the beneficiaries of the individual family support programme are returning 25 per cent of the amount vested in them to the village group for the revolving fund.

Among specific support, inputs like paddy and vegetable seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, iron ploughs and threshers were provided for the farmers to start cultivating. Land improvement activities were also carried out and inputs provided to increase crop yields, in both kharif as well as rabi seasons. To support irrigation, shallow tube wells with either Krishak Bandhu or diesel engine pumps. Cows and goats were distributed, especially among the widows from the cyclone. Fisher folk were also supported with equipment like boats and nets lost in the cyclone; inland fisher folk were aided with inputs for pisciculture.

Aid is supplemented with strategies to mobilize these communities in taking charge over their lives. As an approach, it is proving its efficacy, as shown by the increased degree of participation in community works, especially by women.

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Joint Forest Management: A Learning

In September 1999, AFPRO-SDC started a community-based programme to better the relationship between tribal people in 40 villages covering 4,364 families of Yawatmal district with the surrounding forestlands.

Of the 40, 25 villages have passed a Gram Sabha resolution to start forest management jointly with the Forest Department. Experience gained during the initiation process led to management of non-timber forest produce emerging as a major tool for economic upliftment. In this way, an age-old symbiosis between the forests and the communities dependant on them was re-established. Non-violent ways of harvesting honey was one such way. About 5000 kilos were harvested; with appropriate links with the Food and Drug authorities on one hand and the markets on the other, this has developed into a major income generator.

Initially the groups stressed on protecting the forests through forest protection committees as conceived by government policies. With changing practices, it is increasingly being acknowledged that the interests of the stakeholders will be taken care of only if ‘protection’ is replaced with ‘management’. This is an important learning for the groups, and the network hopes to share its views with others in the State.

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Leading the Way Towards Natural Pest Control

High input costs typically hit small and marginal farmers the hardest. Since approximately one-thirds of the world’s harvest is lost due to pest attacks, non-chemical based pest prevention and control is fundamental to agriculture today.

Integrated pest management is a system that utilises all suitable techniques and methods in context of the environment and population dynamics of pest species and maintains them at levels below those that can cause economic injury (the Economic Threshold Level or ETL). IPM reflects and reinforces the goals of a more sustainable agriculture. Since it is an amalgamation of all compatible management practices, the chances of failure are minimized, as every system acts as a backup for the other. The measures used check possibilities of developing pesticide-resistant varieties of pests and diseases.

A unique research project is underway on 120 acres(48.56 hec.) of cotton-growing fields in the Jalna district of Maharashtra. Sixty-four farmers of Bhutkheda village are voluntary participants of an action research project on integrated pest management (IPM). Funded by SDC and implemented by AFPRO and Marathwada Sheti Sahayak Mandal (MSSM) Aurangabad, the uniqueness of the project lies making an environment-friendly alternative amenable to the farmers. It combines knowledge with application to make the whole learning process practicable.

Among the specific measures introduced, cotton was inter cropped with cowpea in order to divert the aphids and leafminer pests to this crop. T-shaped bird perches and various bio-agents like Chrysopa, Trichogramma, HaNPV etc. were also used for the management of pests.

The farmers are happy given a yield of 7.1 quintals on an average on the IPM fields, at a reduced cost of production. While their non-IPM neighbors have equal or higher yields, it is at the cost of tremendous cost of inputs (see table).

Comparing Costs of Production

Type of farming

Cost-Benefit Ratio

Cotton 1


Cotton 1


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The Deenbandhu 2000 Model Biogas Plant

The Deenbandhu 2000 Model Biogas Plant is the latest in the line of innovations in alternative rural energy developed by AFPRO. At Rs. 7,600 for a 2 cubic meter plant and Rs. 9,300 for a 3 cubic meter plant, it costs up to 1 6% lesser than AFPRO’s earlier model, the Deenbandhu Biogas Plant. Changes include a dome-shaped outlet tank, reduced thickness of the walls and reduced diameter. of the inlet pipe. Besides being cheaper, the new plant is also easier to maintain. The existing design has a rectangular outlet tank, often left uncovered by the plant owners to save the expense. This risk is eliminated in the present dome-shaped design. The wider open area in the existing design increased scum formation due to the effect of ambient air and accumulation of slurry at the corners and on the side walls, a problem that is again eliminated in the new design.
Being user-friendly, the plant is especially beneficial for women. The model has been submitted for approval with the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Government of India.

