Building community resilience towards Drought

“Drought is a big challenge in our village. The information on rainfall pattern and availability will be very useful to us. Earlier we didn’t have such information and had to suffer huge losses because of crop failure. I as a Climate Change Volunteer feel very happy to share such information to the other farmers in my village.”
-Durgamani Horo, CCV Member, Bishunpur village, Khunti

“Most of the family members of my villages come to me for their issues and I helped them to solve out either in the form of writing application or sometimes I stand beside them, supporting them against the concerned Officer during the Panchayat meetings.”
– Asha Devi, PAT member, Silafari village, Khunti

This is what people, and power of people can achieve. It is not that people are not capable, it is mostly that their energies and concerns are not channelized in a right way. A major feature of a strong society is its self-sustaining community members.

The devastating drought that hit India in 2016 affected 330 million people. It also revealed the level of unpreparedness that the villages were at in terms of dealing with changing climate conditions and being able to respond to such disasters.

The drought of 2016 was the culmination point of previous years of dry spell in number of states in India, increase in temperatures, depletion of underground water and water in reservoirs. Water level in 91 reservoirs in India was at its lowest in 10 decades. This resulted in agriculture getting affected in turn hitting food security of people and their livelihood. The drought of 2016 affected 256 districts and caused more than 100 deaths due to heat stroke and starvation.

Jharakhand was one of the worst affected districts that experienced a drought even in 2018. There was a sharp decrease in rainfall in jharakhand in 2015 with no rains from September to November 2015. This damaged the Kharif crops, while the moisture stress affected Rabi crops as well.  State Agriculture department has reported that 64 blocks of the state have suffered 50 per cent loss in crops and another 62 blocks have suffered 40 per cent loss due to poor monsoon.

While immediate relief and rehabilitation efforts were being made, IGSSS realised the need to train, prepare and capacitate the community in fighting against climate and resource uncertainty. The need for community to come together and work towards strengthening themselves was identified by IGSSS. With that vision and motive, IGSSS facilitated a project named Creating Livelihood Adaption for Drought (CLAD) Project from July 2016 to June 2020, to build the resilience of farmers in drought affected districts Khunti, Godda, Gridih, Palamu of Jharkhand so as to fight against agricultural uncertainties that come with climate change. This project envisioned a self-sustaining group of farmers and other volunteers who would work towards creation of this community whose foundations would be laid on endurance and consciousness.

As reported by DownToEarth, B. Venkateshwarlu, former director at International Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad, said, “Climate change affects all the three aspects of food security: availability, access and absorption. When production decreases, availability of food decreases. Climate change hits poor the most. They don’t have income to buy the food, so their access to it is affected. This, in turn, has an impact on health and affects absorption.” With increasing threats and issues emanating from constant climate change, the farmers need to be prepared to face any sort of calamity; pre empties measures need to be  taken. The most effective way to mitigate any causes of climate change is to capacitate the farmers themselves, and people in the villages, at the grassroots level. Once people of the community are capable enough, the entire community benefits. For this purpose, as part of the CLAD project it was decided to make groups of locals who can further the development of agriculture in their areas and assist the farmers in any case of vulnerability. These groups were envisioned to act as a facilitating mechanisms for farmers, and agricultural practices in the region as whole and also in times of calamities, act as first responders.

Panchayat Action Team (PAT) and Climate Change Volunteers (CCV) were the two groups. These were to be constituted from existing Community based organisations that included Self Help groups, WWGs, FGs etc., at a panchayat level. However, with further considerations it was decided to form these group at village and / or hamlet level to ensure a more effective functioning and easy administration. Panchayat Action Team act as a bridge between the agriculture community and the government and / or public institutions. They are responsible to connect the community to government schemes by assisting them in various logistics, the priority has been given to drought related schemes but PAT is supposed to facilitate a community member to avail any government scheme. PAT was also  to mobilize resources for projects submitted through Gram Panchayat, while the CCV were to keep the farmers in loop about all the possible climate information and weather updates, they fill the climate information gap and build farmers’ strength to deal with any untoward incident and change they might witness due to climate change. They are also responsible to promote environment protection and promotion int her villages by encouraging climate smart agriculture, preventing deforestation, plantation drives etc.

The members of both the groups were chosen through careful scrutiny and keeping certain considerations in mind. The both group (PAT & CCV) members went through rigorous capacity building training that made them acquainted to the concept and the process of this project. For climate change volunteers the training initially started with giving them a conceptual clarity on what exactly is climate change, how it affects the agricultural practices and our daily life. They were also made aware of how their usual agricultural practices which include chemical fertilisers is in turn contributing to the negative effects of climate change.  Participatory methodology was adopted in these training sessions wherein the participants were made to involve themselves in activities and group tasks, and mediums of art and film was also used.  They were also made aware of renewable energy sources like bio gas and solar gas; and conservation techniques like watershed management and rainwater harvesting. PATs were trained in how to handle government-based schemes and how to avail the benefits.

When the training was over, CCV acted as force multipliers and sought to bring in a revolution in their respective villages. Volunteers undertook climate change classes with children of 5 primary school and acquainted them with climate change effects.

They acted as agents of change by sharing the learnings they received with community members in 56 villages and disseminated the significant relationship between climate change and agricultural practices. They involved the community in planting trees across 10 Acres of waste land & forest. After rigorous awareness campaigns by the volunteers community members adopted the low energy consumption of bulb at household CCV installed weather forecast and advisory board in 37 villages

Panchayat Action Team was to be made aware of, and acquainted with the village social structure and the power structures around to make good use of those when in need. The training that was imparted to volunteers was mostly to understand these structures and to understand how government schemes can be availed. The most important element was to make them believe in community strength and the power of people through which they can make the present and future of their community qualitative and sustainable. They were trained in how to apply for schemes, what all documents are requires, how to track their application etc. Prior to this they were also made aware of all government schemes that are available and how they can benefit the community, in addition they were acquainted with local governance bodies’ structure, functions, and powers as PAT in future would be dealing with these institutions.

Overall impact for PAT and CCV in one year has been commendable. These groups assisted the farmers and other community members in increasing the productivity of their agricultural produce and pre empties measures to be taken in terms of climate change vulnerabilities. CCV facilitated online registration of 1679 farmers on web portal of Indian Metrological Data for receiving regular agricultural advisory. PAT has been identifying issues in Micro Level plan that gram Panchayat implements and trying to solve them through proper public and administrative advocacy. They are now mobilising resources to build a sustainable and resilient agriculture in the target areas through these micro plans itself.

Apart from this the CCV has been regularly putting up weather advisory in villages, either on a simple chart paper or a board in local language and also shared with farmers & community for make them understandable. Both the groups have been carrying out advocacy and consultation session with self-help groups and community based organisations, while also regularly meeting the gram Sabha to push them to prioritise developmental projects, and works that directly benefit the community.

This PAT and CCV initiative is telling of the fact that community grievances can be solved within, and by the community itself. It is the most democratic way of bringing about sustainable development and mitigating climate change issues. This way of addressing agricultural community’s problem, in particular and the entire villages’ problems, in general is based on involving the stakeholders in bringing about change; it is driven by motivation and self-upliftment.

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