My name is Brij Narayan Pathak. I am a resident of Bhagupur village in Chandauli, Uttar Pradesh. I belong to a middle class family, and my father is a farmer. I did my BSc in agriculture and am currently pursuing MSc. I have been married for two years, and I have an infant daughter. I have two younger brothers who currently work in a microfinance bank. I come from a small village with the total geographical area being 78.13 hectares. Bhagupur has a total population of 1,300 with about 230 households. Chandauli and Varanasi are the nearest towns to Bhagupur.
As a young adult, I grew up noticing problems with governance and sanitation awareness in my village. In the rainy season, the roads were flooded with water. Wastewater from the houses flowed in the streets, becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Water for irrigation is available with the depth of groundwater at 25–30 feet and canal about 2.5 km away from the village. Agriculture practices are traditional because there is no usage of machines like zero tillage and other farm mechanization tools.
I started work with Sehgal Foundation in January 2016 in East Champaran, Bihar, under a partnership project in agriculture. Since my work involved community mobilization in the villages, I was reminded of the problems in my native gram panchayat. I realized is the value of community mobilization. Prior to working with the foundation, I worked with Dr. Reddy’s Foundation in Uttar Pradesh. I was introduced to Sehgal Foundation through a family friend and decided to give it a shot. Work for me is a passion, and I believe in learning by doing. My work with Sehgal Foundation introduced me to new agriculture techniques and taught me so much that I feel it is important to share and disseminate my learning to the area I come from. In conversations with my family members, I make it a point to share my knowledge with them.
In my early days in Bihar with a new project in a new place, our whole team was skeptical about the community’s reception. We faced many challenges in project implementation, but the trust in people and the work strengthened my community mobilization and team leadership skills as well as improved my decision-making power. I have learned that we must do our work honestly, be non-political and secular, and empower rural communities that really need it the most. I have also learned the importance of communicating and negotiating well without prejudice within the great diversity of rural culture, beliefs, and behaviors. One should be an active listener, demonstrate a high level of initiative and proactiveness, and be oriented toward solutions and results.
In my three and a half years of working with Sehgal Foundation, I have worked in twenty-five villages in Bihar with the aim of promoting improved agriculture practices with new adaptive technologies of mechanization—and the results all sum up to behavior change. The farmers in our intervention villages have adopted farm mechanization practices with great zeal.
I have found that development, although a slow process, becomes particularly rewarding when the community accepts you as their own. Community members certainly value the presence of the Sehgal Foundation team and they endorse the good work done by the organization in the field in a nondiscriminating manner. The villagers are grateful to the organization for introducing them to new agriculture tools and promoting improved farming practices that help to decrease the cost of cultivation.
(Brij is Project Coordinator, Bihar at Sehgal Foundation)