|Uday Das - A Farmar With a Difference...|
In Purah, a village on the eastern bank of river Ichhamati, lives Uday Das, a marginal farmer having only 15 kathas (about 1005 sq.m.) of land. Till 1998, he was doing chemical intensive agriculture. Naturally he had run up debts of thousands of rupees in the local shop selling agrochemicals. Over the last ten years the prices of crops and vegetables have been much lower than the escalating cost of producing them. In 1998, the situation worsened when Uday had to sell his goats to pay off his debts in the agrochemicals shop. In the middle of the same year, Uday had to be hospitalized with a complaint of acute pain in the stomach. 5 Kathas of land had to be sold out to meet his hospital expenses. Doctors who examined him opined that Uday's illness has been caused by his unprotected exposure to excessive amount of pesticides.
These incidents happened to be the turning point in Uday's life. For quite some time he had been thinking of leaving chemical intensive agriculture and embracing organic agriculture to develop an integrated sustainable system. These incidents gave him the necessary jerk to work for realising his thoughts.
At this juncture, he happened to meet two trainers from Swanirvar, a local organization propagating sustainable agriculture in the area. From them he came to know about the concept of integrated farming, that ensures optimum production from a plot through sustainable management of available resources. Now he knew that soil erosion due to rain could be reduced by mulching; different plants that draw nutrients from different layers of the soil could be planted closely in a small space; that mixed cropping is more secured than monocropping in view of crop loss due to pest attacks. Backed up by this knowledge, Uday started the process of conversion from chemical-intensive to organic agriculture.
He started by dividing his 10 katha plot into four more or less equal parts. On the southeast side, he prepared a number of beds running from east to west. At first he used the spade to turn the soil. Then he spread a 4/5 cm. thick layer of green leaves and straw and put a layer of compost over this. On these beds he planted egg plants and chillies of the bullet variety in the pre-Kharif season. The chilie plants grew well, but pest infestation on the eggplants compelled him to uproot them and cultivate winged beans in its place.
In the northeast part of the land, he made a trellis for supporting winged beans and Indian spinach. He utilized the place under the trellis by cultivating a kind of pulse called Karai. After harvesting these crops, he combined winged beans and bitter gourd in the Kharif season. He made the trellis to support the creepers that ensured a better yield than if they are allowed to creep on the ground.
In the northwest section, he dug a drain to facilitate irrigation. Uday also uses this part as a path for his movement. In this part, he planted a number of banana trees. Uday considers banana to be one of the trees ideal for a home garden. All its parts - flowers, fruits and trunk - may be consumed as food. Its leaves may be used as plates and the ashes of its burnt bark may be used to clean utensils. But a regular watering is required for this tree.
According to Uday, the vegetables and fruits for cultivation in a home garden should preferably be selected from those that germinate easily, require less care and whose crop might be harvested over a longer period of time. He selected the vegetables and fruit trees for his garden from among those that meet these criteria. For example, bullet chilies are available almost throughout the year. The papaya tree yields fruits for 4 years at a stretch.
Uday made a small nursery in the south-west part of his land. There he prepared saplings of jackfruit, papaya, cowpea, karai and Indian spinach in the Kharif season of 2001. The innovative farmer utilized the surrounding ridges also for cultivation. On the eastern ridges, he planted papaya and bitter gourd. On the northern side he planted banana, papaya, bullet chilie, cowpea, winged bean, ridged gourd etc. An unmetalled road that runs into the village lies in the northern border of his land. In between this road and his land there is a drain. Uday made a trellis over this drain to grow a few creepers like ridged gourd, bean and greater yams. He grew a few papaya trees on the western side and also ridged gourds, lady's finger and beans.
Uday informed that with this system of cultivation, he gets one crop or the other throughout the year. So he hardly gets an opportunity to plough the land. In his opinion, spade should be used to turn the soil. After harvesting one crop, the second crop should not be sown immediately. The first task after harvesting should be turning the soil with the spade. Then the land should be dried after exposing it to sun and rain for sometime. It is only after conducting these steps that the next crop should be sown.
