Badlao Foundation first started its
work in 1986 by generating awareness on the environmental
situation. From this campaign the issue of Sustainable cultivation
in Madhupur block emerged. It was highlighted how chemical
fertilizers damage the soil. The benefits of using natural manure
in the long-term perspective impressed them. Songs plays, posters,
newsletters and video films were used to spread the message of
Because of the depletion of forest
cover and reservation of increasingly large areas into Reserved
Forests at the beginning of the 20th century, the
Santhal tribal population was forced to migrate to Assam and
Bengal and even to Andaman and Nicobar Island in search of
employment. The tribals were rendered resource less by being
deprived of land, forest and water.
Exploitation and the destruction of
the natural resources is the main cause for the deplorable
condition of the tribals. With the destruction of the forests, the
soil has become infertile and the ground water level has gone
Badlao Foundation concentrated on revival of the traditional
practices for paddy because it was the major cereal crop. After
the second year, a change in soil texture and micro organisms was
observed. Farmers realised that water retention capacity of the
land has increased. Over a couple of years, 12 local varieties of
rice were cultivated with help of compost and green manuring. The
more popular varieties were Gopisaar, Kapursar and Mainasar.
Farmers mixed green manure, farmyard manure and when necessary,
neem leaf extract to work as insecticides and pesticides. The
yield increased upto 4 maunds i.e. 160 kgs per bigha. This
experience of the first five successful farmers changed the
thinking of others. The agricultural fields of these pioneering
farmers acted as a demonstration plot, which local farmers and
from outside could visit to see the crop and talk to them.
Badlao Foundation provided information, green manure, seeds of
cereals and vegetables collected from various parts of Bihar.
Compost pits were dug in the villages and differences between
aerobic and anaerobic decomposition by bacteria was demonstrated.
Farmers were convinced only when the compost produced from two
methods was shown to them. Small farmers have now been sowing
local varieties of paddy, maize and vegetables seeds and used
compost. Non-tribals used only cowdung while tribals also used pig
refuse and agricultural waste.
Sustainable cultivation led to the integrated development of
people of Madhupur block. In order to bring home the idea of
Sustainable cultivation, Gram Vikas Samitis were formed comprising
both men and women. They were motivated to join G.V.S. meetings
where issues were raised, discussed and solved. Training was
provided to the members of GVS on the procession of Sustainable
cultivation. Women were given a large number of participation in
social life. They can take their own decisions on important
matters. This has led to their social and moral upliftment.
In this background some women started asserting that as they bring
articles of daily use from the forests like fuel, fodder, broom
grass, daatun (natural toothbrush), sakhua leaves etc., so they
would not allow others to cut trees or destroy forests, because
from these they make broom, leaf plates etc. and take them in the
market. This is an additional source of income for them. Some
women took this feeling forward. The forest cover in an around
Lamba, Hiratanr, Behrabank, Nawada, Kakli and Karanpura villages
has been protected by them, even though the forest is owned by the
Government. They also received cooperation of the forest
department in their efforts. Today, one can go to the forests in
these villages to collect dry leaves, fuel and fruits only after
getting permission from its women. Earlier, they used to cover
long distances to collect fuel and fodder, but after the
introduction of Sustainable cultivation in this region, they now
find these articles close by, thus reducing their workload.
The women are eager to acquire their rights in the Panchayati Raj.
Significantly around a dozen members of Mahila Sabhas got elected
this time in the panchayat elections held in the months of
November and December 2010; at least seven of them are holding the
office of the mukhiyas. This is manifestation of their
empowerment. They have attained equality of status with men and
have gained decision-making power. The main objectives of Badlao
Foundation have been to ensure immediate and long-term supply of
food, basic health and self-respect for the people in their
operational area. Sustainable cultivation has succeeded in
achieving some level of food security. The traditional culture of
villagers ensures that their diverse resources such as land,
vegetation, water, and animal are treated as part of the eco
system. So far, Sustainable cultivation seemed to be limited to
the application of green manure and cowdung with some stress on
bunding to check soil erosion. It has been an awareness building
campaign against indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and
pesticides and it definitely seems to have made an impact. People
have now fully understood different aspects of Sustainable
farming. Still, many farmers though convinced about its efficacy,
remain apprehensive to adopt it completely.
Sustainable cultivation must focus on
increasing productivity so as to sustain the growing population.
Its essence is in integration of all resources within a village in
a regenerative and mutually reinforcing process.