Case: India - Micro-Agroecological Village Development Model

People-Centered Micro Agro Ecological Sustainable Village Development Model for Livehood through Climate Change Mitigation Programme

By Raymond Myles, INSEDA/ INFORSE-SouthAsia
and Zareen Myles WAFD/ INFORSE-SouthAsia

The ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Climate Change’ has been the main theme of the entire humanity for the past several years. At the global level the discussions are going on at the R&D level and studies are being conducted on the problems related to Climate Change, and the impact of rise of the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius of the present level, which has become a political issue at the level of inter-governmental negotiations. While, every one expresses the crisis due to climate change, a large section of people living in the developing countries, especially in the remote and far flung and hilly and mountainous regions of these countries are already getting adversely affected due to the ill effect of climate change. Instead of living in the “Wait and Watch Syndrome” and allowing the situation to worsen beyond repair, the time is now ripe to “Think Globally and Act Locally”. This can be done effectively and in sustainable manner, through the promotion and implementation of a large number of micro-level, people-centered actions at the grassroots level.

The most appropriate action, which could be replicated sustainably, will be by taking each village as the smallest unit of development, ensuring, by actively involving local people in the planning, implementation and management of appropriate activities based on the analysis of their capacity to implement, to mitigate negative effect in the lives of these people. Instead of Purely Technical Approach (PTA), the best approach would be to follow Socio-Technical Approach (STA) to implementation of developmental programme. The PTA may be easier to implement and might take much lesser time, as it is based on the high quality technical expertise. These expertise, which even though not available locally and drawn from outside using top-down approach to implementation, but as the local people are not involved (or at best informed about the actions) and in most cases only remain the spectators, without understanding anything technical; therefore, it can neither sustain itself or can be replicated effectively. As compared to PTA, in the case of socio-technical approach (STA) to implementation, the time and initial external resources required will be more, both in terms of the initial funds and expertise for establishing training-cum-demonstration units, as well as, for building the local human capital. In addition, the time and expertise are also required for upgrading and strengthen the local people/community, to be able to do participatory analysis of the problems and learn to find the local solutions based on their local and traditional knowledge, skills and own expertise and technical capacity, but to be able to look at the new solutions to solve their age old and new problems, based on new knowledge gained and skills acquired from the developmental oriented external experts, who preferably have appropriate experience in knowledge and technical skills transfer at the grass-roots level. The gestation period required for the noticeable concrete results and impact in the case of STA will be comparatively more, but the action will lead to income generation, creation of regular livelihood for the local villagers by using their own locally available or locally generated natural and other resources and be sustainable as well as replicable in more or less similar situations in a cost effective manner.

Based on the past about 8 years of experience of WAFD (Women’s Action For Development) and INSEDA (Integrated Sustainable Energy and Ecological Development Association) in a joint programme of eco-village development (EVD) in 12 selected villages of the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan state of India, and learning from it, it was decided to launch a similar development programme in one of the eco-fragile, Himalayan sub-region of India. The reason for selecting the region for undertaking this programme was because WAFD (Women’s Action For Development), had been involved in small scale actions with local village women, for the past several years using its own meager resource till now. The overall goal of this new long-term programme to establish sustainable village development models following people-centered integrated approach with focus on the livelihood of the villagers and poverty reduction through appropriate climate change related actions. The target villages are situated in the two adjacent blocks (namely, Chamba and Narendra Nagar) of the New Tehri district of Uttarakhand state in the Himalayan sub-region of India.

The broad objective of the present pilot project to demonstrate the Socio-Technical Approach (STA) for the implementation of sustainable livelihood, poverty reduction and climate change mitigation measures by appropriate action to create “Micro agro-ecological village development model“ in four selected villages in the Himalayan sub-region of India”.

