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Farmers living in remote rural areas face severe food insecurity. Small landholdings and backward and traditional agricultural techniques mean that the harvest lasts only for six months, after which they need to migrate to towns in search of seasonal employment as labourers. The population therefore is stricken with poverty and malnutrition, and migration rate for survival is quite high. BSWI strengthens livelihood capabilities of rural poor and creates sustainable income generating opportunities. BSWI now works with about 10,000 families from marginalized communities in remote villages, located in three of the poorest districts in West Bengal, i.e., South 24 Parganas, Malda and West Medinipur. BSWI works with local women who with their inherent resource management skills and concern about the welfare of their families can play a crucial role in promoting change in the family. The women are encouraged to form SHGs, each consisting of 10 to 20 women. The women’s SHGs are an effective support system, but more importantly, they create a consolidated entity that can more easily access bank loans, public services, etc. The strategy is to strengthen their skills and then promote livelihoods. Integrated Natural Resource Management (NRM) is the third area of work that BSWI undertakes in its project areas. The focus is on the optimum management of land and water resources, improved irrigation, well development, soil and water conservation, replenishing forests and preserving the environment. The program also includes growing of vegetables, cash crops, and promotion of horticulture. Other livelihood options are home-based micro enterprises like khadi yarn and cloth production, poultry farms, animal husbandry units etc. Over 150 local youth and women have been trained and deployed as ‘service providers’ around various livelihood sectors.
The main functions of BSWI in Livelihood programs are:
Livelihood Planning: By  using various participatory learning tools including pictorial-based methodologies
Agriculture:  To increase productivity of the main cereal crops to achieve improved food security, and diversification into cash crops such as pulses, oil seeds, and vegetables
Horticulture:  Optimum utilization of the water resources through- demonstration of fruit crops
Land & Water Resources: For  an equitable and sustainable economic growth, ensure household food security, and help minimize mass poverty
Water Harvesting Tank:  Managing natural resources for proper land use while protecting it from erosion; enhance productivity while maintaining soil fertility; and
water harvesting and conservation
Renovation of Community Ponds: For summer vegetable cultivation and fish cultivation
Goat Rearing:   By assisting women in optimizing their livestock resources
Fishery:  Fish-farmers’ committees have been constituted in each of the ponds where BSWI has provided support
Broiler Poultry Rearing:  BSWI has developed a model of decentralized smallholder poultry rearing which has emerged as a powerful tool for the livelihood promotion of
rural poor women
Training-cum-Demonstration Centre on Animal Husbandry: BSWI has constructed a “Training-cum-Demonstration Centre on Animal Husbandry” in its own farmhouse for
giving training to 350 SHG members in each year in poultry, duck rearing, dairy and goat rearing
SHGs in Poverty Mitigation: The SHGs provide a platform for starting home-based enterprises and increase earnings
INTEGRATED LIVELIHOOD DEVELOPMENT PROJECT:
In Malda district, BSWI has been implementing a beautifully woven project comprising of agriculture-animal husbandry-fishery-women’s empowerment programs for 2500 tribal families in Gajole block. The project is now under consideration for expansion in other areas. The project includes SRI (System of Rice Intensification), Improved Paddy cultivation, vegetable cultivation, fish cultivation, mango orchards improvements, goat rearing, watershed development, community pond renovation for fish rearing, women’s SHG promotion and strengthening, bank linkages by SHGs and the Producer Groups.
 
  • (SRI)
  • WATER HARVESTING
  • HORTI CULTURE (MANGO)
  • COMMUNITY FISHERY
  • GOAT REARING

SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION (SRI)

  • Wider adoption of SRI has been improved amongst the small and marginal farmers
  • The small and marginal farmers have shown commitment by adopting SRI in more land
  • Farmers not supported by the project have practiced SRI on their own expenses
  • The farmers have increased the SRI plots from 10 to 20 times
  • Food security enhanced from earlier 4 months to 7-8 months
  • The farmers could spend more on better food, education of kids, health needs and other amenities.
  • ATER HARVESTING

  • Income increased manifolds from various vegetable cultivation
  • Double, triple and intercropping has been possible by the farmers and enhanced their
  • The farmers can save more money in banks for bad times
  • The farmers can tackle their indebtedness level by way of utilizing group funds for improved agriculture practices.
  • 1270 children below the age of five years received the services from the project. The project received very good government support and coordination in implementing this program.

    HORTI CULTURE (MANGO)

  • Farmers are now conversant in scientific orchard management
  • Huge wastelands are being utilized in horticulture
  • Fruit yield of pilot phase’s orchards has been satisfactory
  • The farmers get additional income from the mangoes
  • They can now consume costly mangoes even after selling (that was not possible earlier)
  • Many families plan to get back their mortgaged orchards by borrowing from banks and from the SHGs’ revolving funds.
  • COMMUNITY FISHERY

  • The projects work for renovation of the community ponds educated the Gram Panchayat to intervene in the same activity out of the NREGA funds and create scope of more employment and community fisheries
  • The project-created pond-committees have been able to leverage adequate funds from the panchayat-sponsored NREGA funds and utilize the funds to enlarge the community ponds for improved fisheries
  • The pond committees have evolved strong collective functioning
  • Decision making ability of the rural poor has been an added outcome
  • Pond committees have taken more ponds from panchayat on lease
  • Collective saving and utilization has been possible for individual as well as village welfare needs
  • Capacity of the committees to make linkages with govt. departments has been increased (in terms of feed, medicines, consultations etc.)
  • The project-supported small ponds and community ponds have demonstrated that adequate income from composite fisheries and even consumption of costly fish is possible through scientific methods of fish cultivation.
  • GOAT REARING

  • The goat rearers have earned moderate supplementary income that was not possible earlier
  • Women’s confidence has grown significantly as they earned money
  • More active partnership between the couples has been found in decision-making process for the families’ well-being
  • The rearers could get back mortgaged land for cultivation
  • The rearers can now pay-for-services needed for the goats
  • Most of the goat rearers have mastered management techniques and they help others in need of such services
  • The rearers have achieved cohesion by sharing new-born kids to other deserving members of the village The informal collective is being stronger gradually and is moving towards formalizing the group.
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