Thursday, 30 March 2017

Change begins with one line: Evidence from the AVRDC project work

Women’s risk taking in trying new types of vegetable farming is benefiting their communities: Evidence from the field.

Change begins with one line
The success of Ms. Dipali Hansda

As simple a change as sowing crops in a line can create a ripple effect.  In West Bengal, farmers for generations have broadcast their seeds without any intercropping. Now, innovative farmers are discovering new ways of planting crops – and earning more money.

One such innovator is Ms Dipali Hansda, a 21-year-old woman with little education from the West Bengali village of Churinsara.
Ms Dipali Hansda, an inspiring innovator who is raising her family’s income – and it all began with line sowing and learning to intercrop

The village is isolated: 855 m above sea level high up in the Ajodhya hills, and 20 km from the nearest town, Baghmundi.

The community depends entirely on paddy during the rainy kharif season, but the crop fails about every two to three years. The villagers desperately need other sources of income.

As the eldest of her four children, Dipali Hansda well understands her responsibility to help her parents increase the family income and earn a livelihood. During the rainy season they grew paddy and maize as staple foods for their families.  Before 2013, like all other women in her village, she would collect firewood from the forest and carry it by hand to sell at the nearest market 16 km away. This was their only option, even though it was hard work and environmentally unsustainable.

In 2013 The World Vegetable Center, previously known as the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center AVRDC, and the NGO, Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), began work in Churinsara. Their project, “Improving livelihoods through innovative cropping systems on East India Plateau”, was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Dipali was one of the first women the project worked with.  In the first year, she learned how to sow maize in lines. Her crop did well, and she made 4500 INR from her 450 m2 field.

During the kharif season (late June) 2014, she planted intercropped local French beans between the lines of the maize variety Kanchan-25 she’d sown two weeks earlier. Her dedicated crop care and careful weed control resulted in a yield of 656 kilos of maize and 65 kilos of French bean, earning her a total income of 6350 INR. She was happy to have obtained 65 kg of French bean worth 1100 INR from the same piece of land with little additional effort. She sold the bean at a premium price in the market, and the nine kilos her family ate were a welcome addition to their diet.

In the last week of September she harvested maize, and then sowed mustard seed, which yielded 31 kilos. From this, she extracted nine kilos of oil worth 640 INR and 20 kilos of mustard cake worth 640 INR.

Her successes so inspired her that she decided to spend more time in agricultural activities.

“Agriculture is a better livelihood than cutting and selling firewood – and less tiring,” she said. “Agriculture provides us with an income and adds nutrition to my family’s meals.  If I work sincerely in agriculture and follow improved agricultural technologies, I don’t need to go out of my village.”

She has now cut back the time she spends going into the forest to cut firewood by three quarters, and only goes once a week on the long trek to sell firewood.

This year she decided to cultivate a pre-kharif crop during the hot dry summer. Her family doesn’t have any irrigation, so she’s leasing a relative’s irrigated land to grow bottle gourd and cucumber. She hopes to get a good yield and better prices for her gourds in the pre-kharif season.

With PRADAN and World Vegetable Center support, she is evaluating different varieties of tomato and even trying some new methods of paddy cultivation.

She is a researcher as well as an inspiring innovator who is raising her family’s income – and it all began with line sowing and learning to intercrop.

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