Written by: Mahanambrota Das and Sumana Sarah Bhuiyan, Shushilan
Learning by doing visit by SIAGI farmers of Khatail village for practical experience on melon variety crops in Saidkhali Union (Neighbour Union) under polder 22
Life and livelihoods of the farming community in the Khatail village, Pankhali Union (Dacope Upazila), is tough because of the challenge of growing enough volumes of good quality and high-value crops. Crops are prone to failure given the prevalent issues of soil salinity, lack of freshwater in the canals and unplanned open livestock rearing. Much of the recent freshwater scarcity has been due to the influential people who control the sluice gates and deliberately let saline river water enter the canals so they can produce bagda shrimp. The inability to grow crops outside of the Amon season has meant that many marginal and landless farmers have had to migrate during Robi seeking labour work. Often this is the male members of households, but some women also have to leave the village to seek paid work. The community has commented that ‘Food insecurity and lack of the employment opportunity give us much pain to the family members, particularly in the Robi season. At that time, we passed a very hard time to manage food for our family members.’
Over the last two years, some woman and man farmers have rallied hard to ensure there is freshwater in the canal and to control the open livestock rearing during Robi season. The farmers were inspired by the SIAGI team members, particularly volunteer Nina (not her real name) who gathered them together again and again and supported them in efforts to farm Robi crops. Shushilan facilitated regular communication and the building of networks between agriculture department officials and the poor farmers. Early on, some farmers received training and demonstration support of zero tillage for producing watermelon and sweet pumpkin. They tried to grow some crops, but these failed. Despite losing their financial investment, these farmers remained positive and together with SIAGI team members worked to develop their technical know-how, particularly on alternative ways to cultivate the watermelon and sweet pumpkin. The group members and Nina contracted one successful farmer of Saidkhali union under polder 22 (which neighbors Pankhali Union) and local representatives of Lalteer Seed Ltd (private company) to conduct on-the-job training and a learning visit to there for getting practical experience on the cultivation of the watermelon and sweet-pumpkin. The farmers themselves organized these activities. The volunteer of SIAGI also conducted pollination demonstration and on-job training.
The knowledge and experience gained by farmers were clear to see. They were able to increase the number and the quality of fruits on the sweet-pumpkin, watermelon and other melon varieties. Some farmers got some profit. One farmer named Harun (not his real name) gained BDT 18,000 as a profit from watermelon production by using only 10 decimals of land. However, many farmers experienced small financial losses again due to early rainfall and late starting of Robi. The most important thing is that farmers were not frustrated and instead said that they learned many things and felt that if they had started their Robi season fifteen days early they may have achieved their expected profit. Further demonstrating their positivity, they also organized a field day on 21st May 2018 for disseminating the learning to other farmers so that they can scale up their production. Woman farmer, Mala (not her real name) said, during presenting her watermelon field in the field day, “We are seeing the light of success from our failures. We believe, we must be successful to gain profit.”
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.