As a result of climate change, in the past several years the lives of the local people living in the villages in the lower regions (downstream side) of the Tehri dam (in the Tehri Garhwal now New Tehri district), which is part of the Himalayans sub-regions of India, had been affected adversely. Many family members (specially the males) from the households had to leave their villages and go to semi-urban and urban centers in search of livelihood. As a result of this, most of these villages are left with women, children, youth and the senior citizens to the vagaries of nature and cope up with the uncertainty. In majority of cases, the women of the households are under pressure to look after the agriculture, horticulture and domestic animal rearing activities for livelihood, collection of firewood and grasses and fodders for domestic animal, cooking on traditional and inefficient stoves, fetching of water and raising of children. As a result of the receding of glaciers on the upper Himalayan region and the deforestation in the lower reaches has been adding to the problems of fuel-wood and reduction in crop yield due to climate change. As there is no means and facilities for drying of crops to preserve or for processing of their agriculture and horticultural produce for improving keeping quality as well as value adding, therefore, local villagers have to sell their produce at lower rates than market prices, soon after harvest to prevent them from getting spoilt.

In view of this, to start with, four NGOs have come together to under-take a joint programme, initially to implement as a pilot project, people-centered-“Micro agro ecological village model”, for livelihood & climate change mitigation. The four NGOs are WAFD, which is the grassroots implementing Indian lead development organization, whose main focus is on women, adolescent girl child and children, INSEDA, which is socio-technical support national organization, HIFEED, which is local grassroots organization from the region (all three from India) and ASDA from Finland. The project is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Finland; the funds for this pilot project are being channeled through ASDA, which is the finish partner NGO.

Two of the four partners , namely WAFD and HIFEED were working with villagers of these four villages through small and sectorial activities, as there was no funding available to undertake comprehensive activities in a systematic manner. The present pilot project was initially planned jointly by these four NGO (WAFD, INSEDA, HIFEED and ASDA) partners, about three years ago, by inviting the women and senior citizens of these four villages, and understanding their problems at that point of time. Since the project took almost three years to get sanctioned, some of the problems in these villages have changed, but by and large the major components of the project still remain relevant. However, due to inflation, during these intervening three years period the cost over-run have been high, so the project partners were forced to scale down the activities during the pilot period.

The important aspects of this project is the involvement of the four major groups so that every individual in the village feels responsible citizen- these groups who are mainly staying in these villages are-women, senior citizen, youth and children.

The major components of the pilot project are:
(a) Building of demonstration cum-training biogas plants in these four villages, at a height of 5,000 ft, where snow fall takes place during 2 months (January and February) of winter season. Due to this the biogas plants (BGPs) of 40 days HRT, built on planes will not function efficiently, therefore plants with higher HRT are to be built. During the building of these BGPs, local women and masons have to be imparted technical skills for weaving of bamboo structures and construction of Grameen Bandhu model BGP, which is bamboo reinforced cement mortar (BRCM) plant, designed by the Secretary General INSEDA;
(b) Building of demonstration-cum-training (BRCM) roof water harvesting system for individual household;
(c) Building of demonstration-cum-training Solar fruit, vegetable and herb dryers;
(d) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training Solar Green house (poly house) for out of season growing of vegetables, as well as, possible protection from wild animals like monkeys, hogs and wild boar, as well as birds like parrots.
(e) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training Solar Green house (SGH) for heating the poultry and may be for the Angora Rabbits during the cold winter season;
(f) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training Smokeless Kitchens;
(g) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training Improved Cook Stoves:
(h) Building of household demonstration-cum-training Solar Cookers;
(i) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training hay boxes (heat retaining boxes) for saving and conserving heat during cooking;
(j) Training of village youth in assembly of solar PV lantern, which will also act as demonstration units for these villages;
(k) Building of simple household demonstration-cum-training on small-size wind mills and wind generator on community land;
(l) Training in preservation of fruits and vegetables and making juices, during the season when they are available in plenty, so that instead of distress selling, they can keep them and sell them at value added cost
(m) Establishment of Kitchen Garden by individual families in their back yard;
(n) Establishment of demonstration organic agricultural units with selected families in each of the four villages or on community land;
(o) Establishment of tree plantation (fruits and medical plants) and local small diameter bamboo variety (known as Ringal) for initiating collage/village level income generation activities for women for their livelihood when there are no crops on their land, in each of the four villages or on community land;
(p) Training-cum-demonstration of Beekeeping in each of the four villages

Implementation till date

In the past few months, four groups have been formed, they are: Women (Mahila Mandal), Senior Citizens, Youth (Yuva Dal) and Children (Bal Dal), to involve them in their own village development through awareness, motivation and their capacity building, skills development and up-gradation and demonstration of appropriate technology, which are suitable to their agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions.

