Community engagement for greater participation: UC comes full circle

Community engagement for greater participation UC comes full circle

The farmers of Uttar Chakwakheti  (UC) who are predominantly tribal, will benefit maximally if and only if they fulfil the caste criteria authenticated by the state. Authentication is done through issuing a caste certificate by the government, a process that is sometimes cumbersome especially for the poor tribal communities.  CDHI recently facilitated the granting a certificate at UC. This has been an important step for community confidence building and engagement with government officials that will open doors for project outscaling and expansion of our programs.

The attached document describes the process and the video highlights celebrations at the official ceremony.

Publications & Resources

The power of the Marginal: Local institutions and innovations are the key


Collectivisation, innovation and institutional building are key to empowering marginal communities. There are many paths for this empowerment, which differ across regions and situations. In this regard DSI4MTF is doing some ground breaking work in facilitating change. Some insights are shared by Rajeshwar Mishra and colleagues in the attached from West Bengal,  which will help our cross region learning.

Please follow the link to access the document.

Publications & Resources

Farmers evolve institutional strengthening strategy in Cooch Behar (India) -CDHI team

The land and water (L&W) project seeks to optimize agriculture based livelihoods opportunity for the small, marginal and landless communities during the dry season. In the Cooch Behar site large tracks of land remain fallow during the dry season. The project works with the communities and the local University to together work out strategy and tools. The communities are diverse and have diverse needs and priorities. The research project endeavours to engage with the communities and evolve common agenda and tools.

The project area has a farmers club and self-help groups steering socio-economic programs. Their agenda, however, has a limited spectrum and includes mainly accessing government programs and activities. They seem to suffer embedded dependency. The project initiated systematic community engagement and worked with them to define and evolve a shared goal and mission for optimizing dry land agriculture.

Pic-1: Discussion with farming group at site-2 ( Karjee para ).

Pic-1: Discussion with farming group at site-2 (Karjee para).

Following such engagement the farmers realized that there is a need for strengthening the existing institutions –farmers club and self-help groups –not only to include government schemes and doles but to also involve agriculture activities and play a proactive role in agriculture diversity  especially during the dry season.

Pic-2: Discussion after the transect walk in the farmers’ field.

Pic-2: Discussion after the transect walk in the farmers’ field.

The farmers, in collaboration with the Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya (UBKV), Centre for the Development of Human Initiatives (CDHI) under the guidance of the specialists from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) have laid down experimentation at three sites in each project village (2) and the two institutions have planned to involve themselves in the research activities.

The capacity building of the farmers’ club and self-help groups is being facilitated by CDHI using participatory and reflective learning approaches and tools. The reflective learning process has helped them analyze their Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). This further helps them in taking remedial measures to strengthen their institutions. The institutions are evolving into multi-activities entities with clarity of vision and mission evolving gradually.

Pic-3: Collective farming -checking the growth of relay crop ( Lentil ) by the project team with the farmers.

Pic-3: Collective farming -checking the growth of relay crop ( Lentil ) by the project team with the farmers.

The farmers have realized that only a strong institution can help them realize their goals for economic development and well being. As the process continues there is likelihood of these institutions firmly standing on their feet not only in the affairs of economic development but also in scientific exploration and research. It seems they will emerge as a strong farmers’ research group.

Ode to the words of collective wisdom and inspiring future


The two days were full of enthusiastic reflection and inspirational crafting of future path ways. While the core team of IWMI and USQ set the tone, the ACIAR representative remained witness and supportive to all that was said and reflected upon.

The stories from Saptari (Nepal) were fascinating while the accounts of women led initiatives from Modhubani were smoothing and inspiring. Bangladesh achieving self-sufficiency in rice production and use of technology in regulating ground water use, proved example to be learned and imbibed. The stories from the fields of North Bengal brought by the scientists of UBKV and social scientists and practitioners of CDHI were pleasant to the ear. How the community engagement has changed the over all environment was quite evident from the presentations.
All the learning helped in carefully crafting future path ways. Nepal’s proposal of the project site inception meeting speaks of their inclusive approach which can be an important input for the other sites.
Modhuboni’s plan of a collaborative / cooperative firming is an important point to consider. Coochbehar’s need based planning and proposed involvement of line departments offers great hope for sustainability.

