From cardamom to kiwis: Caritas programme helps 500 farmers in West Bengal
The Wadi (orchard) programme is aimed countering rural depopulation and youth unemployment. Integrated agriculture of fruit and vegetables allows producers to reach consumers directly.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Subash Tamang, a resident of Nim Gumba Gaun, a village in Kalimpong District, in West Bengal, is now a model farmer, but for years he scraped a living on exhausted land growing cardamom.
When given the opportunity to take part in a pilot programme in his region, he jumped on the opportunity, and eventually shifted to integrated farming. This was made possible by Caritas India, which sought to help farmers adapt traditional crops to the effects of climate change.
With hard work and perseverance, Subash got all 30 tribal families in his village to join. Today none of them are any longer at risk of starving. Meanwhile, Subash launched himself into growing a variety of fruits and vegetables: kiwi, mandarins, guava, broccoli, beans, round chillies, tomatoes and radishes.
The system of integrated agriculture gave him the means to earn an average annual income of 500,000 rupees (US$ 7,225), a sum he could have only dreamt in past years.
The programme is called Wadi (orchard). Caritas India put into place in November 2017 in the Gorubathan area along with the Tribal Development Fund of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The aim was, among others, to counter rural depopulation due to soil loss.
The area where Subash Tamang lives is mostly inhabited by Tamang and Lepcha tribal people. It was chosen because it is among those where the production and price of the only crop (cardamom) experienced a steady decline since 2015. As a result, the lack of jobs was driving many young people to the big cities.
After a series of studies and surveys, the agricultural transformation project transformed local farming from cardamom monoculture to an integrated fruit and vegetables agriculture, with a focus on kiwis. Today the programme supports 500 peasant families in 15 villages.
In addition to the distribution of seeds and the training of farmers, Caritas set up village planning committees to ensure the direct distribution of produce to markets, thus avoiding the costs of intermediaries.
For young people, this has meant jobs: pricking fruits and vegetables; packing, loading and transporting produce in boxes; and distributing produce and working in marketing.