He has reduced the use of chemical fertilizer to a great extent, but has not been able to stop it completely. At the moment he requires some 5 Kg. of Ammonium Sulphate for his 10 katha plot. He, however, had good result by using poultry litter in place of urea. He has a cow and a calf in his home. Earlier, when he used to cultivate paddy, the straw necessary to feed the cattle came from his land itself. Now he has to purchase the straw, but his goats and hens feed on the leaves of the trees in his homestead and also on kitchen-waste. From the bamboo-clump adjacent to his house, Uday gets firewood sufficient to meet the family's fuel requirement for at least 8 months. He has to purchase fuel to meet the requirement for the rest of the year. Earlier he could fulfill his family's food requirement for 6 months from his own produce, now it covers at least 9 months.
In 1999, when piled up debts in the fertilizer shop compelled Uday Das to start changing the prevailing cultivation system to do something new, his brothers, habituated to chemical intensive cultivation, thought that he would perish with his wife and children very soon. Now, Uday has cleared his debts to the fertilizer shop and has got his daughter married in a good family. After undertaking a course in tailoring, his two sons have started earning independently. He has purchased one more cow. A TV set for the entertainment of his family has also been purchased in the mean time. He has plans to build a brick-house in place of the existing mud and tile structure.
|Banamali Das, an Integrated Farmer|
Banamali Das resides in Gayadham village of south24 parganas of West Bengal. He has 5 members in integrated farming. He started in 0.25 acres of land with pond and homestead garden and 0.33 acre of lowland.
This farm is situated in Sunderban delta, hence the soil is clayey and saline. His land was often flooded as it is located beside a river. In the lowland, Banamali used to grow paddy in Kharif and potato and lathyrus in Ravi. In his homestead, he cultivated fruit and leafy vegetables, but that could not reduce his dependence on the market. He reared fish in the pond too, but did not earn much. Cow dung and farmyard manure were used as soil ammendments.
He has cow, duck and hen as livestock. He adopted suitable complex farming design with rice-fish-duck-azolla during kharif.
His trial farm is free from any chemicals.
In these last years, the percentage of organic carbon in the soil has increased. If we compare Banamali's plot with a conventional plot in the context of fossil fuel dependency, we find that Fossil fuel dependency is practically 0(zero) because all variable inputs are produced from within the farm. Most of the labour required in the production process is contributed by the farmer himself and by his family members. However he has planned his farm in such a way that drudgery is reduced.
Today Banamali Das manages his farm efficiently and has reaped economic, environmental and social benefits from it. Many farmers, after seeing the success of Banamali, has shifted to integrate farming, both within the area, and also outside it. Banamali has not only done input substitution and reduced his market dependency but also generated profits from selling considerable amount of output after meeting the necessities of his family.
The practice of integrated organic farming has given his family food security and the considerable extent of integration done in his farm has reduced his dependence on market as his farm inputs are largely being generated in the farm itself.
|Common Property Resource Management in Birbhum|
Albandha is a village under the Albandha-Sarpalehana Panchayat of Birbhum district, West Bengal. Birbhum, the land of red soil, often suffers from chronic shortage of food, fodder and firewood during lean periods. A group was formed with landless and marginalized members of the village to encourage them for plantation on both sides of the Mayurakshi irrigation canal and on fallow lands, plantation with multipurpose, copicable trees for supply of fruit, fodder and firewood. Seeds, training and few tools for raising nursery were the very small support we provided. To make the group work together, for quick return some pigeon pea were also planted along with seedlings of big trees.
Assistance were extended to them on a condition that they will preserve seeds and any one else interested to do a similar kind of a work will be supplied with the seeds. Panchayat and irrigation department also agreed verbally to this arrangements and it was decided 25% of the total generated resources have to given to Panchayet. Rest of the things will be distributed amongst the group members.
The trees started growing quickly. Initially, grazing was a problem. So group members decided not to allow any cow/goat near by the young trees. Although this angered the richer class of the village, it was mitigated through the intervention of Panchayat. And later on, the problems were solved automatically when it was observed that plenty of grass has grown up in the as grazing was prevented. The people cut those grass for their cattle. Within few months, the trees became healthy, and adjacent villages also came forward to take same kind of initiative not only in the canal bank, but they also tried fallow land beside the railway tracks and the road.