IWMI and USQ laid out a participatory monitoring framework contributed to by all the project partners. Larger involvement of farmers- male and female -in the monitoring and evaluation could offer realistic understanding of the functioning of the project.
Over arching focuses’ on the engagement with the community would make the program inclusive in the real séance of the term. The wherewithal, of the engagement process and tool is both an opportunity and challenge. Equally important are integration of gender into technology and agriculture which can make the project outcome gender sensitive and gender inclusive. We at CDHI benefited from this important event not only by the structured deliberation but through yours encouraging feedback on the sidelines of the event. It offered us a great forum to learn.

Thank you partners! for your kind visit and ‘sweating in and out’, which did not dampen your creative spirit -we feel encouraged.
Look forward seeing you all soon. CDHI team,
September 9-11, 2015

Gendered perspectives on LWR

1) Rajeshwar Mishra  2) E Schmidt 3) Apurba Chowdhury and 4) Subrata Majumdar

Visiting freshwater well, Dhologuri, Cooch Behar

Visiting freshwater well, Dhologuri, Cooch Behar

The site selection process, in Cooch Behar (India), has now been finalized. The team from USQ, IWMI, UBKV and CDHI visited and interacted with male and female farmers in the short listed villages of Dhaloguri and Uttar Chakoa Kheti(UC). Women are important stakeholders in the project. Therefore, the authors intensively interacted with the women farmers in the two villages. The main objective of the interaction was to have women farmer’s perspectives on the LWR project. Focus of the discussion veered around: Goal of the project; how the women farmers perceived their role in the implementation of the project and what strategy they considered appropriate to structure and locate various interventions. Women were encouraged to have their free and frank opinion in order for the project to generate objective knowledge to be used to maximize their agricultural and livelihoods opportunities. Use of anecdotes and examples were made to drive home nuances of the questions.
To begin with a question was asked about whether they would like physical interventions which could bring short term gains and benefits or they would like to have long term gains. Research based interventions would unravel various issues which adversely influenced their agriculture and livelihoods opportunities. The research outcome would help address various issues and may foster innovation which can be proactively used in a number of ways. Interestingly, the women farmers endorsed the research format of the intervention and preferred research led knowledge to physical intervention.
Another aspect of the discussion touched upon their possible role in the project -what would they do-how would they relate to the research activities? The women, in unison, underlined their dominant role in agriculture and revealed that they were involved in various agriculture and water management activities as much as the men do. Their special emphasis was over water management priority -they emphasized that besides agricultural use of water they had to manage water for household activities-they experienced the brunt of water scarcity more than the men do. The LWR was much more important for them!
On structuring and locating various interventions they considered an inclusive approach and strategy to be appropriate and effective. Men, women and other stakeholders need to collectively reflect and evolve interventions. To a question –‘whether the men would value their insight’? they sounded confident- ‘yes they would do’. In support of their confidence they informed that they were managing Self-help Groups (SHGs), mid-day meal program and were effectively participating in the local level governance through Pasnchayats and forest management committees. According to them they have created undeniable examples of their participation in various real life activities. Their acceptance, in the LWR, project would be forthcoming from all quarters.
What does the short and succinct conversation with the women farmers convey? We feel that women are quite enthusiastic, rational and objective. What is needed is encouragement and support. The project should be able to enlist important contribution from them by using right approach and participatory and reflective pedagogy which can help them rediscover themselves!

1) Visiting Director, CDHI, Jalpaiguri, North Bengal, India
2) Deputy Director, NCEA,USQ
3) Professor of Plant Pathology, UBKV, Cooch Behar
4) Executive Director ,Programs, CDHI ,Jalpaiguri and Member of the LWR research team