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“Holistic, integrated & sustainable development of the hill people based on their cultural values, traditions and resources.”

Our Mission

“Empowering people to take their development decisions themselves & build a stable society that is free of social, economic & gender inequity.”

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"Provide sustainable food security, socio-economic security and promotion of livelihoods to the rural poor households."

 

An Alternative Farming Approach to Climate Change

The farmers of Uttarakhand have devised a fool-proof strategy to increase crop production and effective cultivation in order to fight the inadvertent effects of climate change. It also talks highly about women empowerment in the farming sector. Nitin Jugran Bahuguna tells us more.

When Rajkumari, 36, of Muradi village in Uttarkashi district of the hill state of Uttarakhand, suffered a poor yield in her wheat and rice crops for a second successive year, she knew it was time for a drastic re-think on growing the traditional crops and try something new. She had seen her fellow farmers experimenting with new organic farming techniques through diversification of crops and decided to take the plunge into floriculture."I decided to grow marigolds as there is a big market for flowers in Dehradun and big cities like Delhi. I learnt the methods of production, preservation, packaging, and marketing; she says. The going was tough as she had to prepare her field for the new venture.

"I had no facility for irrigation, so I had to water myfields byfetching water in buckets from a nearby pipeline; she explains. In the end, the hard work paid off. "Because of drought, 30% of my seedlings dried up. But despite this, I earned Rs 5,000 from my first crop',' states a proud Rajkumari.

In Naini village of the same district, Mahaveer Singh Dotiyal, 34, is considered a modern farmer, being thefirstto follow new techniques in his fields. "In 2010,1 earned Rs 3,000 by growing chrysanthemum on one nali of land. Last year, I increased the area of cultivation to three nalis and earned up to Rs 10,000'; declares the jubilant farmer. He now plans to expand his production further and seeing his success, 20 other farmers in the village have taken up floriculture. Farming communities in Uttarakhand have been badly affected during the past three years as a result of climate change. The year 2010 was by far the worst for agricultural producers due to excessive and prolonged rainfall which resulted in massive damage to the crops and the infrastructure with frequent road blocks. To deal with the risks posed by global warming, the Himalayan Action Research Centre (HARC), a Dehradun based NGO, is working with the farming communities in this district by giving more emphasis on increasing livelihood options through diversification of crops, growing short-duration crops and changing the crop cycle. Chrysanthemum and marigold in flowers, pomegranate and pears in fruits, and new vegetables were introduced under crop diversification while, at the same time, propagation of traditional crops was also promoted to ensure the food security of the people. All these crops were introduced or propagated on the demand of the farmers. Before carrying out demonstration for new crops in the area, interested farmers were taken on exposure trips to locations where these crops were grown commercially so that they could make sound decisions with regard to the newly introduced crop(s). HARC conducted a market survey in advance to assess the feasibility of developing supply chains for the same.

In 2010, the NGO organized a demonstration for 37,000 plants of chrysanthemum with 39 male farmers and another demonstration for marigold cultivation was organized with 72 women farmers on 0.82 hectare of land. Based on the geographical conditions, the demonstration area was divided into three phases and 19 field days were organized for giving technical information about field preparation, nursery rising, and transplantation, plant protection, pinching and de-shooting. For women farmers like Rajkumari, a four-day exposure tour was also organized to the Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry at Naini in the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. "Harvesting of the crop and its transportation requires great skill. A total of 21 field days were organized for us to provide information on harvesting, grading, packing, transportation, and marketing of marigold and chrysanthemum',' she recalls. Farm planning and annual crop cycle management was an important area of focus to increase the quality and quantity of agriculture production and to encourage optimum utilization of land by planned production, explains HARC founder Mahendra Kunwar. "Due to lack of proper management of land, farmers used to get only two crops during the year, that too with low prod uctivity°he observes.

