Written by: Mahanambrota Das, Sambhu Singha and Mustafa Bakuluzzaman, Shushilan
The demand to become a member of the Water and Silt Management Committee (WSMC) of Sekendarkhali village is increasing day by day. Non-member villagers and family members who live outside of the village want to observe the activities of the committee. They want to become members of the committee because the successful canal re-excavation led to increased availability of freshwater for crop production, livestock and domestic purposes and also has allowed fish culture in the canal. Non-members think if they become part of the committee, and invest in the WSMC, that they may gain financially by using freshwater for vegetable farming.
Word of mouth has been important for generating this interest. The male farmers generally gather every day in the local market named Bandra Bazar, where they gossip about their activities and success. Women and men also disseminate the information to their neighbors and peers through informal discussion and gossiping. They also share their project activities, learning and success stories with their relatives and friends. Rahela Begum (not her real name), a member of ‘Surjamukhi’ woman farmer group, said that “I shared my knowledge and experience of vegetable farming in the field and in the homestead with my relatives during visiting my father’s house. Family members of my father’s house particularly my brother and brother-in-law are trying to cultivate vegetable farming in their village. The president and Secretary of the WSMC committee said that our demand had increased to the village people. Many people are offering us to enroll them in the committee. This is our success. Once they criticized us and speeded rumors. Now, they want to be a member of our committee. We visited door to door day after day to discuss and understand them, but they did not. We continued our discussion and consultation with the community about canal re-excavation and freshwater storage. Some of them believed us, but some of them not. Considering the people’s demand, we (WSMC members) have discussed the issue with the members what we should do about the enrollment of the new members.”
The WSMC considers that the required freshwater now available in the canal should be sufficient to allow the equal distribution for irrigation and domestic purposes in the catchment area for improving the quality of life and livelihoods. The non-member households that live in the village or households that have agriculture land in the catchment area but live outside of the village, may get the opportunity to participate in the general committee or the advisory committee as per the rules of the WSMC’s constitution. The ultimate decision will be considered and made following discussion with the executive committee and the general committee members.
We are an eco-sensitive national non-governmental development organization in Bangladesh. We are involved in this project to apply Ethical Community Engagement (ECE) approach and principles to empower the vulnerable community and water user groups including women to change their fate and the development of livelihoods by taking sustainable agriculture initiatives through water-based solutions. We have volunteers like Nipa in our organization, who live in or near the village we work in, to provide a person that community members can contact if (for example) there is an issue that needs immediate attention. This approach helps us responds in a timely manner and to build trust.