One year passed. When the group offered 25% of the produce to the Panchayat; the Panchayat returned it back to the group members as an appreciation towards the effort. Even Panchayat started to distribute few seedlings free of cost to the SH group.
|The garden of Rokeya Bibi|
Rokeya Bibi, lives in a village named Beliakhali at North 24 Parganas of West Bengal, an area which remains under water during the rainy season. Water takes 2-3 months to recede due to the clayey nature of the soil. Beliakhali is a Muslim dominated village; most of the villagers are daily labour. Her husband was also a daily labour when she married to him.
Rokeya initiated her garden way back in 2001 in 25 cents land. It had one small pond and few mango, guava and citrus tree here and there and 2/3 coconut tree on the boundary. To control the flooded water she deepened the small pons a little bit and used the silt to raise the garden height. During winter, the pond supplies water to the garden. She kept few ducks and raised fish in the pond. The azolla in the pond used for fish and duck feed, duck excrete used for fish feed.
The North and east, on the waterlogged area, she did pergola (machan) using papaya tree as post to raise climber vegetables like pumpkin, cucumber, bitter gourd in Kharif and kidney bean, bottle gourd etc in Ravi. In the south she raised vegetable garden. She kept 2~3 beds for raising leafy vegetable, she rotated the varieties of leafy vegetables in such a way that throughout the year she got something for her kitchen. In the other beds she tried 40 types of vegetable mixed and raised throughout the year. She planted chilly, brinjal and tomato alongside the vegetable bed and other vegetables in the inner space of the beds. Each and every plot was segregated by productive fence with pegion pea, basil, castor, merrygold etc. Merrygold and basil play an important role as pest repellent. In a small bed Rokeya planted medicinal plants for daily ailments.
Rokeya's garden had it's own compos pit with the raw materials supplied from kitchen and garden waste. She used techniques like liquid manure and botanical pesticide to control pests.
|Multipurpose Education Centre at Sarbanandapur, Birbhum|
Sarbanandapur, a tribal dominated village near Santiniketan, Birbhum, is struggling between urban influences and socio-cultural heritage of the community. Being nearer to a city, the demand of commodity is increasing day by day. People are forced to work in the brick fields, as daily laborours, rikshaw pullers and such other professions. Most of the people do not have their own land and if they have, for quick cash, they go for planting Eucalyptus! Traditionally, Santhal tribe do not have the practice of growing food. They depend on food collected from the forest, common land and river. The practice, as is expected, a rarity in a semi urban or urban melieu. Children, particularly in the age of 0-6, are most affected because of this situation as parents go to work everyday, keeping the infants under the supervision of a minor of 8 or 10. Their nutrition level, as well as the intelligence level is in a crisis. In this particular community, there were no ICDS centre in the village or near by.
We started this intervention and slowly moved in to organize mothers' group for mutual cooperation through saving money, creating community grain bank etc. Slowly they have been motivated to raise small kitchen garden in their backyard and start changing food habits, where vegetable became a very important part of their meal. Basic literacy and health/nutrition/sanitation classes were also started. Fathers started taking interest also. Some of them were influenced to come out from the alcohol consumption habit through regular counselling.
However, as of yet, we have failed to achieve a considerable increase in the earning of the community, so that, 2/3 years down the line, the community can themselves run the whole show without our support. Places where we are starting afresh, we are now first focussing into this aspect rather than starting crèche first.
Very recently, with the initiative from the community, the new ICDS centre of Sarbanandapur village is initiated in collaboration with the Multipurpose Education Centre itself.
|People's Information Centre|
We are in the crossroads of new age and civilization, where information is the source of strength and power. 'Right to Information' act has emphasized the role of information for smoothness and transparency in the process of development too. The recent decentralization processes by building Gram Unnayan Samiti has created scope for the people to involve directly in the process of development. Are we ready to take opportunity of these; are we ready to be in the age of information revolution? Generally speaking, we think government, scientists, officials, political leaders of all 'frame' and 'shape' will collect & use information and take decision on behalf of us. We will just sit back, enjoy and criticize! DRSCSC wants a change in this mentality.
