Friday, 22 March 2013

South Asia SAFBIN Review Concludes at Sagar

The annual review and planning of Strengthening Adaptive Farming in Bangladesh India and Nepal (SAFBIN) programme concluded with a call for intensifying advocacy efforts for safeguarding the interests of smallholder farmers. Representatives from Caritas Austria, Caritas Nepal, Caritas Bangladesh, Caritas India and associate project partners attended the five-day event that was organised in New Delhi and Sagar from 11 to 16 March 2013.

Bishop Lumen Monteiro and Fr. Paul with SAFBIN team
Dr. Manfred Aichinger, Programme Manager of Caritas Austria, in his address appreciated Caritas India for its strong resolve for promoting people-led model of agriculture development. “The high degree of people’s participation in the agriculture trials and indigenisation of agriculture inputs and practices that have been achieved by Caritas India are indeed laudable”, Dr. Aichinger said. While stressing the need of systematic analysis of successful agriculture models Dr. Aichinger exhorted the delegates to also focus on stepping up advocacy activities for protecting the food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers.

The five-day event included a multi-stakeholder review and analysis of results, field visit and planning for the next two years. After the one-day programme review that was held in New Delhi on 12 March, the participants visited 3 villages in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, to take stock of the progress of the Agriculture Research and Development (ARD) project.

Street play on organic farming by farmers' group members
Bishop Lumen Monteiro, chairman of Caritas India and Fr. Paul Moonjely had attended the opening session of the review meeting held in New Delhi on 12 March. Bishop Lumen Monteiro congratulated the SAFBIN team for achieving creditworthy achievements on the field and said that the good work of enhancing the food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers needs to be intensified further.

SAFBIN is an innovative On-Farm Agriculture Research (OFAR) that is breaking fresh grounds by assisting smallholder farmers to conduct scientifically-designed field trials of blended agriculture models. The agriculture models, which have infusion of the positives of traditional agriculture and modern agriculture practices, have been developed and implemented by farmers. SAFBIN programme, being implemented in 3 each districts in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, is supported by European Union (EU) and Caritas Austria.

Delegates interacting with leaders of farmers' groups
As part of the programme review in Sagar, the representatives visited three villages where wheat trials are underway. During the field visit, the delegates met with members of Small Holder Farmers’ Collective (SHFC) and community leaders and apprised themselves about the achievements of field trials. Community members informed the delegation about the merits of the implemented trials and expressed their keenness to scale-up the agriculture models which had achieved noteworthy success. After the visit of trials, the delegation was given a rousing reception by the district SHFC forum in a public meeting held in Bagrohi village. SHFC members staged a street play and folk songs in the cultural programme which was attended by over 150 village leaders and SHFC office-bearers.

SAFBIN team with Mr. Yogendra Sharma IAS, collector of Sagar
Earlier, Mr. Yogendra Sharma IAS, district collector of Sagar, along with senior officials of agriculture department had inaugurated the review and planning which was held in Sagar on 13 March. During the inauguration Mr. Yogendra Sharma had sought the support of Caritas India for developing an adaptive agriculture strategy for effectively addressing the climate change threats to agriculture. The collector had appreciated Caritas India for its innovative efforts to protect the food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers.

While concluding the review meeting, Mr. Sunil Simon, South Asia programme manager of SAFBIN, reiterated Caritas India’s commitment to securing food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers. He said that SAFBIN programme has succeeded in bringing farmers and agriculture scientists on a single platform for developing a synthesis of modern and traditional agriculture suiting to the local agro-climatic conditions.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Potato Cultivation Model for Drought-Affected Areas

Anup Singh Dhurve, a smallholder farmer, had been cultivating potato in his small backyard plot for the last 10 years. All that Anup Singh could allocate for the potato cultivation was a 4x4 meter piece of land which he irrigated with the waste water from the house. Until last year, the highest potato harvest that this small plot had yielded was 35 kilograms in spite of the heavy dose of chemical fertilisers. Naturally, Anup Dhurve was pleasantly surprised while harvesting a bounty of 90 kg potato from this field, which he achieved with the help of SAFBIN!

