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About the Implementing organization

SAFE Majuli Green Warriors Cooperative

Country: India

Year of establishment: 2015

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Legally recognized non-profit status, Community business or cooperative , Indigenous group or organization, Ethnic minority group or association, Youth group or association

Website: http://www.safeinch.org

Description

SAFE Green Warriors Cooperative of Majuli is a member of the Community Climate Consortium of the South Asian Forum for Environment, a regional nonprofit CSO working towards achieving the SDGs through community-based interventions in South Asia. In April 2015, it successfully introduced hydroponic float-farming in Majuli, the largest river island in Assam, as an adaptive farming practice for marginal indigenous communities to ensure their secured livelihoods, flood preparedness and climate resilience. Majuli had been a cluster of 15 large islands in the riverine floodplains of the rivers Brahmaputra and Subansiri. Recurring major floods and earthquakes over the centuries have changed the geomorphology of Majuli, leaving only 370 sq kms of land. Every year, 38% of the island gets completely submerged, while 23% becomes partially submerged by flood waters for 7-8 months, and nearly 77% of agrarian land is inundated by flood waters, compelling the community to temporarily migrate. Majuli’s present population is estimated to be .2 million with 63% of its population belonging to 11 ethnic communities. Half of the populace is composed of marginal fisher-folk or farmers and 20% are agricultural laborers. The main objective of the intervention, therefore, has been to

• Enable local capacities in hydroponic float-farming and aqua-culture as an integrated, climate-adaptive, agricultural practice (ICAAP) for augmenting flood resilience on the island

• Ensure sustainable livelihoods and food security for marginal farmers and raise awareness about community-level disaster preparedness

• Promote inclusive growth through innovative financial mechanisms and develop the market linkage of young farmer’s groups, or Joint Liability Groups, thereby strengthening the local institutions of the indigenous community

Flood-resilient hydroponic farming practice owes its origin to the deltaic districts of Bangladesh, wherein huge floating beds constituting of rotten hyacinth are loaded with humus for family farming. In Majuli, innovation is incorporated into the design, material, size and capacity of each float, using local, natural resources and delivering them as a livelihood unit to indigenous farmers. Hydro-foam and sponge was used for the hydroponic circulation of water and the flood-resilient structure was made of locally available non-timber forest products. The growth medium comprised of a proportionate amount of vermicompost, coco pitts, biochar and sand. The cost of each tray was kept at INR 2500, which is comparable to the cost of a livestock unit.

Young and motivated farmers in 30 villages were sensitized and 2,500 farmers and fisher folk were trained in raft making, cultivation techniques, weed and pest management, as well as the post-harvest management of the rafts. The crop cycle planning was a participatory process, wherein the beneficiaries decided upon the crops to be planted. Capacity-building in fish cage and pen culture was also done through the dissemination of small hatchery management techniques. An integrated placement of rafts and fish cages substantially addressed flooding. The setup constitutes 30 trays which provide a floating space of nearly one hectare and a pen/cage culture which provides 23 hectares of wetlands bodies. Almost 450 trained farmers were organized into 72 Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) with 6-7 members each and credit-linked with a bank. In a span of 3 years, JLGs made an income of USD 47,000. Based on impact assessment studies and the yield, a Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) showed a very promising income expenditure ratio of 3.58, a 72% profit on sale. The intervention has been awarded “Most Innovative Development Project” by Global Development Network and has already been adopted by GIZ Germany for scaling up in India and Bangladesh through the Inequality Challenge Funding window. These large scale interventions will have significant climate change adaptation potential along with biodiversity conservation and economic benefits for the indigenous communities.

Nature Element

Wetlands︱Rivers

Type of Action

Ecosystem restoration︱Climate-resilient food and agriculture︱Low-carbon food and agriculture︱Innovative financing mechanisms

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods︱Food security︱Sustainable communities and disaster risk reduction︱Sustainable consumption and production

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

          

Environmental Impacts

Hydroponic float-farming technology sustainably promotes agricultural intensification in the socio-ecological production landscape impacted by environmental adversities. Floats arrest sediment and buffer flood waters to restore the agroecological habitat of floodplains and inundated coastal areas and protect topsoil loss, fragmentation, and conserve agrobiodiversity in captivity during disasters. It also ensures the conservation of resources like quality irrigational water through wise use, enhances soil and organic matter, and restores soil functions by recycling agro-wastes. Further, it reduces agro-emissions to abate air pollution’s impacts on the locale. The intervention also restores the wetland’s ecosystem while preventing desiccation and the alleviation of surface water temperature, thereby prompting sustainable aquaculture which supports the livelihood opportunities of marginal indigenous communities.


