Enhancing resilience of flood affected communities

Farming becomes a challenge when flooded and left silted, making farmers vulnerable to weather and livelihoods. Technical support along with digital weather forecast and e-learning training has enhanced the resilience of farms and changed the fate of farmers like Nisha.

Several villages in Bagha 1, Bagha 2, Madhubani, Bhittah, Piprasi blocks in West Champaran district of Bihar, and in Nichlaul and Khadda blocks of Maharajganj and Kushinagar districts in Uttar Pradesh are located along the banks of Gandhak River, close to the Gandhak barrage. With no embankment between them and the river, every year they face the problem of floods and waterlogging.  Heavy rains and the water in-flows from nearby mountainous region, ruin the Kharif crops as well as the seasonal vegetable crops. Also, being close to Balmiki Wildlife Sanctuary, animals are also found in abundance in this area.

Agriculture is the primary source of income for many residents in the village. While only 15-20% of the area is cultivated during Kharif, crops like wheat, mustard, lentils and vegetables are cultivated in the Rabi season. As waterlogging lasts for approximately six months, cultivation of paddy is difficult. The main crop of the region is sugarcane. Farmers are forced to sell their sugarcane to the local two sugar mills or to the vendors, with less returns. Farmers also sell their sugarcane to jaggery makers of Kushi nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, which does not fetch well.

In 2018, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), an NGO started working in Rajwatia village of West Champaran.  Several initiatives to build community resilience were taken up under the LWR supported “Congregational Transboundary Flood Resilience Project, Gandak River Basin”. This includes organising village level institutions such as Village Disaster Management Committee, Farmer Field School, Self-Help groups, etc. Following is the account of Ms. Nisha Devi, a farmer who benefitted from this project.

Nisha Devi, a role model

Nisha devi, belongs to Rajwatiya village of West Champaran district in Bihar.  Nisha owns 1.5 acre of cultivable land out of which 0.4 acres of land is located in the flood and water-logged area near the Gandak River.  As the fields are submerged for 6 months a year,  there is no hope of producing enough food for the family. Her husband, therefore migrates to metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Bangalore etc. to earn and support the family.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nisha faced the toughest times. In the month of June, flood hit her field and destroyed the standing crops. Added to this, her husband had to return owing to the Pandemic conditions and this made them very vulnerable.

Nisha Devi met the GEAG team members during an FGD meeting where in she got to know about simple, yet substantial resilience practices that enhance farming in flood prone areas. These included features such as jute bag farming, use of bamboo structures, mounding, bund farming, raised bed farming and raised nursery. She participated in Farmer Field Schools and got to know about the its impact and long-term health, environmental benefits of Matka fertilisers and pesticides. She also learnt the process of preparing Matka fertilizer and Matka pesticides. She executed various farm techniques in her field, learnt through GEAG team, during FFS sessions. She used the information received from weather forecast and agro advisory through WhatsApp messages, SMS messages and through display board established at community places,  to plan her farming activity.

In September 2020, she came to know about oyster mushroom cultivation from the GEAG project team and prepared 18 bags of substrate with costs around Rs. 1250 for cultivation. After 40 days, she cultivated 7 kg. of mushroom, costing around Rs. 840. Gradually, mushrooms started coming out every three to four days and till December, a total of 45 kg of mushrooms were produced. Her family consumed 15 kg of mushrooms, adding to the family nutrition. By selling the remaining 30 kg of mushroom at the rate of Rs 150.00 per kg, she got Rs 4500.00 as an incremental income. Thus in 3 months time, Nisha was able to earn some income.

Nisha also started vegetable cultivation using agro advisory and new farm techniques learnt in FFS sessions. She sowed fenugreek seed in her 0.30 acres of land in Rabi season between two rows of garlic and cultivated radish on the field bunds. She obtained 7.5 quintals of garlic, 3.8 quintals of fenugreek and 60 kg. of radish. As a result, she earned more than rupees ten thousand from the three crops. The input cost was also low at  Rs. 1980 as she had used Matka Khad and pesticides.

She has also generated extra income by following intercropping method. She intercropped garlic crop with ladies finger, sponge gourd and maize crops. By this, an additional amount of Rs.12600 was realised.  Further, she also harvested 1.1 quintals of Sponge Gourd and 1.5 quintals of lady’s finger and earned Rs 7800 by selling it in the market.

Nisha says, “Seeing this success, my husband started supporting me in my farming activities. This encouraged me to initiate farming in 1 acre of silted land in December. We adopted various farm-based techniques to bring back the soil fertility. These include self-prepared compost, line sowing methodology, retaining soil moisture using leaves of local plants”.

She dug one-inch-deep pit with a diameter over 12 inches and put homemade compost into it. Further, Sponge Gourd and Bottle Gourd was intercropped with Watermelon considering line sowing method (maintaining a 2-meter distance on one side of land). To retain the moisture, she cut the branches of Watermelon and spread 1/2-inch-thick layer all over the field. This reduced the cost of irrigation. She also saved on the labour for weeding, as weeds did not accumulate in the field due to mulching. The practice helped crops grow without making contact with soil and sand and thus reduced the chances of crop rot.

By using the weather related information, she reduced her irrigation cost and the damage caused by rain. As a result, during lockdown, she earned an amount of Rs. 28500.00 by selling Watermelon, Bottle Gourd and Sponge Gourd produced in their silted land.

Nisha Devi earned additional income through intercropping

Today, Nisha Devi has become a master trainer of Rajwatiya village. Inspired by the easy method of mushroom production, she cheerfully and proudly promotes mushroom farming as an alternative source of income. She says, “mushroom cultivation has the potential to improve the socio-economic condition of farmers and can help solve employment problems in both literate and illiterate rural areas. She adds that for women, this can well be a boon. It is a women friendly profession where women can utilize their time without sacrificing their household responsibilities”.

Early weather forecast information and agro advisory helped her a lot in decision making and planning for their seasonal crops. Nisha Devi  has succeeded in cultivating her silted land by adopting the resilient practices, using digital technology and natural resources and serves as a role model for other farmers.

Archana Srivastava and Bijay Prakash

Archana Srivastava

Project Coordinator

Email: archanasri844@gmail.com

 Bijay Prakash

Environmental Planner

Email: bijay.plan@gmail.com

Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group

224, Purdilpur, M G College Road

Gorakhpur – 273 001, Uttar Pradesh



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