Radish grown along with Potato
Anup Dhurve, a progressive farmer of Katigahan village of Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, has been associated with SAFBIN programme which works on innovative ways of meeting the challenges of climate change to rain-fed agriculture. Anup Singh, one of the 800-odd tribal farmers, is being assisted by SAFBIN on developing locally viable agriculture practices that suit the frequently-experienced climatic variations in Mandla district.

“SAFBIN suggested a new method of cultivation of the traditional variety of potato involving ridge and furrow method”. Anup Singh says that he could irrigate the potato field only twice this year as against the normal four times due to severe water shortage. SAFBIN helped Anup Singh to prepare and administer Matka Khaad – a simple and cheap soil enrichment solution made of cow urine, cow dung, gram flour and jaggery (molasses). While irrigating the land, Anup Singh mixed Matka Khaad with irrigation water.

While detailing on the process that was adopted, Anup Singh said that he followed a new practice for treating the seed that he had purchased from the local market. After cleaning, the seeds  of traditional red potato were soaked in lukewarm water for 30 minutes and then dried. The treated seeds were covered in hay and stored in a cool and shady place. When the seeds germinated on the tenth day, they were planted on the line ridges. Before cultivation, the land was ploughed thrice and approximately 20 kg farm yard manure was administered.

The spacing between potato plants and the ridge line formation of plants made irrigation more efficient as water could reach the ends of plant lines faster. When the potato plants reached a height of 4-5 centimetres, plant hills were covered with raised soil beds which enabled faster growth of roots. Soon potato plants grew faster and stronger. Anup Singh quickly realised that the spacing between the ridges could be used for cultivating more vegetables. He planted radishes along the channels which also grew robustly.

The new system of potato cultivation was far better than the traditional potato cultivation practice which was only random planting of seeds on flat beds in a line. The new cultivation system possessed several advantages including more efficient irrigation, spacing that allowed growing of other vegetables and use of low-cost manure. This year Anup Singh spent only Rs. 60 on the potato cultivation as against Rs. 300 which he used to spent on an average in the previous years. His harvest of 90 kg, roughly 56 tonne per hectare, is way more than the average potato production of 35 tonne in Mandla district.

Rejoiced over the bumper crop Anup Singh says “the new method of potato cultivation helped me grow sufficient potato for my family’s need for six months. Also, I did not need to buy radish from the market for two months”. Until last year, the small piece of land used to yield only as much potato for meeting the need of 2 months.

“Before SAFBIN came to my village, none of us knew about agriculture practices that required less quantity of water and money and more importantly, capable enough to withstand the fury of climate change. Now I will grow more vegetables using the ridge and furrow method”, Anup Singh says. Mandla is one of the drought prone districts of Madhya Pradesh with scanty rainfall and extreme temperature variations. Of late, farmers have become vary of cultivating vegetables due to frost in Kharif – the season when most farmers cultivate vegetables.

By Sunil Kumar Pandey
District Project Officer, Mandla, Madhya Pradesh

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

District Collector Seeks SAFBIN Team Support for Developing Adaptive Agriculture Strategy for Sagar

Mr. Yogendra Sharma IAS, district collector of Sagar, sought the support of Caritas India for developing an adaptive agriculture strategy for effectively addressing the climate change threats to agriculture. The collector appreciated Caritas India for its innovative efforts to protect the food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers. Mr. Sharma IAS was addressing the international delegates in a consultation meeting organised for reviewing the progress of climate change resilient agriculture interventions in Sagar on 13 March 2013.

Mr. Sharma said that developing strategies for tackling the consequences of climate change holds critical importance in securing livelihoods of rural population in Madhya Pradesh. The fragility of eco-systems of rural areas has further been weakened by the several climate change effects including temperature fluctuations and shifting of summer and monsoon seasons. The expertise and experience of Caritas India in developing sustainable adaptive agriculture models suitable to the climatic features of Sagar will help the district administration to efficiently respond to the challenges to agriculture created by climate change, he added.

