Rural Reality Show: An innovative approach to spread good practices

Spreading a good practice in agriculture on a wider scale has always been a challenge. However, people in Rajawar, a small village in Bundelkhand region in India, have showcased a process of collective change towards ‘development’ excellently by using community radio. The Rural Reality Show, an innovative show on the community radio became a means for spreading a practice for enriching soil fertility, from an individual to the whole community.

Bundelkhand is a semi-arid region located in central India, consisting of six districts of the Madhya Pradesh state and seven districts of the Uttar Pradesh state. This region has always witnessed low rainfall resulting in persistent drought over the years. Moreover, due to rugged and rocky terrain of Bundelkhand, even the short amount of rainfall received runs off the land surface. Thus, there has always been an acute water shortage and poor agricultural activities. In the recent past, changing climatic condition, with erratic and unpredictable rainfall, has further worsened the plight of farmers.

The continuous drought years in Bundelkhand have affected the agricultural productivity and subsequently weakened the livelihood systems. Climate change has resulted in a 58% decline in agriculture based livelihoods and food grain production in Bundelkhand. Once a dense forest, today, Bundelkhand suffers from acute ecological degradation.

To address the issues of climate change in Bundelkhand, Development Alternatives (DA), a social enterprise dedicated to sustainable development, designed an innovative approach called Rural Reality Show (RRS) for rural communities, based on adaptation approaches to decrease the impact of climate change on communities. RRS used community radio as the tool for engaging with local communities and communicating simple adaptation practices in an entertainment-education format.

The Reality Show

Kaun Banega Shubhkal Leader’ is India’s first Rural Reality Show broadcast on Radio Bundelkhand, a community radio based in Orchha. Radio Bundelkhand is jointly managed by DA and the community, where the programmes are produced with the participation of people. This show, helped in creating awareness on climate change and adaptation options in drought prone regions in Central India.

Expert and community interviews, talk shows, activity based reporting, folk songs, radio dramas and competitions were interwoven to make the programmes interesting and informative. The competition included capacity building of participants on using climate change adaptation options, elimination rounds to select good performers, hand-holding of selected individuals for ensuring sustainability. In RRS, climate champions from local villages were selected and trained in various adaptation practices. These champions were assessed and led through selection rounds based on the number of people they have been further able to influence and train on the particular adaptation practice in their village. This methodology helped in spreading the message to the larger community in a much more effective and faster way.

Out of 25 climate change adaptation options promoted in villages during Rural Reality Show, use of Amrut Mitti was one of the methods promoted to increase soil fertility and decrease the use of chemical fertilizers. Amrut Mitti is organic manure made from crop residues, animal waste and water with a small quantity of jaggery. This manure is very high in nutrients and is known to increase soil fertility and water retention capacity. Thus, it is one of the best practices suited for farming in a semi-arid region like Bundelkhand.

Prakash Kushwaha, a 25 year old farmer from Rajavar village in Tikamgarh district learnt about preparing and using Amrut Mitti during RRS. Ever since, he is not only using Amrut Mitti on his farm, but has also spread this information to everyone in his village. Prakash understands environmental issues, and is also open to experimenting with new techniques and farming methods which are beneficial for farmers as well as the environment. Prakash’s story has emerged as one of the most impactful climate change adaptation case studies and he is one of the final awardees of RRS.

Spreading the impact

After participating in RRS, Prakash has become very popular in his village and people respect him for his in-depth knowledge of environmental issues. People of all ages in the village seek his advice on farming related matters now.

“Prakashji is the one who has motivated me and my sisters to plant trees in our house.” Babli, a 20 year old girl in the same village said. Adding to this, Babli’s father says “Prakash is an inspiration, an information source, a consultant and also an evaluator for every farmer in Rajawar. He has become a change agent for everyone else in the village”.

As one enters Prakash’s village, Rajavar, lush green fields can be seen at the foot of a mountain with people working enthusiastically in their fields.

“Our land was not so fertile earlier and it was very difficult to grow any crop due to scanty rainfall and the rocky land. So, farming was not an easy job here,” says Santosh Kushwaha, a villager engaged in farming since his childhood. Now, Santosh beams with joy when he shows off his fields and says that the productivity of the land has increased after using Amrut Mitti in his fields. Santosh and other farmers first experimented with Amrut Mitti in a small area of their fields for one cropping season. They observed that the area where Amrut Mitti was used, required much less quantity of water and the grains were also healthier.

Today, approximately 90 percent of farmers in Rajawar use Amrut Mitti on their fields. Farmers are saying that use of AmrutMitti has decreased the amount of water required for irrigation and has enhanced the quality of crops produced. It also helped them to save the cost on chemical fertilizers which was earlier a large farming expense for farmers. Not only this, but now, farmers are able to grow water intensive crops like vegetables in their fields which were earlier not possible in this village.

People in Rajawar also understand the correlation between growth of trees and their own prosperity. From planting trees for a good rainfall, to crop-rotation practice and use of Amrut Mitti, various methods are being practiced by people to have a fruitful relationship with Mother Nature. The prosperity of this small village is reflected on the faces of its proud farmers.

Thus, Rajawar village has showcased a process of collective change towards ‘development’ excellently. Community radio, here, has not only proven to be successful in giving information to individuals, but has also led to a dialogue among community on climate change issues. It is an interesting model that this village represents, in which, the action for change sprouts from one individual and has reached out to other community people bringing a community level impact and RRS has played the key role in initiating this process.

Shweta Prajapati and Gazala Shaikh

Shweta Prajapati
Deputy Manager, Development Alternatives

Assistant Programme Director, Development Alternatives
B-32, TARA Crescent
Qutub Institutional Area, New Delhi – 110 016

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