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Promoting Joint Management of Forests in Andhra Pradesh

The practice of joint forest management through forest protection committees – Van Samrakshana Samitis (VSS), as they are called in Andhra Pradesh, faced some practical challenges with the conclusion of the first phase of funding by the World Bank in Septermber 2000. The AFPRO-SDC project to better the relationship between forests and the people (operational since 1998) took this as a learning ground; all 14 local partners under the project were able to sustain the interests of the 120 VSS.
In some VSS areas, harassment by forest officials on false charges of theft and smuggling have not stopped. Changing roles whereby communities become more active on management aspects are not yet grasped or accepted by the officials. However, VSS are emerging as strong local level institutions. A clear distinction has emerged between the JFM and the non-JFM areas. Women in the JFM areas are more articulate, participating ‘in community activities and aware about their rights. In ecological terms, the JFM areas report increased floral growth and lesser incidence of fires and illegal activities. However, its impact on poverty levels has been negligible. This is where the income generation projects come in to give a certain amount of succor to the VSS members. In the year of reporting, a training on collecting, processing and marketing minor forest produce and an exposure trip to Orissa to understand the working of community forest management helped to keep interests high in evolving new ways to use forests in an enduring manner.

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The Gujarat Earthquake: AFPRO’s Response

An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale hit Gujarat on the morning of 26th January 2001. Twenty-one out of Gujarat’s 26 districts was affected, and 26,000 lives were lost. The Earthquake left 1.69 lakhs injured and caused immense damage to physical structures, including water harvesting and storage structures that were the only source of water to this drought-prone region.

Our experience with the 1993 Latur Earthquake in Maharashtra taught us that immediate relief support must get transformed into long-term strategies for rehabilitation and development, for relief to have any meaning at all for the poor. In collaboration with 6 voluntary agencies, AFPRO addressed the immediate problem of water scarcity by siting and drilling wells and providing technical assistance for renovating tanks, etc.

We carried out an assessment study on the extent of damage to structures such as tanks, bunds, check dams and constructing reservoirs and tanks for 20 villages and 6809 families in the three blocks of Rapar, Anjar and Bachau in Bhuj. The study will be used for a proposal for restoring soil and water conservation structures, agriculture and livestock to be implemented by World Vision, India. A comprehensive rehabilitation programme for water harvesting structures is also being worked out for the Kutch region with funding support from Wells for India, UK. Training programmes on hand pump repair and maintenance were conducted for youth in Surendranagar district in Kutch.

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Cultivating Herbal Plants as an Alternate Source of Livelihood

Bolangir is among the most underdeveloped districts of Orissa, characterized by recurrent droughts and crop failures. AFPRO conceived of a project to develop a simple, cost-effective model for drought-proofing the area by using in-situ soil moisture and a diverse cropping pattern to ensure food security. 125 farmers from 5 villages are past of the exercise, which uses a combination of technology and information dissemination. The project is mainly aimed at providing alternate sources of livelihood by growing herbal plants and uses a technique called the 60:40 technique. The 60:40 technique uses 60 per cent of the agricultural land to grow the main crop, and leaves the other 40 per cent to grow other crops, thus reducing the pressure on the land. The program also promotes the Jaldhara and 5% models to conserve soil moisture. Multi-tier cropping based on a combination of agriculture, silviculture, horticulture and herbal plants. About 121 acres are being treated with these technologies. The main thrust of the program has been to popularize the use of these technologies to beat the drought. Farmers have been exposed to all these technologies through training programmes and exposure visits. Soil test kits have been distributed in the project villages.

Bridging the gap between available technology to combat drought and community practices, the project is a small step towards enhancing the community’s resource base.

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The Drops that made the Ocean

Seven years ago, monsoons and the local moneylenders were the pivots around which lives revolved for 15 remote villages in the Central Indian districts of Balaghat, Lalitpur, Dewas, Sarguja, Chchindwara, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Mandla. Drinking water and adequate food, the two most basic commodities, were seasonal in availability, and food-for-work programmes that materialized in the worst of droughts only served as a stopgap arrangement.

Things are different in these 15 villages now. In 1994, a program aimed at watershed development was started in 12 drought-prone villages in Madhya Pradesh, 1 in Chhattisgarh and 2 in Uttar Pradesh. Supported by Christian Aid and the Lutheran World Relief, the programme was put into operation by 8 local partners, with AFPRO providing the technical services. Over a period of six years form 1994 to 2000, a number of physical structures have ensured better soil and water conservation in each of these villages. In all, 21 check dams and 6 check weirs have been built, and over 1000 hectares of agricultural land improved through bunding, leveling etc. Other soil conservation measures include 190 gully plugs and 14,510 meters of graded bunds. Drinking water problems especially have been solved with the installation of 10 hand pumps and 6 bore wells. The villagers are still dependent on the rains, but their ability to use the monsoon water for a longer period of time has been bolstered. 62 community organizations like self-help groups, watershed and farmers’ committees have been set up, and are seen by the partners as the first step in enabling the poor to regain control over their lives. Understandably, then, the local moneylenders are not too pleased!

Particular attention to gender concerns has paid dividends: as of today, women and men participate equally in village meetings. Equity as a practice was emphasised by paying women and men equal wages in the implementation of the programme. As Rulibai, President of the Mahila Samiti in Dolbaj, district Dewas says, “Things have changed so much. Earlier we would not even sit at the same place with men folk. Now we can debate and discuss with them on anything of concern to us all.”

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Towards Greater Self-Reliance

The Rayalseema area in southern Andhra Pradesh is a semi-arid zone, getting only about 450-600 mm rainfall in a year. The Rayalseema Watershed Development Programme zeroed in on 6 micro-watersheds in 21 villages in 4 districts with moderate to acute water shortage: Ananthapur, Chittor, Cuddappa and Nellore. The basic starting point for the project was the understanding that soil moisture is the cheapest source of irrigation for village communities. The underlying goal was to ensure equity – gender as well as class based.

The RWDP is a joint effort of 5 funding partners – Action for World Solidarity (ASW)/CWS, Bread For the World, Christian Aid, Oxfam (I) Trust and Water Aid and 6 local implementation partners, with AFPRO providing the socio-technical services. It covers 1508 persons with 3597.21 acres of personally owned land and 851.33 common property resources.

At the very beginning, the implementing agencies dialogued with landless and marginal farmers, focussing more on the needs of groups that depended solely, or at least in majority, on livestock assets. The physical factors contributing to water scarcity, as well as the social factors that denied weaker sections access to available water resources, were discussed at community-level meetings where both the landed as well as landless voiced ideas on feasible designs for water harvesting structures, construction materials, etc. Exposure trips and training courses on soil and water conservation and rainwater harvesting made the concepts clear, and gave them the requisite knowledge to think about, and plan, structures and designs for their own communities.

Gradually, interest levels were raised enough for the villagers to participate as members of water harvesting committees consisting of both men and women to supervise construction. Similarly, committees on drinking water and sanitation and work monitoring were also organized. The community jointly decided to disburse the benefits of the program to landless and land-poor families by investing in ponds as drinking water reservoirs for domestic animals. Such planning made sure that the concerns of the marginalised were met in the course of the project. In at least 7 villages, women were involved in deciding the crop mix, with the direct result that the ratio of food crops grown increased.

Among the clearly expressed impacts at the end of the four-year project period:

  • Marked improvement in surface water storage and availability due to rainwater harvesting structures (renovated as well as new ones). Surface water lasts for longer periods.
  • Enhanced soil moisture content, reducing risks of crop failures.
  • Build up in ground water levels: Drinking water wells are full, 13 hitherto dry open wells are recharged, 11 community irrigation wells are in operation.
  • Livestock have been ensured drinking water.

Of special mention is a boost in self-confidence by putting into practice the right to equal wages and involving women in jobs requiring skilled labour. In the words of the evaluators, “encouraging women to take up skilled works, which were normally done by men, has significantly enhanced their confidence”.

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Enabling better management

In recent times, we have noted that many land-based interventions take the landless, among the outermost fringes of the rural earning groups, only minimally into account. Owning little or no land or landed assets such as homestead land or agricultural fields, landless families generally have small animals like goats, chicken, or pigs to help tide over urgent monetary needs as well as ensure a certain level of nutritional adequacy.

AFPRO main thrust in livestock management has been in capacitating the poor in owning, and maintaining, their livestock assets. All the long-term watershed development projects are increasingly focussing on fulfilling the water and fodder requirements for the village livestock. In the Rayalseema Watershed Development Project, for instance, watering holes were made and earmarked specially for the use of animals belonging to landless households. Another program is the revolving fund for goats, used mainly by women. A woman takes a loan from the group and buys a certain number of goats. When their numbers double, she sells off half the number and returns the loaned amount to the group, which then loans an amount to another woman.

Another major approach in livestock development was one of training village-level animal health workers in basic veterinary skills. These ‘Barefoot Veterinary Technicians’, as we call them, act as life savers for livestock in remote villages out of reach for veterinary doctors, and in so doing, earn an extra income. Self-help groups operating in villages identify the potential trainees. The usual criterion for selection is school education up to Class X and dropouts from higher classes. The participants help to streamline the training schedule according to the specific needs of the village and an understanding of the common veterinary problems. The emphasis thus varies from state to state. In Maharashtra, the thrust is on cattle, buffaloes and goats. In Rajasthan it is on camels, sheep and goats; while in the North-East, it is on rearing pigs and broilers.

Trained technicians have reported earning Rs. 800 – Rs. 3000 per month. They often write back to our livestock section to seek advice on exceptional problems. An indicator of enhanced animal health in the villages is the fact that income from providing para-veterinary services goes down over a period of time! This was reported to us in the refresher courses we hold for the technicians every six months. Apart from allopathic vaccines and other preventive measures, safe calving techniques and cross breeding, the training programme also covered locally obtainable herbal medicines.

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Hope for the Andhra Fisherfolk

AFPRO’s work among fisher folk has mainly focussed on the state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the four major maritime states of the Indian mainland. The estimated marine fishing population is about 5 lakhs, of which about 1.45 lakhs are active fishermen and women.

Developments in the marine fisheries sector in the past two decades have not been very encouraging from the point of view of the traditional fisher folk. From the eighties onwards, increases in the number of mechanised trawlers have had a direct negative impact on traditional fishing. The trawlers sweep the seabed, with serious implications for the sustenance of he resource pool. Besides, they often overrun the fishing gear of traditional crafts, causing damage to the generally poor traditional fisher folk. Though the Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1996, of the Andhra Pradesh Government allows mechanised fishing only beyond an 8-kilometer zone from the coast, meaningful enforcement is yet to be seen.

The boom in coastal shrimp farming, especially in the period 1991-95 by the corporate and private sectors alienated many of these fisher folk from their lands. The Supreme Court judgement banning shrimp cultivation in the coastal regulation zones and the directions of the Aquaculture Authority are yet to be grounded. Coastal mangrove forests that are being depleted due to human pressure, disintegrating both productive as well as protective roles. Information collected from all parts of the Andhra coast corroborates the fact that the per craft catch, number of fishing days and the average size of the various species have all come down over the years. Apart from trawling in coastal waters, the finer mesh nets used by traditional fisher folk also threaten fishing resources. Overexploitation threatens the coastal fisher folk most, as fishing is often the only trade they know. Besides, the area is prone to cyclones, in which these communities are naturally the most vulnerable group. Experience shows that despite the advanced prediction systems, the warning dissemination network needs improvements.

Compared to the other maritime states like Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu, fisher folk in coastal Andhra Pradesh are yet to get organized in order to take collective action on their rights. Education and awareness levels are low, especially among the women and the investment and credit support required frequently for replacing and repairing crafts and gear is not forthcoming from institutional systems. Fishermen co-operatives at the primary level are defunct in most cases. Poor roads and lack of storage facilities translate into difficulties in post-harvest marketing for the traditional fisher folk, though women do sell dried varieties in local markets. Of late, the intrusion of merchants from outside has also affected these women fish traders adversely.

Subsidized fiberglass crafts and motorizing boats are some ways in which the traditional fishing communities have been benefited. But what is very clear is that unless the available fishing pool is protected in some way, none of the inputs will help in the long run.

AFPRO’s involvement in developing the fisher folk therefore focuses not just appropriate technical inputs (70 artificial reefs have been installed in the year of reporting) but also strengthening other sources of livelihood and organisation among the fisher folk to better their bargaining power. Awareness about the urgency of conservation to endure a livelihood from fishing are regularly emphasized in all our programmes with the fishing communities. Issue-specific studies have been conducted to aid intervention strategies. A present study is ongoing to understand occupational migrations and shifts due most often to poverty. In the AFPRO-SDC project area, community-based disaster preparedness measures have been introduced, that came into use directly in the cyclone threat to the 40 villages in Prakasam and Nellore district in October 2000. Albazzia fulcataria, a tree species used to make fishing crafts and catamarans, was brought from Kerala and planted by some villagers in their backyards. The availability of this wood has been a major bottleneck for crafts making in recent years. The fisheries programme in coastal Andhra thus takes a comprehensive approach, encompassing the practical as well as strategic needs of the fishing communities and the ocean and land on which their livelihoods depend.

