Empowering & Building Capacity in Tribal Communities in Odisha, India
Empowering and Building Capacity of Tribal Communities of Four Gram Panchayats of Laxmipur Block of Koraput District in Odisha to Increase Food Security, Strengthen Social Cohesion and Enhance Climate Resilience.
Funded by Scottish Government and Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland (Today known as Corra Foundation)
April 2014 to October 2016
Rice has been cultivated in the East Indian state of Odisha since ancient times, its fertile land and running rivers supporting paddy cultivation as the mainstay of its people.
In Odisha, 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture. Although endowed with rich natural resources, currently 66.2% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Koraput is one of the most vulnerable districts of Odisha. Historically known for its abundance of paddy fields as well as many varieties of millet, yam and tuber crops, it is seeing this abundance vanish due to climate change, the introduction of cash crops, and 'Climate-Smart Agriculture,' which encourages chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, GM seeds, and high-risk technologies.
According to Odisha-based women’s federation, Orissa Nari Samaj (ONS), it is overworked tribal women and girls of the region, who carry out much of the agricultural labour and all of the domestic duties, who are the most vulnerable.
Suffering from high levels of food insecurity and poor nutritional intake, along with low levels of skill development, the communities of Koraput have also developed a great aspiration for transformation.
In response to their call, local NGO THREAD, Gaia Education and ONS, funded by the Scottish Government, came together to develop a project with 750 families of Koraput, to support the process of reversing these trends.
The project aimed to break the cycle of food insecurity by reintroducing agroecological farming techniques- with a particular emphasis on climate change-adapted farming. It then started to tackle the deeper structural issues causing local poverty, with community-designed activities to improve social linkages and the status of women.
Participating Koraput women developed their own kitchen gardens, and were trained in integrated sustainable farming practices and agroecological approaches - particularly how to develop new climate-resilient agricultural approaches, rooted in the traditional methods of food growing.
Drought-tolerant plants combined with mulching, fortified composting, vermi-composting vermiculture, herbal pesticides and green manures, significantly improved the productivity of their soil, the diversification of their crops and the nutrition of their meals. Mixed cropping, nitrogen fixation, biofertiliser preparation skills were also developed.
Sabitri Sawnta from Dangapaiguda Village, for example, now sustains 33 types of vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and flowers in her kitchen garden of 45 square metres.
The heart of the project was the campaign, Grow Your Own Food, to counteract so-called ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) techniques.
The Grow Your Own Food campaign had two key components: a community learning element, incorporating ecovillage and permaculture approaches, combined with seed preservation and the distribution of seedlings of various fruits and vegetables.
As part of this, the emerging women leaders participated in annual ecovillage design courses which incorporated locally relevant components of sustainable food production and seminars to enhance their skills in leadership, mediation and advocacy as important elements for peace-building, conflict resolution and sustained social-ecological resilience.
A late Monsoon...
Monsoon is the real Minister of Agriculture of India, as it controls the course of farming. Late and insufficient monsoons in year two created difficulties for the kitchen gardens of Koraput villagers. Instead of the usual two and half months of rain, they received only 15 days.
The women still managed to plant their saplings but the harvest was small. New water-use efficiency techniques for vegetable cultivation were therefore introduced through our training programmes and biochar techniques were taught in year three to keep up the moisture in the soil when there is no rain.
The project was a beautiful success. It was testament to the effectiveness of participatory methods for empowering villagers to take action for sustainable development themselves, through locally adapted responses to changing environments.
By project-end, high yields were celebrated in participating villages, which led to surplus produce which the women started to sell.
Villagers who experienced success in the first year by earning supplemental income through the sale of surplus produce encouraged and influenced fellow community members in subsequent years.
Please see the project milestones below, for details of project results.
Building on success...
Post-project, THREAD and ONS continue to support Koraput women to go from strength to strength in farming and ethical trade.
Gaia Education is one voice amongst thousands calling and acting for climate justice. We join in solidarity with the women of Odisha who, in the face of looming crisis, are tackling climate change in their own dignified manner.
Year 1 Milestones
Transition Training And Ecovillage Design Training
42 Community, NGO and university student leaders took part in Transition Training and EDE Training with 77 villagers attended the Ecological dimension at Jinjira village. These practical sessions have created a lasting impact on the village.
Grow Your Own Food Project
The first 250 families received seedlings as part of the new Grow Your Own Food project. Seedlings of banana, papaya, eggplant, drumstick, multi vitamin, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, puthina, spinach and turnip have been distributed.
Year 2 Milestones
More participants undertake training
The second Ecovillage Design Education, combined with the Transition Training course, was delivered to 33 community leaders, students and government staff of ICDS projects (Anganwadi workers), and was facilitated by three THREAD resource persons. During the EDE course, practical sessions were conducted in three villages, Dongapaiguda, Birlaput and Semiliguda, where villagers were involved and benefited from the course directly. 54 villagers participated in the six days village programme where demonstration of different kinds of manure, soil enhancement techniques and water conservation were experientially learned.
Distribution of Seedlings
A further 250 families benefited from the Grow Your Own Food Project with seedlings of banana, papaya, eggplant, drumstick, multi vitamin, tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, mint, turnip, chilli, squash, Punjabi Palak (spinach), nukul, Kerala greens, Poi and seeds of vegetable creeper plants.
All the gardens now have the placard ‘Grow Your Own Food’ in place to popularise and replicate the approaches of other villages.
Preliminary harvest data May – October 2015 In Laxmipur, Sradha Samaj, Semiliguda village ‐ Radha Jani sold papayas weighing approximately 17 kilograms, worth Rs.1500 after consumption.
Indigenous EDE participants conducted poster demonstrations on peak oil with the title ‘No diesel and no petrol after 2020’. This caught the interest of people and media and the Grow Your Own Food Congress gathered 54 tribal and Dalith organisations, strengthening the partnership within and between the federation of women’s organisations.
Connecting with SDGs
The second year activities incorporated a festival of best agroecological practices from the villages where the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced to the tribal women. They were able to associate each one of the Goals to their reality and the SDG event was the first such outreach programme held in the region.
Year 3 Milestones
Another 250 families engage in the Grow Your Own Food Project, totalling 750 families over the three years.
A manual on organic manure-making has been translated into Orya and distributed to the villagers as a reference guide.
The average supplementary income, after consumption, was found to be in the range of 6,000 to 9,000 Rupees.
Decreased water use
New grass-roots techniques for enrichment of the soil and growing drought-tolerant vegetables have been adopted.
All gardens have the ‘Grow Your Own Food’ placard and beneficiaries have led the way in demonstrating techniques and have become the advocates for the project on market days.