A few volunteers were selected from the project villages and taken to Bharatpur, where WAFD and INSEDA had been involved in the implementation of Eco-village development (EVD) programme, for seven days intensive practical training

Youth were trained to do Village and household survey; and now they have completed collecting base line data from each household from these four villages. These data will be fed in the computer and then data base will be created either in Excel or MS Access or both.

One training-cum-demonstration Grameen Bandhu Biogas Plant-GBP (which is designed and developed to be constructed using Bamboo Reinforced Cement Mortar-BRCM) was built and the initial feeding with cattle manure was completed. The biogas has just started being produced, which will be used for cooking and lighting. This BGP will operate on the droppings from the Angora rabbits at the HIFEED campus.

One Bamboo Reinforced Cement Mortar (BRCM) roof water harvesting structure of 1,500 liter capacity was built before the rainy season, which is completely filled with rain water.
10 women were given training to build simple Hay Box using straw, card board and old jute bags at WAFD Bharatpur training center. They were also given demonstration on correct use of Hay Box for cooking rice and pulse.

During the building of training-cum-demonstration Grameen Bandhu plant (GBP) in Rani Chauri project site, 10 women selected from one of the four project villages were systematically trained in the weaving of bamboo structures for constructing GBP.

During the building of the same training-cum-demonstration GBP, two local master masons from one of the project villages were also trained on the step-by-step construction of Grameen Bandhu plant (GBP).

In the 4 project villages, the families had been involved in the natural farming for centuries, which is growing agricultural crops with traditionally produced organic manure. However, because it is not done in scientific manner, the yields of their crops have been very low. In view of this, based on the experience of EVD programme in the villages of Bharatpur district (Rajasthan state), during the rainy season, 34 women from these four villages were provided good quality seeds and organic manure to take up organic agriculture in scientifically manner. Before undertaking cultivation, these women were fist trained by the WAFD technical staff (to be based at the Rani Chauri for the period of this pilot project) who was not only trained at Bharatpur by agricultural experts, but has also been a practicing organic farmer for a few years and seen the benefits. The 34 village women were given seeds with the understanding that they will return 25% of the seed back to the project after harvesting, as this would help develop a seed bank. This seed will be given to new farmers in the next season (next year) on the same conditions-thus there will be multiplier effect, and also inculcate in the local villagers that nothing is free if they want to promote sustainable development of their villages.

Just before the on-set of the rainy season, the women from these four villages were provided seedlings of fruits, fodder and local variety of bamboo (known as Ringal) by the project. To encourage student (youth) to take up tree plantation, the project also provided 1,000 seedlings to the local school, which was planted by the students. A total of 2400 seedlings of fruits and Ringal have been planted by the individual women with the assistance of the project.

Ringal (local bamboo variety) grown in hills of Uttarakhand state, about 100-km from the project area, on similar agro climatic conditions, and it takes 5 years to mature to full height as told by the experts. This is the first time that Ringal is being promoted for cultivation by the people in the four project villages. The villagers as well as the project technician are very excited about this possibility, as when this variety of bamboo (Ringal) will be available locally, then it will bring down the cost of construction of both, Grameen Bandhu biogas plant (BGP) and the Rain Water Harvesting Structures (RWHS) very much, as at present regular bamboo grown in the plains and transported to the hills cost INR 100 per bamboo. It will also create opportunity for developing Ringal based cottage industries, by training the women from the project for income generation activities for their livelihood. The leaves from the Ringal is also good as fodder for promoting cattle and goat rearing for additional income for the target families, as well as being environmentally sound and eco-friendly, will contribute to mitigating the climate change.