The farm planning interventions at the level of farmers' self help groups (FSHGs) which HARC helped to setup, enabled the farmers to adopt proper crop cycle, which resulted in the increased practice of land management and use of uncultivated land also. "Now the farmers are getting three¬four crops in a year. This has motivated farmers to produce off-season vegetables, thereby ensuring them a regular income throughout the year,' states Kunwar. Due to diversification of agriculture, the farmers'families are now getting a variety of food such as vegetables, fruits and other food grain for their personal consumption as well as for income purposes. A strategy of developing product specific zones was also adopted to carry out specific interventions and increase the quality of production in one area. Under this strategy, Rajgarhi area in Uttarkashi,which has been developed as a pulse production zone,has given a sustainable option of income to 855 farmers, 60 of them being women. These farmers are growing organic rajma (kidney bean) and market 10-15 tonnes of it every year. Kinora Devi Rana, 45, of Kalogi village says the production of rajma in her fields has gone up to the extent that it is becoming a cash crop. "In 2005, the rate of one kg rajma was Rs 30-35. In 2008, growers were selling it for Rs 55-60 a kg and today we can sell for Rs 80-90 per kg',' she claims.

Happy with the new technique of diversifying crops, Kinora Devi says that most of the farmers use 30%-40% of their total land to sow cash crops and the remaining is used for traditional crops like rice (for own consumption), wheat, mandra (atta) and pulses like urad, tor, gaith, rajma and soyabeans. "Besides selling our crops, we produce enough to feed our families for one year' she asserts proudly. In other production zones in the district, Dhari Kalogi, Naugaon, Purola, and Naitri have been developed as fruits and vegetable zones. As many as 3358 farmers,1278 of them women, are involved in the cultivation of tomatoes, french bean, pea, capsicum, cabbage, lady finger, and creeper vegetables as their main occupation, providing them regular income round the year, informs Kunwar.To provide technical guidance and knowledge sharing among the farmers, HARC recently established a high-tech agricultural clinic in Nagaon which also houses a tissue culture lab. The centre provides information to the farmers on crop selection, best farm practices, key agriculture information, price trends, market news, risk mitigation, crop insurance, and credit access. For this purpose, the agricultural clinic organizes training demonstrations through field days and experts' visits to farms.The centre is upgraded with internet and Skype connection for farmers' direct interaction with the experts. In addition, HARC is also conducting experiments to develop disease-free planting material of fruits and flowers at the tissue lab. They have also assisted some farmers in setting up polyhouses (nursery). One such beneficiary, Roshni Rawat, 35, of Nagaon is growing onions in her polyhouse. "HARC gives me technical support for the polyhouse. They have given me onion seeds and I was given training on how to dig deep for land preparation,' she says. "I go regularly for meetings at the agriculture clinic to get the latest information and timely delivery of seeds. If my plants are diseased, other farmers come to assist me by suggesting sprays, fertilizers, and chemicals'

Traditionally, women are the custodians of local seeds. Seed management and preservation has always been in the hands of women, a factor which has not been considered seriously. The traditional and local seeds which are more suitable and resistant to local climatic conditions are slowly diminishing and the expansion of hybrid seeds has taken place in the rural areas. Women perceive irregular and torrential rainfall, changes in flowering and fruiting behaviour of many plants, shifting of plant species, emergence of new weed, insect and disease as major vulnerabilities. Lack of technological know-how is making it difficult for them to select crop species and varieties to make adjustments in changing climate.

Women are also the main producers of food crops, food security providers, fodder, fuel, water, minor forest produce, and seed collectors, care giver, livestock raisers and managers of natural resources in the Himalayan region. But the effects of climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it harder to secure these resources and women are the worst hit. "Due to gender inequality, women often face exclusion from decision making as they are not recognized as main producers or farmers since the landowner is a man; says HARC activist Amita Kala. "This makes women more vulnerable to change in climatic conditions and leaves them with limited resources to cope with the changes,' she points out. "Seasonal migration of men to the nearby cities leaving women in the villages with increased burden of work adds to their woes" : As a matter of its policy,"HARC has worked towards gender mainstreaming at institutional as well as programmatic level and believes that women and men must equally benefit from the results of any development programme,' stresses Kunwar. "We need to incorporate the gender perspective in all strategies and programmes aiming to support the mountain communities to cope with climate change,' he underlines adding that active and visible participation of women and their collectives in climate protection negotiations and policy making at national and international level is crucial for this.

¬Nitin Jugran Bahuguna is a freelance writer based in New Delhi

 

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“Empowering people to take their development decisions themselves & build a stable society that is free of social, economic & gender inequity.”

“Holistic, integrated & sustainable development of the hill people based on their cultural values, traditions and resources.”

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