Team Update II: CDHI activities in West Bengal

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.

Picture 2 M Ghosh facilitating discussion w women farmers from SHG
Ms M Ghosh from CDHI (top left) facilitates discussion with a women’s self-help group.  Photo: CDHI

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.

Picture 4 CDHI reps talk to farmersThis 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.

Picture 5 CDHI reps talk to farmers
CDHI and IIT colleagues talk to farmers.  Photo: CDHI

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.

Picture 6 Farmer checks pests in kharif paddy at Dhaloguri
A farmer in Dhaloguri checks his kharif rice crop for pests.  Photo: CDHI

Team Update I: SIAGI Inception Meeting

Contributed by: Alison Laing, CSIRO

The SIAGI inception meeting was hosted by the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, West Bengal, from 1 to 5 March 2016. Dr Evan Christen and Dr Kuhu Chatterjee represented the project funder, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.  The meeting was attended by 30 participants from the ten research organisations who make up the SIAGI project, and by invited guests from allied research projects.

This meeting was an opportunity to explore critical concepts central to the SIAGI project’s planned research; to clarify linkages with similar research projects in the region; to consolidate our research strategy; and to strengthen personal friendships between researchers from different disciplines and countries.

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Our meeting demonstrated how the SIAGI project combines…

…researchers from diverse disciplines, such as: social inclusion and justice; nutrition and food security; markets for the poor; value chain analysis; and integrative modelling…

…with…

…non government organisations with expertise in: gender inclusivity; environmental management: sustainable agricultural intensification; participatory engagement; and livelihood improvement…

…and…

…a private sector partner with experience in sustainable knowledge based projects who champions effective policy development and institutional innovation.

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Over five days we worked together, sharing and refining our research strategy.  All research partners gave thought-provoking presentations on topics including:

  • Livelihood potentials
  • Ethics and engagement
  • Justice, equity, fairness and empowerment
  • Value chains and private-public partnerships
  • Climate risk and yield gaps
  • Integrated modelling

This was an opportunity for many of us to get to know international colleagues and to set the foundation for an exciting, innovative research project.  SIAGI has just started – stay tuned for how our project develops and for our research outcomes!

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