Kultalia Deshapran PIC is initiated in East Midnapur from May 2005. They found that secondary sources of information regarding the locality are not many, and the quality of data was also very poor. So they collected data & information, which came out in a shape of booklet with local information named 'Bibarataner Dishaye Deshapran Block (Deshapran block - a journey) with the help of local NGO and government. They have created a very good rapport with local authorities and government; they held weekly seminar on various issues in Panchayet office. They do cycle rally, wall writing, village meeting regularly to popularize the concept of PIC and varios issues of development. They have almost 100 members who visit the centre regularly.
|Plantation in fallow land by adolescent group at Sankarpur, Birbhum|
Educational pattern in India is such that most of the children do not cross the 'barrier' of middle school. Some of them, who manage to pass out, cannot use their school education in their professional life. We are, in most cases not ready to accept the rich knowledge we gather from our relation with the Nature and our surroundings. Nor are we ready to allow the rural skills to flourish. Ideas of vocational training always revolve around pro-urban thoughts. Moreover, real small-scale enterprises are not set up due to lack of consistent group efforts in the village. This makes the village completely dependent on outside input in terms of food, fodder, fuel and other basic needs. The situation is highly alarming in the SC/ST areas.
The collective enthusiasm and consciousness had initiated them to negotiate with a fallow land owner having a land of 5 acres. The mutual understanding was, he will allow the group to plant various fruit, fodder, timber and fire wood trees and 25% of revenue generated will be returned to him. The rest of the earning will belong to the group. The fruit, fodder, timber and fire wood will be used by the community. They started raising a nursery, planted seedlings, took proper care during the sunny and rainy days, protected them from man and animal. They were subjected to a lot of ridicule, initially.
As the gray and degraded landscape turned green, the group started raising seedlings again as a business purpose. Now, the adults started taking advice from this group on how they can create greenery in their own fallow land. Birbhum has no dirth of fallow land. This kind of real community asset building effort can be taken under NREG scheme.
|Saldiha, the Steps Towards Fertility|
Purulia, the land of undulated terrain, where annual rainfall varies between 1200 to 1600 mm. But almost the entire rain falls within a span of two to three months giving rise to a drought situation in the rest of the year. On the other hand, the raining months causes widespread erosion of topsoil. The rocky soil allows very little recharge of the underground water reserve. The long dry season often results in dried up ponds and wells. Only a single crop is possible during the rains. Scarcity of food and work forces men and women to migrate to resourceful districts. Those who stay back face starvation.
|The mixed cropping revolution in a fallow degraded plot|
Purulia, the land of Chhou dance but the crops doesn't dance to the tune of Madal throughout the year. Only during rainy days, paddy is the only crop they grow, sometime very few vegetables peeps out during winter. Mehi and Rangadi are 2 tribal dominated village, where 34 families came together to do community mixed cropping intervention in 25 bighas of fallow degraded land.
|No Need of Lawyers, Anybody Can Register an RTI Application|
Public have a general idea that only lawyers can understand legal issues. But the Right to Information Act, 2005 is a people's-friendly act. It has been structured in such a way that any body can use this act to seek any information from the governmental or non-governmental organization. This act many times proves efficiency of the general public than advocates in application of the act.
One amongst the lot is the case of Mr. Subhash Nandi. For getting some information from the District Electricity Department of Jalpaiguri, he thought to utilize the Right to Information Act, 2005. But, in place of applying himself, he paid 10,500 rupees to one local advocate Mr. Debasis Karmakar. Ninety days had passed, but Mr. Nandi didn't receive any reply.
While he was fighting for getting information with the State Public Information Officer of the Information and Cultural Affairs department, Mr. Indra Bahadur Kumai, one social activist, Mr. Manik Singha voluntarily came to help him. Actually, he is working for promoting the Right to Information Act, 2005. After scrutinizing all the applications of Mr. Nandi, he pointed out the inadequacies. For example, Mr. Karmokar has given a postal order of 50 rupees in stead of giving court fee stamp of 10 rupees. Moreover, the RTI application letter was full of complains, no information was sought specifically.
Following Mr. Singha's advice, Mr. Nandi filed another RTI application in name of his daughter, Ms. Munni Nandi. Instantly, the District Electricity Department of Jalpaiguri refused to accept that application. But, at last, the State Public Information Officer was forced to accept the requisition for information. Within 7 days, Ms. Nandi got a reply from the SPIO that the Station Manager of Belakoba will supply information to her. But 30 days past and she got no information. However, after registering first appeal, Ms. Nandi at last received all desired information.
In the mean time that 'advocate' returned 9000 rupees to Mr. Nandi.