Written by: Mahanambrota Das and Sambhu Singha, Shushilan
Babul (not his real name) is an active group member of the SIAGI project’s marginal farmer group in the Sekendarkhali village, Amtoli Upazila. He leases as much land as possible during the Amon season (August to December) to increase crop production and to meet his family’s consumption demand. For many years, he has worked as a paid laborer (outside of his village) during the Aus and Robi seasons as there was no opportunity to produce high valued crops in his field. Since SIAGI began, he and his family members have tried to grow high-value vegetables in their field. Their initial attempts failed due to lack of freshwater and technical know-how.
In 2017, he received training and practical experience on how to farm high-value vegetables and sunflower. This was provided by the SIAGI team members and CSI4CZ1 project scientists. Following this training, his confident and trust level was high and he felt inspired to continue trying. He says, “It is possible to increase the earnings … by producing the high value, marketable crops if freshwater is available in Aus and Robi season”.
Following the community-driven excavation of Hafamari canal (see SIAGI Blog), the issue of freshwater scarcity is less of a constraint. Now, he is the first farmer from Sekendarkhali to successfully cultivate multiple vegetables in his fields and along the canal’s dyke. He has successfully grown country beans, leafy vegetables including water spinach, cucumber, bottle gourd, bitter-guard, eggplant and okra in this Aus and Amon season. He said, “Now, I am happy with my earnings. I have profited about BDT 2000-2500 weekly by selling vegetables in the local market that has helped me for not going to the outside of the village for selling my physical labour by leaving my family members. In addition, I am hiring two/three labours daily for taking care and harvesting the vegetables. I am expecting my earnings will be double in the next Robi season if I could use my land perfectly and not [get] damage to the natural calamity. My family and I are inspiring other farmers of the village too for increasing the production area of the village. Our dream [is] no farmers will go outside for selling physical labour in the next Robi season.”
This narrative shows how important it is to build farmers skills and their confidence to persist after early struggles with a new crop or production system. Training and on-site practical support, in conjunction with the community working together to solve water scarcity issues, have helped to give this farmer the choice of staying in the village with his family all year round.
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.