16 August 2021

Celebrating India's 75th Independence Day

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity celebrates the august occasion of the nation's 75th Independence Day with much fervor across its field areas in more than 12 districts in the state of West Bengal. The block and district units hoisted the national flag and speeches on the significance of the day were delivered by our senior activists. We are in the middle of an ongoing national campaign demanding the rollback of draconian sedition and anti-terror laws while reiterating the constitutional framework guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression of citizens. The campaign was launched just after the denial of bail to the late Jesuit priest and activist Fr Stan Swamy which led to his untimely death. 'Right to Dissent' has been the campaign's theme, which is leading a dialogue amongst fellow citizens on state-led repression of dissenting voices and penchant to frame dissenters under sedition and terror laws, denying them the right to seek redressal under usual provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

Our block and district units read out 'pledge' declaring our unflinching commitment towards the values espoused by the constitution of our nation and working towards establishing a society based on them. The need to protect the 'dissenting voices' and to collectively oppose the state policies discouraging dissent in any form featured in the pledge. The preamble of the constitution was also readout. On every Independence Day, we highlight the need to ensure access to basic citizen services and upholding the 'right to life of every individual through nutrition, health, education, shelter and work. Last year we began a dialogue on the need for a robust Public Distribution System to address hunger and lack of access to basic food items for vulnerable sections of the society on Independence Day and highlighted the inadequacies of the present system. This year too, we gave a call to increase the entitlement of ration cardholders and to universalize the Public Distribution System for the nation's working-class should not celebrate another Independence Day on an empty stomach. Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity is committed to joining the progressive forces to ensure an equitable future for each citizen of India and express solidarity to the people's movements across the nation, asserting the rights of the marginalized sections over natural resources and access to constitutional rights.

13 August 2021

Livelihood Report - 2020 to 2021


The sudden collapse of the market due to the pandemic made the unpredictability and instability of the market very evident.  This led the organisation to take steps towards introducing the concept of alternative livelihood and market economy, amongst our members.

Due to the lockdown, the terrible downturn in the economy and the return of migrants, various families faced a substantial loss of income. At the same time, there was scarcity as well as a surge in the price of vegetables. We initiated our plan to help marginal farmers and rural families who own only small homesteads, focusing mainly on the women in such families. We worked with families that have very small plots of land, to start a kitchen garden - which can significantly improve the nutritional content of the families’ food. We have ensured that there are negligible expenses and zero requirements to go to the market for anything produced in the kitchen gardens. Training to make organic fertilisers and pesticides from natural sources, livestock and kitchen waste has also been provided.

We are also successful in involving a large number of  youth in various activities, training and meetings of the organisation. Young men and women were given training to be trainers, thus giving them the confidence to lead a small group of people for the organic kitchen garden initiatives.


       Training to start organic kitchen gardens

56 young people (50% women) were identified from 8 districts, who with the help of an external resource person were trained to be trainers. This training helped them understand about organic kitchen gardens and their benefits. They learnt how to cultivate and manage a kitchen garden and are expected to further train beneficiaries as well as follow up on their performance on a daily basis. The trainers have trained 15000 beneficiaries, as of June 2021. They have also been taught about seed conservation.

The Organic kitchen garden project focuses on building capacity, especially of women, to set up and nurture their own supply of vegetables through the same. From reclaiming waste land to making organic fertilisers and pesticides, everything has been taught to the trainers in a series of training organised by the organisation.

Key effects or results

  • People are developing an interest towards the concept of kitchen gardens and realising its benefits.
  • The beneficiaries have learnt to make and use organic fertilizers and pesticides. They learnt to utilise waste material (like vegetable peels, eggshells, used tea leaves etc.) which is often discarded.
  • With the production of vegetables, enough to sustain one’s family, there has been a decrease in dependency on the market for the same.
  • People have been able to reclaim wasteland for kitchen gardens.
  •  Some beneficiaries are working jointly on their organic kitchen gardens, in a single plot of land. Extra produce is often distributed amongst relatives and neighbours which has helped strengthen community relations and has led to a further rise in interest in creating kitchen gardens. 

Challenges and our response

  • It has been difficult to convince some people to shift to organic production completely, due to lack of any prior experience (in organic cultivation) of the cultivator. Some people have used both chemical and organic fertilizers and pesticides, which has not generated the desired results.
  • The success of other kitchen gardens in various areas we are working in helped us explain better how completely organic kitchen gardens can produce sufficient yield. The disadvantages of chemical fertilizers and pesticides were also restated.
  • The production has suffered in various areas where the salinity in water as well as soil is high, like areas of North and South 24 Parganas.
  • We have conducted discussions and meetings putting forward the solutions to start and sustain kitchen gardens in areas with high salinity of soil and water. People have been advised to conserve rainwater, given saline resistant seeds and make kitchen gardens in bags and tubs with soil that has low salinity. 
  • Shortage of water in districts like Purulia and Bankura has made people apprehensive about starting these gardens.
  • Techniques that help conserve water as well as utilizing them for the gardens have been taught to all the beneficiaries. Ancient irrigation methods like mulching, clay pot irrigation etc are being taught and promoted.

What we learned and our Future Goals, strategies and activities

       Over the course of the grant period and working on kitchen gardens, we have realised the need to promote requirement specific seeds and grains. Based on consumption patterns of the people, we need to make sure that seeds (like paddy, wheat etc) can be procured and distributed.

       We realize that livestock rearing is another important aspect of being self sufficient and reduce dependence on the market and would like to consider in the future.

       The Training of Trainers (ToT) method, where a trainer is further expected to train 200-300 beneficiaries has been successful for our organization. This was our first time attempting this method and we intend to use it for some of our future projects too.

       This particular project if extended for a longer period of time can help spread the idea of organic kitchen gardens and, accept and shift completely to an organic mode of production. Our intended seed conservation would also take a longer time (i.e more than a year), thus we would like to continue working on this project for a long term.