The journey continues…
A short bus ride and another early start brings us to Rajipur. The village, comprising a Tharu community and a Dalit community is, like Masurya located on government land. Virtually all of the men of working age are away, earning a living in India. This in turn has resulted in a decline in the size of the village from around 150 homes, to just over half of that number. Once again, despite working the land here for a number of years, none of the villagers have been granted land certificates confirming ownership. The process is similar to yesterday’s meeting, although rain forces us indoors into the community meeting room. (The monsoon, although technically not yet fully started, certainly seems to be doing its best to remind us that the rains are due.)
Another three bus rides and early in the afternoon we reach Naukhuri, home to 39 Dalit families. In addition to the now familiar issue of land rights, the villagers here face another difficulty:-location. Their homes are built in close proximity to the banks of the River Sunbara, which almost without fail leaves them susceptible to flooding during the monsoon season. The last half hour of our journey to the village is on foot, and on two occasions we have to wade through the river in order to cross it. The small amount of rain that we had earlier in the day has already increased the speed of the current, and its not too hard to imagine how things will be when the rains really begin to fall.
Another day, another village…and another district. The night before we’ve travelled by public jeep to Dhangadhi in the Kailali District. This time, transportation is by rickshaw, to a small village called Tilki. At 7.30 in the morning its already brutally hot and the rickshaw drivers are certainly earning their ‘fare’. Its another wake up call, if one were needed, to the working conditions of those who labour in the hot sun all day. I only have to talk and think whilst slowly melting in the rapidly increasing temperatures…and for some of that time I’ll be indoors. Meanwhile, for the locals, a full days physical labour in the intense heat of the sun, (around 450 C by now), is on the horizon.
So…what next? The common theme for all of the villages is lack of land rights….for which there is an increasingly well trodden pathway for CSRC, activists and villagers to follow. (More of which in a later post). However, there still remains the issue of livelihoods to address…something which I’ve been asked to give some thought to in time for a meeting at the CSRC offices in a week or so.
Firstly a few numbers…and the big picture. Over two thirds of the three billion people in the world who live in poverty rely on small-scale agriculture for their food and wages. (Source: Oxfam website). Improving smallholder agricultural livelihoods is essential for achieving large-scale poverty reduction and growth. Almost 80 per cent of the world’s 925 million hungry people live in rural areas and most depend on agriculture as their main source of income and employment. Approximately half of these are smallholder farmers. Overall, smallholder farmers constitute 1.5 billion of the three billion people living in rural areas and 87 per cent of all farmers in developing countries. (All statistics in this paragraph cited in “Small Farmers,Big Change. Lessons from Oxfam‟s agricultural programmes’. Oxfam GB April 2011)….
Next up…(soon).A more local perspective…