CLIMATE IMPACTS

The initiative abates climate change’s impacts firstly by adapting hydroponic organic float-farming practices with ‘low-water no-chemical’ inputs wherein farming trays floating in saline water are irrigated with quality water in a budgeted volume using micro-solar sprays and drips to reduce water and energy footprints. This technique also mitigates agricultural emission by recycling agro-waste, substituting chemical fertilizers with organic manure. Since, the farming is integrated with algae and fish culture, its carbon sequestration potential is high in primary biomass generation. Secondly, it promotes climate preparedness by ensuring food and livelihood security, augmenting resilience through participatory resource planning, responsible consumption, sustainable production, community-level disaster mitigation in flood-prone coastal areas, and as well financial inclusion for risk spreading.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The impact synchronizes with the SDGs. Specifically, this project ensures that the poor and vulnerable have equal rights to economic, social, and natural resources, access to appropriate technologies and financial services, building resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate-related extreme events (SDG1 - Goals 1.4 and 1.5). It augments agricultural productivity for marginal indigenous people and implements resilient agriculture that strengthens its capacity for adaptation to climate change (SDG2 - Goals 2.3 and 2.4). It ensures gender equity (SDG5 - Goal 5.5) and expands international cooperation for capacity-building in water activities and implements integrated water management (SDG6 - Goals 6.5 and 6.6). By augmenting adaptive capacity to climate hazards and disasters and strengthening institutional capacity on mitigation, adaptation and impact reduction, it promotes mechanisms for climate planning and management, focusing on women, youth and local marginalized communities. (SDG13 - Goal 13.1).


RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

The intervention has enabled local capacities to ensure flood resilient agro-farming for livelihood and food security in states of India and Bangladesh wherein 2,200 households (10,000 heads) in 178 villages have accepted flood and salinity as an opportunity rather than hazard. 200 hectares of inundated farmland are back to production, conserving their ecosystem services through crop cycle planning, integrated farming, water resource management, etc., augmenting community resilience and preparedness. This project is furthered with government stakeholder participation like NABARD and international cooperation from GDN USA, GIZ, Germany, etc. Credit linkages and insurance has spread out the risk of marginal commons, whereas inclusive growth has engaged beneficiaries from all cross sections of indigenous societies, encouraging gender parity and leaving no one behind (LNOB) in economic sustainability. Women have taken the lead in the management of local institutions, enabling a stronger decision support system.Floodplain villages in India and coastal villages of Bangladesh are geographically remote and distinctly alienated from the mainstream economy, especially in monsoon owing to a lack of livelihood opportunities and disaster vulnerability that gets escalated with ENSO-like climate hazards. Present intervention, wherein LNOB (Leaving No One Behind) principle is a core component, has abridged this spatio-temporal inequality by enabling alternative livelihoods and food security with flood-resilient float-farming, thereby stopping the migration of youth as casual laborers or internal displacement of families by a food crisis. The economic inequality in the community owing to land disadvantages and fiscal inabilities are addressed by creating more floating arable areas on inundated farmlands and promoting collective community farming, whereas fiscal risk reduction is ensured by forming joint liability groups for credit linkages and group insurances. Socio-anthropogenic inequalities of different indigenous communities, mostly owing to policy discrimination are addressed through technological cooperation and by building capacities, wherein shared values of knowledge and delivery value chains in services have assured sustainability and inclusive growth. By reinstating the environmental services of the habitat and thereby compensating for the opportunity costs with Payments from Environmental Services (PES), the project has reduced inequity and endorsed reciprocal rights of the commons on nature’s services.


REDUCED INEQUALITIES

Floodplain villages in India and coastal villages of Bangladesh are geographically remote and distinctly alienated from the mainstream economy, especially in monsoon owing to a lack of livelihood opportunities and disaster vulnerability that gets escalated with ENSO-like climate hazards. Present intervention, wherein LNOB (Leaving No One Behind) principle is a core component, has abridged this spatio-temporal inequality by enabling alternative livelihoods and food security with flood-resilient float-farming, thereby stopping the migration of youth as casual laborers or internal displacement of families by a food crisis. The economic inequality in the community owing to land disadvantages and fiscal inabilities are addressed by creating more floating arable areas on inundated farmlands and promoting collective community farming, whereas fiscal risk reduction is ensured by forming joint liability groups for credit linkages and group insurances. Socio-anthropogenic inequalities of different indigenous communities, mostly owing to policy discrimination are addressed through technological cooperation and by building capacities, wherein shared values of knowledge and delivery value chains in services have assured sustainability and inclusive growth. By reinstating the environmental services of the habitat and thereby compensating for the opportunity costs with Payments from Environmental Services (PES), the project has reduced inequity and endorsed reciprocal rights of the commons on nature’s services.


