India West Champaran
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Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Climate change increasingly threatens the livelihoods and food security of millions of smallholder farmers in India through more frequent and severe drought and flood cycles. The West Champaran program builds on a highly successful pilot project through which farmers were able to increase yields for rice, wheat and pulses in both drought and flood prone areas. This program uses the Private Service Provider (PSP) approach, which trains and mentors community members to start their own businesses and provide fee-based seed drilling, custom herbicide application, and crop management services to the most vulnerable farmers in stress-prone areas. This approach presents an opportunity to not only expand the reach of climate smart technologies and improved access to inputs, but also places service provision in the hands of the community, creating greater ownership and sustainability.
Program Update: Genda Devi's Story
A Community Organizes to Build a Bridge
The farmers of Pujaha village in West Champaran District live on one side of the river and farm on the other side. The fertile land directly across from their homes is great for growing cash crops, but getting there was a constant frustration.
They had to travel a mile and a half out of their way to reach the nearest bridge. They could also choose to commute by boat but the cost, plus the three-to-four-hour wait if the boatmen decided to go fishing instead, made this option even less appealing. And during the rainy season when the river overflows its banks, neither the bridge nor the boats are safe.
Deeply affected by the impact this waste of time was having on their livelihoods, the 150 village households called a meeting and decided to do something to improve their situation. They organized themselves to build a temporary bamboo bridge. Each household agreed to contribute cash, work, or some other in-kind offering. With the help of every able-bodied member in the village, regardless of age, sex, caste or religion, a bamboo bridge 162 feet long and four feet wide was completed in one week. The bridge was inaugurated on October 29, 2020.
Ever since, many people, including those from different villages, cross the structure every day. The community is now able to spend more time on farming, or with their families, all of which helps them thrive.
As one community member put it, “Self-sufficiency is the greatest wealth: it means you don’t have to wait for others.”
India West Champaran Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services and Bettiah Diocesan Social Service Society