Contributed by: Mr Subrata Majumdar and Mr Joy Ray, CDHI
The Centre for the Development of Human Initiatives (CDHI) has begun social mobilization and SIAGI project orientation activities in two villages, Dhaulagiri (254 households, Cooch Behar district) and Uttar Chokwakheti (246 households, Alipurduar district) in West Bengal.
Working with local level institutions including farmers’ clubs, women’s self-help groups, and collective farming groups, CDHI has captured narratives of local experiences of natural disasters and risks related to agricultural intensification. The CDHI team, working with collaborators from IIT Kharagpur, has also conducted a rapid rural appraisal at both villages in the context of livelihood typology, and undertaken preliminary studies to inform an agriculture-based value chain analysis.
This research reveals as a baseline that both villages are agriculture based and surrounded by rivers and forest. Almost all households belong to schedule tribe-schedule caste community and all are (directly or indirectly) involved in agriculture sector for their livelihoods.
Farmers are facing different problems including:
- Depletion of ground water
- Increased cost of agricultural inputs
- Lack of innovations in cropping patterns and technologies
- Quick fluctuations of agriculture market prices
Rainfed paddy based cropping systems are dominant at both villages. Except for rainfed paddy and winter potato in small portion of land, most of the lands remain fallow during the dry (winter) season, especially at Uttar Chokwakheti. Irrigation infrastructure is almost non-existent; direct pumping from a nearby river was the only source of irrigation to grow winter potato and other vegetables. Pumping water from the river requires using very long, flexible delivery pipes which are highly inefficient and uneconomic as well.
Recently the ACIAR-funded DSI4MTF (Dry Season Irrigation for Marginal and Tenant Farmers) project has started trialling the installation of some shallow and deep tube wells at both villages. With assured irrigation water farmers have started growing winter crops, including high-value vegetables, at small scales which is very encouraging. Thus it is observed that both villages have high potential to explore the agriculture based livelihood especially at Uttar Chokwakheti village.
Feedback from community meetings and the rapid rural appraisals is that the farming community and local level farming institutions are more interested to be involved in value chain analysis if SIAGI project includes potato and paddy.