Winds of change in tribal villages

A slew of measures like horticulture, beekeeping, polycropping and creation of water harvesting structures guarantee income augmentation among rural poor

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi
Last Updated: Friday 27 July 2018
Baiga women of Pauri stand in a plot where ecological agriculture is being practised 
Credit: Vikas Chaudhary
Baiga women of Pauri stand in a plot where ecological agriculture is being practised 
Credit: Vikas Chaudhary Baiga women of Pauri stand in a plot where ecological agriculture is being practised Credit: Vikas Chaudhary

Dungariya village in the tribal-dominated Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh has witnessed transformation in some four years. At one time infamous for its high migration rate to Jabalpur and Nagpur, things took a turn for the better for its 60 families after some 41 dug wells were constructed in the village from 2014 to 2017. Of this, 18 were dug through Bhopal-based non-profit Action for Social Advancement-supported intervention under the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana which ran from 2014 to 2017. The rest were constructed through the convergence of Action for Social Advancement (ASA) with the gram panchayat in 2016-17 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as well as with Nabard.

Now, apart from millets like kodo and kutki, the residents are cultivating vegetables and also growing mango and amla under horticulture intervention. A total of 26 hectares (ha) is under horticulture now, thanks to water availability due to irrigation. Madhya Pradesh is the second largest state in India where 86.04 per cent of land is rainfed. Apart from Dungariya, ASA is also working towards promotion of horticulture crops in 17 villages in the district covering 143 ha. In this Gond-dominated forest village, residents are also rearing goats of the Sirohi breed and keeping honey bees for income augmentation.

Successful measure

As part of its initiative to address water insecurity among the rural poor, ASA initiated water harvesting measures in Dungariya. Keeping irrigation needs in mind, budget for construction of more dug wells was approved by the gram panchayat. The residents themselves worked hard to construct the wells.

Village resident Kanti Pandro has 2 ha. “We have irrigation facility from wells now. I myself have a well and work is going on to dig more wells. Earlier, only rainfed crops used to grow here,” she says. This year, Pandro has grown mango and amla on 0.4 ha. Last year, she had cultivated vegetables.

Families having small plots ranging from 0.4 ha to 1.2 ha can earn increased income through horticulture and vegetable cultivation.  The Namami Devi Narmade scheme of the Madhya Pradesh government, which focuses on horticulture, agro forestry and vermicomposting, was introduced last year. A total of 112 villages along the banks of the Narmada have been covered under this.

Ecological agriculture

Another kind of agricultural intervention under the name of ecological agriculture is brewing in the Baiga-dominated Pauri village of Samnapur block. Balwant Rahangadale, district coordinator of Nagpur-based non-profit National Institute of Women, Child and Youth Development (NIWCYD), explains the idea behind the cultivation of four crops on a 0.4 ha plot—cereals (maize), vegetables, oilseeds and pulses (arhar). NIWCYD is working on this concept on 25 plots in the village that started in July 2017. This kind of agriculture is a kind of safety measure against both heavy rainfall and drought. “Growing one type of crop is a great risk in a rainfed area like this. Cultivating crops together insures against pest attacks and maintains soil fertility. The land is never left fallow and guarantees food security throughout the year. First, the families get vegetables as produce, followed by cereals, oilseeds and pulses,” says Balwant.

The project’s initial phase is over and now is the time for its second run. In the beginning, it focused on productivity improvement of agriculture crops and creation of kitchen gardens. Families which practised ecological agriculture in a small portion of their lands are now ready to expand in terms of acreage.

The main focus of this project is gender sensitisation by enhancing women’s knowledge and involving them in the decision-making process. “Information related to new machineries used for weeding is imparted to women so that their labour is reduced. Usually, male farmers decide what crops to grow and women are not consulted. But now kitchen gardens with a view to promoting nutritious vegetables among women are our special focus. We want women to have all kinds of specialised knowledge related to agriculture, livestock and fisheries which all come under ecological agriculture,” says Vimal Dubey, regional manager, Jabalpur, NIWCYD. Right now, this concept is spread across 21 villages in Dindori.

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