Linking Nutritional Security with Selective Agroecological Diversication for Resilient Rural Communities
Lead Organization: Tripura Agroecology Partnership
Partner Organizations: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR); Centre for Pollination Studies (CPS); Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD); Tripura Department of Biotechnology; Tripura Panchayats; Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council.
Location(s) of work: State of Tripura, India.
Award: $75,000 over 24 months (2016-2018)
This project uses participatory research and agroecological diversification to address the high levels of malnutrition (especially among women and children), declining crop and non-crop biodiversity, and deteriorating soil quality in the State of Tripura, India. It will help build resilient rural communities in the region by linking nutritional security with agroecological diversification, and working through state government agencies to mainstream and promote agroecological approaches in state policy.
- Biodiversity - The collaborative will co create an environment for participatory learning about the multifunctional crop or non-crop biodiversity elements that have the potential to improve the agroecosystem health and simultaneously positively impact the nutritional status of the farming community as well.
- Agro-ecology – Subsequent to participatory identification of suitable multifunctional biodiversity elements, the collaborative will initiate participatory on-farm field trials to gather knowledge about the suitability of the identified biodiversity elements in the production system.
- Agro-ecosystem and human health improvement: The collaborative will develop management strategies through the adoption and introduction of appropriate multifunctional biodiversity elements in the farming landscape in order to improve the status of pollinators, natural pest regulators and soil quality and will develop strategies to bring about improvement in the nutritional status in the farming community through the identified biodiversity elements.
- Policy intervention and Movement building: At the policy level the collaborative will seek to mainstream the i) participatory approach of knowledge generation and technology adoption and ii) agro-ecological approach in agricultural policy environment. At the people’s level the collaborative will aim to build an agroecological movement across the state by disseminating outcomes, bringing together stakeholders and boundary partners and facilitating knowledge exchange and discussion.
Challenges that the Collaborative faced(s)
- Social and cultural complexity often poses unforeseen challenges and requires a sensitive and flexible approach by researchers.
- Establishing a trusting and open routes for communication between government bodies and academia is an ongoing challenge.
- A steering committee was formed with active participation of state government (Agriculture department & Directorate of Biotechnology), Panchayat council (local village government), Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) (Tribal village government) and farmers’ association (Kisan Sabha). A first meeting was held in January. Sixteen villages were selected by the steering committee to carry out collaborative research work.
- A household survey to establish eating habits and agricultural practice was developed and trialled by the core research partnership.
- Two local tribal women have been trained in survey techniques and are now independently carrying out surveys in the identified villages.
- Between March and May 2017 one hundred household level surveys were conducted in 4 villages to determine the connection between nutritional patterns and farm production.
- One farmer coordinator from each village has been appointed to interact with farmers in each village to communicate with the local community and develop further collaborative ideas.
The people at the heart of this project are the farmers of Tripura. In January the research team had the opportunity to trial project surveys with a small groups of farmers. Parthib Basu, Soumik Chatterjee (Calcutta University), Barbara Smith and Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (UK) visited the village of Baish garia in West Tripura. There, under the shade of a beautiful mango tree, we gathered to talk about the project and explain what we hope we can do together. Then we were into the real work. We sat in the winter sun, sipping sweet tea and talked to the mother of a household who carefully explained what each member of the family had eaten in the last 24 hours before going on to talk about the other foods they eat season by season. We then discussed what the family grew, how much they sold and how much was used at home. Afterwards people gathered to talk about their farming practice and farmers spoke about the pesticides they use, how they are damaging to their health but how necessary they seem. The welcome by the village was warm and potential for working together to address the concerns of the community quickly became clear.