One of the important thing in organic farming and tree plantation promoted by this project is that based on brain storming sessions is that the senior Citizens (who earlier felt isolated) role is also clearly defined, They, in groups (mainly senior citizens women, as at present there are less male members) will be visiting each of the four villages every month and check the growth of the crops and trees, fodder and local bamboo (Ringal) and discuss the progress of their monitoring visit in the monthly meetings.

In addition to above, the project staff will do independent monitoring, by visiting the project site to see how the plant growth is progressing. The project also proposes to do photo documentation during each monitoring visit along with the owner of the land which has grown organic crop and dome tree planation.

Seven women selected from the project villages were sent for one day training on bee keeping on a bee-keeping farm. After the training, seven women from the four villages were provided with demonstration bee keeping boxes on subsidized rate from the project, balance 50% cost of the bee-boxes were bourne by the trained village women. For the initial establishment of these new bee colonies, the trainer will again visit the project villages for providing them with one day refreshers training. These selected women have agreed to promote beekeeping in their respective villages, also using their bee-boxes as demo-kits.

Four students (youth) have also been trained in the assembling of solar PV lanterns from scratch by the technical staff of the project. Now the principal of the local school wants him to also come and trained their students on assembling of SPV lanterns, which has been agree by the project to do.

Now there is demand for more BGPs, roof water harvesting structures, making of simple bamboo woven compost baskets (due to problem of space and high cost for making compost pits from bricks and stones), tree plantation and organic farming, which will be taken up by the project during the next few months.

The women in the 4 villages have been motivated to take up kitchen garden for growing the seasonal nutritious vegetables and now in coming months they will be trained and guided to take up kitchen garden using appropriate vegetables for their daily household needs.

Celebration of important days by 4 groups, namely women, senior citizen, youth & children:

- World Earth Day was celebrated on May 22nd in which all the 4 stakeholders group actively participated, first with the procession with banners on the roads in Rani Chauri project area up to the venue of the celebration. This was followed by picture making competition on the theme, by the youth and children, and the winners were given prizes.

- World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5th, which all the 4 stakeholders group actively, participated. They had Rally of youth, women and men from the project villages with banners in Rani Chauri project area, before assembling in the local school for continuing the celebration. The celebration included songs and role plays on the theme, picture making competition and debate on the theme by the youth and children, and the winners were given prizes.

- India celebrates Akshya Urja Diwas (Renewable Energy Day) every year on August 20th. As the resource persons from INSEDA and WAFD could only be celebrated on August 29th. During the celebration, slides were shown on the various simple application of renewable energy for income generation and improving the standard of living of the target families. They were also explained the problems and many reasons behind global warming, which is causing Climate Change. The slide show generated discussions and recognized that there indeed is climate change which is affecting their lives. They also asked for clarifications and showed desire for more information and enquired about how to get certain RET gadgets for their daily use.

It is hoped that this pilot project of two years duration will bring out other problems and felt needs which, will have to be addressed in a systematic manner. These will be used for preparing a bigger project for three years period in the next phase.

More information:


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· East Africa: Scaling up Access to Modern Energy Services

  · Kenya: Decentralizing Power Policy
  · Kenya: Afforestation for Charcoal
  · Mali: Jatropha Biofuel for Rural Electrification

· Mali: Productive Use of Energy

  · Mali: Solar Lighting Kits for Rural Areas
  · Uganda: Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy
  · India: Solar Dryer
  · India: Solar Lantern Charging Station
  · India: Household Biogas Plant
  · India: Micro-Agroecological Village Development Model
  · Nepal: Improved Water Mills
  · Nepal: Charging Centre for Solar Lamps
  · Sri Lanka: Commercialization of Improved Cookstoves
  · Sri Lanka: Standard Code for Domestic Biogas Systems
The cases were collected in the framework of the "Southern Voices on Climate Change" Project. Link: