Tackling malnutrition and migration in Dungarpur, Rajasthan

 

In Dungarpur district of Rajasthan where 92 percent of the population is economically backward and exceptionally vulnerable to environmental hazards, many farmers struggled with lack of knowledge and poor farming practices. Today, improved farming in Dungarpur is not only changing the way families cultivate crops or vegetables, but also influence the quality of food and livelihood practices. Moreover, it is increasing their resilience to the vagaries of weather in an area that is prone to drought and soil erosion.

One farmer Mamta recalls their helplessness in the face of unpredictable climatic conditions where they would be forced to grow only Maize. "Almost every year, the crops used to fail and the incomes from the yield were so poor that we would barely have enough to feed the family". Recurring monsoon failure and infertile soil made farming non-profitable. Mamta's husband was forced to leave Dungarpur in search of livelihood. Mamta decided to stay back and toil in her ancestral land to keep her kitchen going.

Majority of women in Dungarpur are farmers. A women farm leader, Laxmi Raut, says, "Farming was male-dominated. Especially, men only went outside Dungarpur to sell the produce. But this has changed now. We women are now successful farmers and agri-entrepreneurs. We are happy to bring a social change in the community".

This success and much more were achieved through the formation of a Farmers Producers Organisation (FPO) with the support of a non-profit organisation, World Vision India, which works for children. Mandviya Agri-base Farmer Producer Company was formed consisting members of the households identified as marginal and having children suffering from malnutrition. Formation of the FPO not only strives to build the economic stability of the community but it also aims at addressing children health issues especially malnutrition. FPO, which is a scheme of the central Government under its National Food Security Act, proved to be the much-needed help for the farmers.

The FPO has 1025 members, out of which 681 are women, who remain actively involved in the decision-making process and regularly attend company meetings. Together with Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK), trainings were organised for the members of the FPO besides providing necessary grain seeds and farming infrastructure. A WhatsApp group comprising KVK's resident scientists and farmers was also created for quick resolution of queries.

These interventions have successfully reduced the seasonal migration amongst many men from 8-10 months to 3-4 months a year. Farmers, including female farmers, have now successfully moved away from chemical pesticide and fertiliser based farming to organic-by-trust farming. This has contributed towards making Dungarpur being declared an 'Organic District' by the State government.

Women farmers are now empowered to carry out agricultural activities and travel out of the village to sell their produce in the districts, a task that was often entrusted only to male members. Mamta Devi, speaking on the change in the attitude of men towards women said, "We learn new things like packaging and cleaning of the urad dal (black gram) through training programmes. We can only learn this once we step outside our homes and it will help us do better work. If we explain this to our husbands, they understand us now."

S.N. Ojha, the Programme Coordinator of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, said, "Women are sometimes much better farmers than men. Women get chances to economically manage the family and ancestral land only when their husbands migrate to other cities for work. As such women show more interest to learn and adapt to new techniques that can help them do farming better and make the land more productive. Training women farmers on vermicompost making and other techniques will yield a much faster result and growth. They are fast becoming the backbone of agriculture in a challenging place like Dungarpur."

 

Abraham Daniel
World Vision India

This article was first published in Business Insider India.

https://www.businessinsider.in/this-women-farmers-producer-organisation-is-tackling-malnutrition-and-migration-in-rajasthans-dungarpur-district/articleshow/61765334.cms

 

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