By: Mukesh Dubey, Senior Manager Communication and Resource Mobilisation with inputs from ASHA, IGSSS Partner in Murshidabad, West Bengal

 

 

Bedana Bibi standing on the banks of river Padma, which runs along the eastern border of India and separates Murshidabad and Bangladesh into two separate worlds, sometimes wonders whether her life is akin to the river itself. The river has been part of her life and her existential struggles and triumphs. Like river Padma, her life saw myriad ebb and flow defining the course of her journey crisscrossing many emotions on the way.

 

 

M1Over the years, the river shifted its course eroding and engulfing its bank and in the process created a new patch of land on the other side. This led to creation of shoal in Jalangi and Farraka in Murshidabad District. It resulted in loss of cultivable land, homestead lands and orchards increased, incurring heavy economic loss to the region. Many families are affected and often displaced with adverse socio-economic impact, making them vulnerable to the social, educational, economic and health implications. Many people migrated and settled in the newly emerged char lands (shoal) leading a life under the shadow of poverty and insecurity.

 

 

M4Bedana Bibi lives in Muradpur, a village situated at the bank of river Padma, with her husband Jabbar Mola. She was barely ten years old when she was married to Jabbar and came with him to Muradpur. She is in her late thirties now and has raised two sons and one daughter. She was 12 when she gave birth to her first child. Both of her sons are working in Kerala as labourer while her daughter who is 18 years old will get married soon. Access to government entitlements is very limited in Muradpur; for Jabbar the only asset he has for any income is the piece of two decimal shoal lands that he has leased.

 

 

M3Under the Sustainable Options for Uplifting Livelihood (SOUL) Program, NGO ASHA worked with women and facilitated them to form Self Help Group (SHG). Bedana became a member of Asar Alo (Ray of Hope) SHG in 2015. Eager to learn new skills to improve her family’s precarious financial condition, Bedana participated in the different skill training and learnt about seed conservation and livestock management.

 

 

Bedana now owns goats, poultry and cows. Earlier she did not pay any attention to her livestock and sought help only during ailment. The training helped her to change her practice. She is careful to apply her learning on livestock care and management. She vaccinates them as per schedule.

 

 

Bedana supports Jabbar in his plot of land to process jute in the char land. She is preserving seeds for the next season. A quick income – expenditure analysis shows the couple added an additional income of Rs. 1000 as profit through agriculture and Rs. 2,300 as profit from livestock in one season. She has also involved her daughter in these activities. 

 

 

Bedana is confident and prepared for the seasons to come. She knows that she has to flow like the river Padma with her new skills to bring smile to the people she loves. She says in Bengali, “Posupalan kore poribar er mukhe hasi fotate perechi.” (I could bring smile on the faces on my family through animal rearing).