Agriculture & Rural development
Vidhayak Sansad is been working for the Agriculture Initiative since its inception, during the campaign for release and rehabilitation of bonded labour, once these labourers declared themselves free, they discovered that they were outcastes in the community. Without skills, land, or government support, they faced serious challenges in making a living. Vidhayak Sansad assisted them in organizing co-operative farms on hired or donated land. The organization set up a revolving credit fund that allowed farmers to purchase seeds, fertilizer and insecticides. Experts provided technical advice. A grain bank allowed the poor to take interest-free loans of grain during lean periods, when they would have otherwise had to borrow from landlords at extortionate rates. All of these measures helped freed bonded labourers get on their feet.
Group Farming :
The Agricultural Programme has enabled many ex-bonded labourers to invest collectively in hired or borrowed land for seasonal cultivation of vegetables, grains, and watermelon. Maharashtra has only two agricultural seasons; monsoon (May - October) and dry (November - April). The poorest farmers are often restricted to the less fertile land in the village, furthest away from water sources, which limits them to growing one crop per year, during the monsoon season. Many grow only rice during the monsoon season and migrate to brick kilns to sell their labour during the dry season.
The Agriculture Department is facilitating second-crop production during the dry season by providing credit, watershed development, and collective efforts on hired land. Working with approximately 43 villages in Thane District, farmers form groups of 2 - 7 farmers, depending on the amount of available land, and cultivate the land together and together share the costs and profit.
Grain Bank :
Since 1987 a grain bank has been developing to provide farmers with rice during monsoon season, when market prices are highest. There was a time that the poorest farmers, tenant farmers who do not own land, had no other option but to approach the local landlord for some paddy. The return rates were as high as thrice the amount taken. Apart from this, the paddy given by the Patil was of a low quality whereas the tribals were expected to return grain of a good quality. The tribal was also expected to work on the Patil’s fields first during the sowing season. The tribals were too poor to access government schemes because they could not show proof of land ownership.
The grain bank was started with a view to stop this exploitation. The farmers who take grain from the grain bank to survive lean periods are required to return the same amount of grain to the bank without any interest. Through the Agricultural Programme the small and marginal farmers are now receiving credit for fertilizer, seeds, and insecticides, as well as technical advice from the Programme Head.
Watershed Development :
Vidhayak Sansad is also beginning small-scale Watershed Development and Land Terracing in three villages, totaling 75 families. The objective is to increase access to water during the dry season, increase crop yield, and prevent families from having to sell their labour for six months of the year at less than minimum wages. