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). However, the annual cycle of floods in his low lying village prevent him from reaping a safe harvest.
Well aware of the short comings of his land, Mr Gulok Mandal of Dharampur knows that cultivating crops in soil with high moisture (water logged) can weaken young samplings and affect overall productivity. Further, the practice of late sowing is associated with water shortages in the summer season and late harvests. Crops cultivated under such conditions also fetch prices below the market average, resulting in lower incomes earned.
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.
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, soil and water have emerged as some of the critical challenges affecting his cultivation of cotton.
Cotton picking in progress
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
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. 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 is a bride’s best friend!
Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) optimizes 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 organized by AFPRO during the year of reporting.
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.
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.
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 September 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 120VSS.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.