An Overview Of Our Solution
- Population Impacted
- Continent: Asia
329, Jodhpur Park
88750 sq.km: Target area: Indian Sundarbans in WB 4110 sq.km
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose
Local threats to resources
Level of sensitivity
Level of adaptive capacity
Community/Social Indicators used to measure benefit
Describe the community-based process used to develop the solution including tools and processes used
The socio-economic, ecological threats and risk assessment have been carried out by me along with my colleagues, Prof. Sugata Hazra (Director, School of Oceanography, Jadavpur University) and Prof. Jayanta Bandhopadhyay (Director, Centre for Development & Environment Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta) under the aegis of WWF-I supported by the World Bank. (Please see http://www.wwfindia.org/?6362/indian-sundarbans-delta--a-vision) with assistance from Dr. Anurag Danda and Ms. Gayatri Srikanthan. In the said Delta Vision document, it has been noted that the adaptive capacity can only be increased by using alternative agriculture like use of Indigenous Salt Tolerant Rice Varieties and making the same available through a chain of Farmers' Seed Bank without any cost to achieve a common good. Simultaneously, ENDEV with support from National Council of Rural Institutes initiated a project on Microplanning and Sustainable Agriculture during 2010-11. CBOs from 07 most vulnerable and affected islands were brought into a network after a year long search and success of collecting small quantity of seeds of 05 Salt Tolerant Rice Varieties, which were used 80-100 years before the present time and largely disappeared due to massive thrust in using High Yielding Varieties during the process of Green Revolution in India. In the stakeholders meeting it was agreed to test the seeds based on soil testing to determine the level of salinity, in small plots of farmers' land to observe the yield and to scale up the operation through a process of careful planning and distribution. The initial stock of 250 gms of seeds used by a total of five farmers has now been scaled up to 1600 kg of seeds by end of second year through active participation of 35 farmers covering more than five times the area of the first year and during the monsoon of 2013-14, it is expected to cover more than 10 times the area than the first year; one more variety (Dudeshwar) which was introduced by ENDEV in 2007 and was taken only by 05 farmers, is now being used by more than 5000 farmers. The entire process of acceptance by the farmers was made participatory and voluntary, by offering the seeds through community meetings, organized by the local Community Based Organizations viz., WWF-I in Namkhana Block, TSRD in Gosaba Block, Lutheran World Services India Trust in Mathurapur block I&II, Joygopal Youth Development in Sandeshkhali Block I&II and Paschim Sridhor Kathi Janakalyan Samiti in Hingalganj Block. The programme had been started during the year of 2010-11, continued through year of 2011-12 and is being continued in the year 2012-13, with the objective of scaling up the operation in terms of area and multiplying the seeds of these endangered and now rare varieties to make them accessible to the farmers' community across the Indian Sundarbans.
Climate hazard of concern
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?
Our solution offers the farmers the basic staple food grains which can withstand the vagaries of climate change and sea level rise. The Sundarbans region is marked as one of the most critically vulnerable areas both by IPCC in their 4th Report, 2007 and National Action Plan on Climate Change of India in 2008. No other effort has been evidenced to empower the farmers' community to cope up with the uncertain weather, proven sea level rise and frequent storm surges and cyclones, to meet the demand of their food. Recognising the efforts of ENDEV, the Chairman, Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority of Government of India, urged us to register the Salt Tolerant Rice Varieties in 2011; National media have widely publicised the success of the programme (Hindustan Times, Bengal Post, Times of India etc) and American Public Television and Centre for Investigating Reporting, have taken the pain of travelling all the way to our project site to document the farmers' experience, as a part of their international project called "Food for Nine Billion" (Please see http://cironline.org/reports/struggling-farmers-in-india-find-promise-4736). The Sundarban farmers have voluntarily composed songs for campaigning in favor of the varieties made accessible to the local community.
How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?
The use of selected farmers' varieties developed 80-100 years back from the present time, provide the agro-ecosystem the necessary resilience to cope up with changing soil quality due to salt intrusion after breaching of embankments and coastal flooding. The gradual adaptation of the soil in the targeted ecosystem helped the continuity of agriculture, the mainstay of the people in an area of extreme deprivation.
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?
After the devastating cyclone and storm surge called "Aila" in May 2009, vast areas of agricultural field in 19 Community Blocks of the Indian Sundarbans faced a major problem of crop failure because of saline water intrusion due to breaches in the 3500 km long embankment. The only way to empower the farmers to face the challenge was to investigate, select and test the Traditional Farmers' Varieties which had become rarest of rare, after Green Revolution in India, but were known to be salt tolerant. The challenge was to collect the seeds from remote corners of the rural Sundarbans as also from academic institutions and other research organizations. After a search for 09 months, only very small quantities of seeds of five of the six identified varieties could be collected which totaled 300 gms; the sixth variety called Hamilton has not been found till date. Through a collective endeavour of 05 Community Based Organizations in 07 of the worst affected blocks, these seeds were distributed after a day long workshop, to take the same to the field and prepare seed beds (after soil testing to determine the level of salinity). The farmers during the rainy season carefully monitored the growth and after harvesting the crop use the entire product for keeping the Seed Bank and for expanding the programme during the next year of monsoon. (2011-12) The farmers who had left their agricultural field giving up all hope to grow the rice once again, have come back to the field and affirmed that the seeds originally provided by ENDEV convinced the community to continue paddy field agriculture once again. It is only due to the farmers, in the widely dispersed but affected area, the seeds were multiplied through a scaled up operation in the second year. Today, the farmers have access to a total of 2004 kg of seeds 05 Salt Tolerant Varieties. The success of the effort brought the media and the television channel to the field and report back to the community at large, national and international.
How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?
Paddy field agriculture is the primary source of both income and food security for the people of this area of extreme deprivation. Climate change through cyclones and storm surges leading to salt water intrusion, threatens the continuation of this invaluable agricultural practice. The introduction of traditional Salt Tolerant Varieties has gone a long way in mitigating the threats posed to both food security and livelihood by climate change. Increasing adoption of paddy field agriculture using Salt Tolerant Varieties is enabling the local community to secure a steady income flow as well as necessary food requirement in the face of increasing uncertainties of climate change.
How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?
The programme undertaken by ENDEV has enabled the farmers after 80-100 years, to gain access to the rice seeds varieties which could cope up with the changing soil profile due to salt intrusion. The farmers of the Sundarbans were used to depend on the seeds of High Yielding Varieties of paddy and on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; this process of agriculture becomes redundant resulting in large scale migration of the farming community abandoning farmland due to crop failure after Aila. Re-introduction of the traditional Salt Tolerant Varieties after requisite soil testing, not only empowered the farmers to use their land once again for paddy field agriculture but also made them understand the system of ecological agriculture without any chemical pesticides or fertilizers.