GENDER EQUALITY

The intervention has adeptly addressed gender equity and financial inclusion to empower women-folk who have been distressed by economic insecurity, circumstantial uncertainty and social abuse. Essentially, women farmers and fishers have been equally trained in new technology to lead the practice from the front. To ensure that they are not forced to work as agricultural laborers, they receive trade-specific capacity building training in nursery management, pest management, nutrient management, etc., in hydroponic float-farming. Even a women-friendly tool bank is created for them to reduce drudgery. Economic empowerment is brought through financial inclusion and the formation of women’s Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) which are linked to bank and group insurance schemes. Herein, the women leaders can directly participate in decision-making system and participatory planning. While planning for alternative livelihood opportunities, supplementary provisions for livestock rearing and seedling nursery for cereals have been exclusively marked for women in order to facilitate their societal comforts and agro-habits in compensation for the opportunity costs incurred on them by household chores. Women groups are directly linked with the market and are adequately equipped with marketing tools and strategies for fiscal empowerment and are supported with a mobile helpline for any emergency situations. There have been drastic reductions in social abuse, violence, and harassment aimed at women, thanks to this strategy.


SOCIAL INCLUSION

Sociometric studies in the intervention areas on livelihood and vulnerability showed 57% of indigenous inhabitants work as agricultural laborers as they do not have land rights and 33.5% of them are youth who usually migrate as casual laborers in days of distress. This intervention has socio-economically included such marginal farmers who are registered in cooperatives practicing float-farming, thereby negating the land issues and strengthening local institutions. Linking market dynamics with local production value chains has included non-agrarian communities in developmental courses through service sector engagements. The rich socio-cultural landscape of the intervention areas both in India and Bangladesh has immense anthropogenic diversity, especially in Majuli River Island, which includes nine indigenous agrarian communities, all of whom are equitably engaged in this intervention, depending on their socio-economic need and abilities, through integrated farming activities and appropriate capacity building. Women, have been included as entrepreneurs in Joint Liability Groups (JLGs), manage the finances and participate in the decision support system with unbiased opinions. Outreach and extension programs have sewed up socio-political gaps to ensure equity and reciprocity between the ethnic groups. The commonness of float-farming and integrated agriculture has been a panacea in inclusive growth and collective action to mitigate climate impacts and adapt alternatives for livelihood security.

Scalability

The intervention can be sustainably scaled up to national level as:

a) The technology can be upgraded for various crops growing in adverse weather and contrasting geo-ecological areas, wherein nearly 57% of arable area is under rainfed agriculture and suffers from the lack of access to technological innovations

b) The practice can be integrated with supplementary livelihood opportunities like livestock rearing and fisheries for integration with the national livelihood and food security mission

c) Strengthened local institutions and trained farmers, as climate entrepreneurs, can be facilitated with carbon financing mechanisms of GCF and GEF for scaling up nationally

d) Ongoing research related to sustainability and cost benefit analysis, carbon emission footprinting and strategic impact assessment studies can be supplementary to the decision support system at a national level

e) Financial inclusion and credit linkage for float-farming has already been started to encourage scaling-up

Replicability

The intervention has a tremendous potential to be replicated in the socio-ecological production landscape of South and Southeastern Asia as well as in small island states and flood plains where rising sea levels have struck in the climate milieu. Inundation, salinity ingression, loss of farmland by flooding or droughts can be equitably addressed with this intervention. Furthermore, in places with an abundance of water or a lack thereof, even communities unaware of water resource management and agrarian marginal communities can very well adopt the technology for sustainable growth. Since this is a closed-system farming practice, it is also ideal for carbon-neutral organic farming and is an adaptive method to assure sustainability. Thus, it is equally potential for states in sub-Saharan Africa, as well. Most recently, the technology has been adopted with some modifications for urban vertical gardening to reduce the ‘Heat-Island Effect’ of concrete structures with vertical greening.

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