A project in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh creates local institutions led by women farmers to pave the way for climate-smartness in agriculture.
Durgesh, Premvati and Rajeshwari have been on common platforms before: during marriage celebrations, community feasts, religious gatherings and also during sowing and harvesting of crops. However, this year in August, they came together on a common platform for an entirely novel reason: to be part of the Village Climate Management Committee (VCMC) that has been formed under the initiative of a USAID-funded project supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.
Project aim towards empowerment
Durgesh, Premvati and Rajeshwari are three amongst the 3725 farmer beneficiaries of the Climate-Smart Village (CSV) project in the Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, India. This project aims to build resilience among farming communities through a range of climate-smart agricultural (CSA) activities. One of the core objectives of the project is to create local, informal institutions that will oversee the management of the project while also ensuring true empowerment of the local communities. In the case of Betul, a further element of novelty comes from the fact that the local institution created (i.e the VCMC) is comprised entirely of women farmers.
Crafting institutions for building resilience
The institution-making process has been comprehensive. Women farmers were engaged in a consultative process to discuss the issues confronting their farming outputs as well as their general lives as farmers. There was common consensus regarding the negative impacts of the changing climate on agricultural production and as a result, incomes. Subsequently, a committee that goes by the vernacular name of ‘Gram Jalvayu Samiti’ (VCMC) was formed which is expected to work as an informal body headed by a Chairman and a Secretary. Based on extensive deliberations, this committee will be finalizing the climate-smart activities that will be suitable for the villages and a number of by-laws will be put in place as a mechanism to ensure proper governance of the programs.
Further, it is envisioned that the climate-smart activities that will be selected by this committee will be integrated with the general village development plans. Full responsibility of monitoring and evaluation of the said interventions will lie with the committee that will be expected to meet regularly and formally through the forum and decide the courses of action to follow. The members of the committee will also decide on the individual contributions to be made by them to ensure ownership, and the same will be infused with a strong element of transparency through regular auditing. Finally, the larger goal in this entire process is the creation of the ‘Kisan Jalwayu Sangh’ which will bring together the Chairman and Secretary of 25 villages of each project district and which will be registered as a producer company of farmers.
Women farmers in Betul are enthralled by this entire initiative. Not only are the female farmers active and equal participants along with men in agriculture but also in many other walks of life in this small area at the heart of India. The reason being, the embedded social inclusiveness in the cultural ethos of the Gond tribe, to which most of the farmer beneficiaries in this location belong. Sex ratio in Betul is higher than not only the state but also the national average and literacy is favourably distributed here in comparison to many other rural areas of the country. In the other two project locations i.e. Nalanda (Bihar) and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), socio-cultural norms sill relegate women largely to the background, which is also reflected in the gender gap in agriculture. The project initiatives have, however, devised intelligent solutions to ensure enhanced participation by women farmers in its activities, especially their inclusion in these informal institutions. However, in case of Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, the ambience was already set for generating and implementing gender inclusive strategies.
The Climate-Smart Village approach
The institution formation is one of the initiatives of a larger project funded by USAID which aims to deploy global and regional knowledge and skills for scaling out climate-resilient agricultural interventions in food insecure and vulnerable areas through the CSV approach. This approach is built around the use of a range of climate-smart agricultural options rather than single technological interventions. With the overarching aim of empowering farming communities, the CSV sites are crafted with the following components: climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies, climate information services and insurance, climate and agricultural development finance, local/national and public/private institutions, national/subnational plans and policies and farmers’ knowledge. Modelled on this approach the institution building process in the said project location has been initiated by involving the local community members and in case of Betul, with the conscious approach of gender inclusion and empowerment.
Rajeshwari, age 38, one of the project beneficiary and VCMC member reflects on how she benefits from this project:
Over the years we have witnessed variations in our crop yields. Some years the yield has been good, and in some other, it has been very bad, which put my family in a lot of risk. This project initiative looks very promising to me and I am sure there will definitely be improvement in our yields. I am happy to be proud of the VCMC and excited to be part of the change."
- Khatri-Chhetri A, Pande K, Pant A, Sahin S. 2017. Scaling up resilient agricultural practices, technologies and services in the vulnerable areas of India. New Delhi, India. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (South Asia)