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Effect of floods on livelihoods and life

Mr. Sushil Kumar Singh, 66, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group
Taj Pipra village, Gorakhpur Zilla, Uttar Pradesh

“When there is sudden rain or drought, we can move to a shelter but what happens to the crops we grow? They cannot move. They are completely devastated and so are our lives. They are our means of survival. Without them we are nothing,” says Sushil Kumar, member of Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, an Oxfam India partner organisaiton working on the impacts of climate change in Uttar Pradesh.

July was when we used to expect the floods and we farmers would plant our Kharif crop in June so that when the rains came around 15 June our seeds would get adequate moisture to germinate. Now we are getting late rains – in September and October – when the crop is ripe for harvesting.

Untimely heavy and frequent floods in the region have left around 300 acres of agricultural land in 7 villages waterlogged. With waterlogging, the soil nutrients are pushed deep down into the ground and the land becames unfit for cultivation. The villagers drained out excess water through a passage over a period of time so that they could use the land for cultivation. However, in the absence of proper maintenance, it became defunct due to regular deposition of silt. Continuous and heavy rainfall in the region caused the waterlogged area to increase to around 500 acres, increasing with it, the woes of the poor farmers in the region. In spite of several complaints by the villagers, regarding drainage no action was taken up by irrigation department and the Panchayat.

“After intensive meetings and discussions, the community came up with a plan in which they decided to construct a drainage channel of around 400 meters to connect the existing passage with a water channel adjacent to the village. They shared this plan with the village Pradhan (Panchayat head) and with the irrigation department. After due follow-up, of the discussions, the irrigation department was ready to provide huge pipes, the panchayat agreed to help by permitting to use the some part of the Chak (village) road for laying the channel and more importantly, adjoining villagers also provided some part of their agriculture land for the drainage channel. Around 170 local people participated and found employment within the village through this initiative which not only create an asset in the village but also established an example of a successful collaborative effort of the community. PRIs and NGOs worked together to deal with the changes imposed due to changes in the weather patterns. As a result of this effort, 300 acres of land is now cultivable and more than 620 families of these 7 villages were able to obtain a good production of wheat last year.

“Oxfam and GEAG have joined hands to promote several path-breaking initiatives to better the lives of the farmers living in Gorakhpur district. Some such initiatives include promotion of micro-finance schemes and introduction of organic farming where mixed cropping (2-3 crops grown simultaneously and at least some crop survives) and use of natural fertilizers retains the fertility of the soils.

Now, with Oxfam India and other local NGOs, we are having a dialogue with the state government to convince the government functionaries to use schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to tackle the problem in the same way in more villages and panchayats.

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