The consultation was held for reviewing the progress of Strengthening Adaptive Farming in Bangladesh, India and Nepal (SAFBIN) programme which is financed by European Union (EU) and Caritas Austria. The chief objective of the programme is building climate resilience of smallholder farmers and helping them achieve food and nutrition security.

While urging the delegates from Austria, Nepal and Bangladesh and India on developing an effective coping strategy to meet the challenges of climate change, the collector said that climate change poses ominous threat for the primary livelihood sector in the rain-fed areas in India. Rural population especially the small and marginal farming community is the worst-affected group because of its heavy reliance on eco-ecosystem for its food and nutrition security.

Dr. Manfred Aichinger, Programme Manager of Caritas Austria, highlighted the losses that smallholder farmers frequently suffer across the world due to wild weather fluctuations. Climate change has seriously affected farming systems of the poor and the damages are bound to increase if urgent measures are not taken to protect smallholder farmers from the vagaries of nature. Dr. Aichinger also said that research and development interventions around climate change hold key to the food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers.

Mr. Sunil Simon, South Asia programme manager of SAFBIN, gave a presentation on the progress of the project and said that the on-farm research trials of SAFBIN have yielded encouraging results which are replicable and affordable for smallholder farmers. SAFBIN envisages promotion of farmers’ collective-led approach for generating critical reflection at farmers’ level and mobilising communities around climate change issues, he said.

SAFBIN is an agriculture research and development programme implemented in India by Caritas India, a national level development support organisation which has expertise in agriculture, natural resource management, disaster management and livelihood promotion.
Several senior government officials including Mr. Kori, Joint Director of Agriculture, Mr. ML Chouhan, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Mr. Ayush Shivpuri, District Development Manager of NABARD, Mr. VL Malviya, Project Director of ATMA Sagar, other agriculture officials from Sagar, Khurai and Rehli blocks were present on the occasion. Senior Scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Sagar led by Dr. PC Dubey participated in the consultation which was also attended by Fr. Robin Devassy and Fr. Shaju Devassy of Manav Vikas Seva Sangh (MVSS), Sagar.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Small Farmers Construct Road to Prosperity

Despite having fertile land and availability of markets in the vicinity, the villagers of Khushipura seldom grew vegetable for selling. The reason may sound strange for an outsider but it was real for Khushipura villagers. During the vegetable growing season or Kharif, which normally is a rainy season, Khushipura would get disconnected from the main road which actually was just a kilometre away, as the crow flies. The only road link of Khushipura to the highway to Shahgarh city, a promising market for agriculture produces, is an 8-km long narrow pothole-filled lane that circles around several hillocks before joining the highway. In the rainy season when the villagers can grow vegetables, the track would turn into a snaking stream of puddles and dirt traps which makes it impossible for villagers to transport the vegetable by head-load or bullock-cart. None of the villagers are rich enough to afford a tractor which can wade through the ditch and dirt of the road.

The sleepy village, falling under Narwa panchayat of Shahgarh block of Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, has a population of 121 households, majority of which belongs to the lower caste community of Ahirwar, i.e- Scheduled Cast.  As many as 78 per cent of these community members are marginal farmers involved in subsistence farming and the remaining are landless agriculture labourers. In the past, several villagers had taken the demand for the road to the panchayat. But every time their pleas fell on the deaf ears of the upper caste panchayat members who exploited the lack of unity and absence of strong leadership in Khushipura. The panchayat representative from Khushipura himself was marginalised and nearly banished from the panchayat by upper caste panchayat members.

Things took a turn for the good with the start of Small Holder Farmers’ Collective (SHFC) of SAFBIN, an agriculture action research programme of Caritas India which works with small farmers. The SHFC of 17 farmers of Khushipura would meet every fortnight and discuss and identify solutions for the common agriculture and social issues. This European Union (EU) supported SAFBIN programme for promoting climate change resilient agriculture is being implemented in 10 villages of Sagar district. SAFBIN has constituted a network of 30 SHFCs in the ten target villages as platforms for exchange of experience and knowledge. In one of the SHFC meetings, Fundi Lal Ahirwar, the president, raised the issue of the road and the collective agreed that the key to prosperity of the village was creating road connectivity. Fundi led a group of small farmers to the panchayat with a demand for road. The Sarpach or the village elder gave several excuses for not starting the road construction. While turning them away, the Sarpanch said that his panchayat cannot build roads during or immediately after the rainy season. Fundi and his SHFC members returned empty-handed but the scorn and cold attitude of Sarpanch did not kill their determination to construct an approach road to the village.

