A semi-arid and primarily rural region, Bundelkhand is characterised by extreme climatic events – recurrent droughts and erratic rains. The resultant water scarcity, infertility of the land, soil erosion and crop failures, coupled with small landholdings, makes the lives of communities dependent on agriculture and allied activities in the region further vulnerable. In addition to aggravating the problem of food security, the climatic conditions in Bundelkhand also adversely affect the livelihoods of the local population – most of them small and marginal farmers, thereby leading to distress migration.
With grassroots-based social organisations in Bundelkhand, ActionAid Association has promoted water harvesting structures, rejuvenating water bodies, advancing climate-resilient sustainable agriculture and strengthening community resilience. To enhance livelihood opportunities among marginalised communities, we are running a programme in 40 villages across three districts of this region, namely Jhansi, Lalitpur and Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh. Being implemented since August 2020 under the Work4Progress programme promoted by the la Caixa Foundation, this initiative is primarily working towards empowering women and youth by generating awareness among them on the various government schemes, enabling them to access those schemes and creating sustainable livelihoods. It is important to note that the livelihood models developed under this programme have evolved from local knowledge and consultation with the local communities, using locally available resources with minimal dependence on external factors and raw material. These livelihood models include poultry farming, vermicomposting, nutrition garden (poshan vatika), seed production, multi-layer farming, goat rearing and fruit cultivation.
While the formation and development of nutrition gardens and vermicompost units are currently under the preparatory phase, under the remaining five models, our intervention has reached a total of 1,059 households. In addition to building capacities of communities, we distributed goats, chicks, foundation seeds, vegetable seeds, fruit plants, organic fertilisers and other materials among these families. Furthermore, we have successfully engaged 1,036 women entrepreneurs from the most marginalised communities under these livelihood models. These models are now bringing an enhanced income to beneficiary families, enabling them to build their own houses, pay off debts and support their children’s needs of nutrition, health and education. We plan to go forward with the market linkages for these livelihood options through Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). We are pleased to share that we recently registered ‘Basant Women Farmers Producer Company Limited’, a women’s FPO in Bundelkhand. As the first-ever women FPO registered in Uttar Pradesh under the Companies Act, 2013, this would go a long way in strengthening market linkages and establishing business opportunities for women farmers in Bundelkhand.
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