After our second trip, we promised people of Chargheri that we will continue our relief with rice distribution till Biswakarma Puja. We could complete that commitment yesterday on our 8th trip. It was possible only because people came forward to be part of PAKT’s initiative. With support from our friends, colleagues &well wishers it we could complete distribution of around 15,500 kg of rice in last three months over 12 weeks in our 8 trips. During this trip also we carried with us 2700 kg of rice and 15 kg soyabean. This time we could not get Kachu (Arum) in the local market.
The distribution was very smooth and distribution of all rice sacks was completed by six in the evening.
We also took with us considerable amount of old clothes (in considerably good conditions) for those who will not be able to buy anything for their pujas. Many of the villagers will not like to have the old clothes for the pujas even in the distressed condition – but it was meant for those who just cannot make it.
Rehabilitation - going back to growing crop
On our way towards Charheri, we had extensive discussion with our agricultural trainers Mr Narayan Bachhar and Mrs Anjana Mandal from Swanirvar. They accompanied us for the third phase of training from 19th to 21st. The outcomes of last two trainings were discussed. In total 61 people have been trained on alternative crop production. A lot of interest has been noted among the trainees indicating they are trying hard to come back to their normal life.
With the advise of the trainers and guidance from them, the trainees have prepared a land asset map (indicating the low lying land, watrerlogged areas, flooded lands, different soil categories) of Chargheri. Also a calendar map of crops and kitchen vegetables has been prepared. This gives a nice calendar about which crop or vegetable is most appropriate for cultivation at a particular time of the year.
From the attendee list of 1st 2 trainings, we felt that villages far away from training location were less represented in 1st two trainings. We hoped that change in venue for this phase could help bring in more people from other villages. We also decided to ask attendees of other villages in introductory session and at food distribution queue to bring in more people for this training, which is really a refresher course with an emphasis on saline conditions. [From reports of our trainers on 20th September, this seems to have proved true. This time the training has been shifted to Santigachhi high school and other villages were well represented this time]
After reaching Chargheri, we visited the nursery prepared by the local people during the last two phases of training under the supervision of the trainers. Extensive use of compost manure, straw, cowdung water, raising the level of the soil in low lying areas with drainage facility, seeding in the sackful of earth – all saw the same result in the backyard gardens. Green sprouts confirmed the fact that it is possible to cultivate in the backyard plots of people. This was the one of the objectives of our rehabilitation initiative: to bring back the belief among the mass in these villages that cultivation is possible in their backyards. Just the application of the right technique and making some new additions to the existing techniques they know is all that is required to master the existing conditions in their backyards.
It is much more difficult in the farmlands inundated in brackish water. However, trial plantation of 7 varieties of paddy have been made in salty waterlogged lands of 2 different areas. This was done to find out the most suitable variety of rice that may be tried out for next year's crop during Jan'10, if that is possible in some areas.
We find that the people know of most of the techniques suggested by trainers for the backyard. Yet we could clearly see that barring few exceptions they were not adopting it across the villages. The training can help push them do what they need to do, and start doing it NOW. They can grow their own vegetables in the winter if they can succeed making their backyards lush with greenery even as the farmlands still await redressal.
The introductory training session was started in our presence. We explained to the trainees that each trainee should teach another three persons what he learns. This is the easiest way for dissipation of knowledge. To facilitate the people from the four villages other than Chargheri, it was decided that the training will be held in the Santigachhi primary school from next day. The method of training is participative. Keeping the kind of response from farmers in mind, some further training in early October will help get more people into farming mode before the middle of October when some of the seeds need to get sown.
At the end of relief phase we need to mention one point – Kaustuv from Pather Katha , our one of the main pivots of PAKT, was the only person to be in Chargheri in all the eight trips. Kudos Kaustuv. It is by no means an easy job.