11Oct2013

Living with Climate Change (Blog series: Write-up 2)

Sumit Vij

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it”
— Winston Churchill

Bhure Khan_A Jal Yodha of Mewat

Continuing from the last blog entry, Living with Climate Change (LCC) Project at Sehgal Foundation has made progress in terms of site selection. I visited the Bundelkhand region in Central India in mid August 2013. Bundelkhand, a semi-arid geographical region lies between the Indo-Gangetic plain to the north and the Vindhyachal range to the south and is divided into 6 districts of Madhya Pradesh & 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh. It is a hard rock area with limited or inadequate ground water resources. The geo-physical condition is significantly sensitive to climate change. For example, Bundelkhand had 12 drought years during the 19th and 20th centuries. On an average, drought occurred once in 16 years. However with the changing climate, frequency of droughts has increased. In the period from 1968-1992, drought frequency has increased from one – three in 16 years.

This blog entry is not about the impact of droughts in Bundelkhand but about a local change agent who has developed local adaptation strategies to cope with the impact of the changing climate.

During my recent visit to Bundelkhand, I got an opportunity to meet a young, dynamic and highly motivated farmer. Prakash Kushwaha of Rajawar village in Tikamgarh district has initiated a local movement that emphasizes organic methods of agriculture. This 25 year old has learnt about organic farming techniques from the Shubh Kal program broadcast on Radio Bundelkhand – a community radio based in Orchha and promoted by Development Alternatives, a civil society organization working to empower rural communities. Prakash believes that the climate has been very unpredictable recently, especially with the heavy rains this year and continuous droughts from 2004 to 2009.

Having seen cracked fields during the drought years, Prakash understands the significance of agriculture adaptation strategies. He took steps towards preserving fertility of the soil and enhancing agricultural productivity by adopting organic farming techniques such as vermi composting and amrit mitti (a type of organic fertilizer). He has also been advocating the use of kitchen gardens and rainwater harvesting.

With these practices in place, Prakash grows several kinds of crops in Kharif (monsoon) and Rabi (winter) cropping cycles and has recently started cultivating a crop of medicinal importance called Chlorophytum borivilianum (common name: Safed Musli). It is sold for Rs 600-800 per kg. Many women in his village have taken up the kitchen garden activity since he started advocating for the same. Women grow tomatoes, eggplants, bitter gourds and other seasonal vegetables. Communities feel that kitchen gardens not only ensure steady source of food for household consumption but also increase the aesthetic value of the households.

Prakash has been spreading his message using various communication channels that include participation in radio shows and making demonstrations at the local agriculture line department offices to promote organic farming as a climate adaptive strategy. He has been demonstrating the use of amrit mitti in neighboring villages and districts. The constituents required to make amrit mittiare one kilogram of cow dung, one liter of cow urine, 50 grams jaggery, 25 kilograms of dried leaves and 100 liters of water. He has even made field demonstrations of amrit mitti at the local Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs i.e. agriculture extension centers of the Government of India) in Jhansi, Datia and Shivpuri districts.

With the potential impact of climate change bearing down on the drought prone region of Bundelkhand, organic farming practices can ensure high soil fertility and a good crop yield for the future.