The SHFC met again and took a unanimous decision to construct the road. An announcement was made in the village on 15 July 2013 that the SHFC members and their families would start working on the approach road. It was announced that the work would be purely voluntary and no wage would be given for the road construction work. SHFC also finalised the road construction plan according to which the road would be cut through the communal land which was rocky and uneven.

SHFC members gathered implements, spades and pick-axes and the work started. Villagers under the leadership of SHFC members made small monetary contributions for meeting the expense on a tractor that was hired for bringing earth and boulders for road levelling. For SHFC members the work was fun and they enjoyed their unity and the shared resolve. Soon other villagers also joined the movement and the road construction took the shape of a village celebration. Women of the village also chipped in as some women took up spades while the others fetched water and tea to the workers. After two weeks of toil, a marvel of community participation unfolded before the village with the opening of a boulder-levelled, semi-treated road that can withstand the ordeals of heavy rains.

Khushipura villagers have decided to cultivate vegetables from the next Kharif season. They are now confident that the newly-built road will give them access to market for their vegetables. Fundi Ahirwar attributes the success to the SHFC formed under SAFBIN programme. With a beaming face he elaborates the success, ‘Akele chana bhad nahi phodta, kuchh parivartan lana hai to samuh ke dwara hi sambhav hai’ (Gram seed cannot break its pod on its own. Similarly only a collective of people can make changes possible).

By Manish Kumar
District Project Officer, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh

Friday, 1 March 2013

SAFBIN - A Summary

Climate Change has emerged as the major destabilising factor of small and marginal farming systems. The woes of small holder farmers have been further aggravated by ever-increasing input costs and dwindling productivity. SAFBIN is an agriculture research and development programme that envisages building resilient and climate-change resistant agriculture models and systems that are suitable for small holder farmers for the purpose of helping the small holder farmers meet the food and nutrition security requirements. The action envisages following a ‘farmer’s collective-lead approach’ to prioritize the concern and involvement of small holder farmers. The processes like participatory mapping/ appraisal/ planning, formation and strengthening of SHF collectives at different levels, OFAR, Farmer-fair/Farmer Field School, Cross-learning, and Community Resource Centre are used to enhance stakes of target groups and final beneficiaries.

OVERALL OBJECTIVE: To promote local food and nutritional securityadaptive small scale farming in 3 rain-fed Agro-Ecological Systems (AES) in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in the context of climate change. through

  • To screen and document innovations in traditional Food Production, Distribution and Consumption System (FPDCS) of Small Holder Farmers (SHF) with respect to climate change adaptations.
  • To collectivize and/or strengthen SHF institutions for an organized and sustainable approach
  • To test potential of SHF-FPDCS models designed through blending traditional and modern innovations for their abilities to adapt, mitigate and ensure nutritional security
  • To develop multi-stakeholder monitoring mechanisms for enhancing efficiency of the FPDCS models
  • To influence national research and policy agenda for promotion of collectivized SHF-FPDCS to adapt to and mitigate climate change and nutritional security
DIRECT BENEFICIARIES include 270 small holder farmers’ collectives90 villages in (9 districts) 3 vulnerable AESs in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. In Madhya Pradesh, SAFBIN is being implemented in 30 villages – 3 clusters of villages in Sagar, Satna and Mandla districts. In Sagar the cluster of villages are in Rehli block.  covering 3000 families in

  • Formed over 108 farmers’ collectives and institutionalised their functioning
  • Conducted over 300 trials on farmer plots in two crop seasons with satisfactory results
  • Developed locally viable and profitable agriculture models which are being practiced by farmers
  • All trials were combination of good elements of modern and traditional agriculture practices
  • Conducted thorough analysis of farmers’ traditional practices and documented them

Financed By