Posts Tagged ‘NREGA’
Dhanametapalli is located a few kilometers beyond Chintamani as one drives from Bangalore. The arid low rain conditions prevailing in and around Dhanametapalli is typical of Kolar district. Surprisingly even in such a place, tomatoes are the most grown crop in these parts. Extensive use of ground water has resulted in water levels dropping well below 300 feet rendering dry borewells dug less than five years ago.
Following a lead from a patron, Prasanna and team approached the MLA from Chintamani to try and implement LEISA-NREGA in some of the villages there. While landless women working agricultural labour jobs came forward in different places, in Dhanametapalli, a farmer also stepped up to offer his land for the project.
Bhagya, a young woman from the local community has been with the project over the past year and leads the group in the field and within the community too. Pramila, another local woman has stepped forward and is coordinating the self help group co-formed alongside the project while also helping spread the ideas of LEISA-NREGA to more such groups of women. Shashi Raj a dynamic young activist from near Mysore is camped in the village to spread the idea of LEISA amongst farmers and wean them away from the monoculture of water intensive crops.
While touring the farm, I noticed that the thatched shelter put together to provide shade for the vermi-culture pits were standing on green pillars. Taking a closer look I realized that they were actually the flower stalk of the Agave that grows abundantly in the area. The male Agave plant sends out a thick and firm stalk almost almost 6 inches in diameter at the base and gradually tapering over its 15 to 20 feet length with flowers at its apex. A classic example of low external input in practice !
Most of the works undertaken by gram, block, and zilla panchayats under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarentee Act) have been the usual pond and road construction. There are a few examples of places where land conservation efforts have been taken up. In a few rare cases, works proposed by the community is being taken up by the gram panchayat utilizing funds available under NREGS. Land development and preparing of compost and vermicompost for Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) was approved by the Motagaanahalli gram panchayat earlier this year.
The project is being coordinated by Prasanna Saligram, from AID Bangalore, Community Health Cell, etc. We had visited Motagaanahalli back in Dec. 2005 and met Ravi a confident and determined local activist who had taken up the task of mobilization and working on the social aspects of the project within the village. Using techniques and ideas of LEISA, the project intends to train women from landless families as LEISA resource people. The group would work on fields that a farmer is not cultivating and wishes to see the methods tried out right on his field. At the end of the growing season, the women share one half of the produce with the land owner and the other half amongst themselves. They are also paid a fair wage during the training period. NREGA are planned to be utilized for the non-farming activities within the project, as detailed in Prasanna’s blog on LEISA-NREGA.
On July 11th we visited Motagaanahalli to meet with Ravi and the group of women working on the project. They are all land less, except for one or two with about an acre or less in their family. After going through the prepared land, compost piles, nursery, etc. we settled down for a conversation with the group of women. They took some time from clearing up a region of the land they were planning to cultivate this season. We had a wide ranging discussion about their motivations, goals, ideas, concerns, and fears regarding the work they had undertaken.
As the conversation progressed I started noticing that an expanding area around each woman was cleaner than its immediate surroundings. We have come across many stories of how women, especially rural women, sing when working together in groups. The force of habit, of hands working away while talking, even when they actively participate in the conversation, was a reconfirmation of this old truth …