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Cadre Building for NRM: A training course

The management of natural resources requires a skilful blend of physical components, socio-economic practices, and proper linkages among Governmental and non-Governmental agencies in order that village communities and the natural environment from which they draw their sustenance benefit. Often, the degree of success of a program that requires such interdisciplinary skills depends on the attitude and orientation person on the field. With this in view, AFPRO has designed a year-long training course for field workers in NRM. To be conducted jointly with Janvikas, Ahmedabad, the program will be subsidized through a grant from SDC, Berne.

The course covers socio-technical aspects and skills to be applied in the rural setting. Around 60 per cent of the course time is allotted for field exercises and placements at project villages with experienced NGOs. 12 candidates were taken for the first batch, started in July 2001.

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Perspective building in gender for watershed development programmes: A training programme

Seventeen participants from 14 NGOs participated in a three-day training on building a perspective for a gender-sensitive approach to watershed programmes.
In watershed programmes, various ways are adopted to make the intervention sensitive to the practical as well as strategic needs of women. Assuring a drinking water source near the home may be one way of addressing a practical need. Ensuring women’s participation in decision-making groups along with men and increasing the access to credit and other livelihood options are the first steps to address the strategic needs of empowerment.

Staff members from AFPRO have already gone through a thorough ‘training for trainers’ on these aspects from 1998 onwards. Given the pervasive nature of gender as a continuos area of co-operation and conflict, AFPRO trainers also go through a learning experience while conducting the training. Such interactive programmes encourage insightful thinking and action. They are all the more significant given the fact that engendering the prevalent practices and ways of thinking cannot be a one-time service. The benefits, though often not immediately tangible, can show up in myriad indicators like improved health facilities for the family, reduced maternal and infant mortality rates, better literacy rates etc.

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Joining hands to address food security

Given the ecological and demographic diversity that characterizes India, the best way to maximize our resources and learning to be more effective is through networking. We believe that sharing our experiences to plan interventions addresses regional needs more efficiently. AFPRO supports or is part of several region-specific networks of NGOs that discuss emergent needs, plan programmes and capacity building exercises, and lend each other a helping hand in forwarding the agenda set.

One such compelling concern is the issue of food security, especially in the drought-prone areas. Getting adequate and nutritious food in steady supply is a year-round worry for much of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa, three states that have seen persistent droughts in the past years.

In Orissa, AFPRO is the technical support agency for a forum on food security called Action For Food Security – Orissa (AFFSO). This group of 51 small and medium voluntary organisations has pooled their ideas to ensure food security for all in the state. Recognising the lack of adequate inputs like skills and technological to produce and store enough food for family consumption to be among the primary cause behind predominant hunger and distress migration in the state, the network plans to bolster the community’s strength in a long-term way. Capacity-building programmes are planned for the coming year.

In Rajasthan, we recently held a workshop on food security for the arid and semi-arid zones of India. A group of twenty-five persons from 16 NGOs participated in the discourse. In the context of the poor, food with dignity, for a creative and active life is what matters, the group emphasised. Major areas where proactive interventions are required are:

  • Sustainable practices for soil and water conservation and promotion of mixed/organic cropping with an emphasis on dry land crops such as Bajra (Pearl Millet) and Ragi (Finger Millet).
  • Targeting the degraded natural resource base, especially forests, for conservation and regeneration.
  • Ensuring alternative sources of non-farm income for landless, marginal and small farmers; including optimum utilisation of non-timber forest produce, skill enhancement, credit mechanisms etc. to control distress migration.
  • Reviving, with suitable alterations, traditional techniques in animal health care and management, with due attention to fodder requirements.
  • Strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions to ensure policy implementation as well as recommendations.
  • Advocacy for a people-oriented policy towards food security, with corrections in the public distribution system to make it match local requirements. Advocacy also needs to shift from being a crisis-induced response to a more-long-term one.
  • Ensuring optimum returns for the farmer through marketing channels.
  • Disaster preparedness to take a long-term view of the strategic nature of food security.

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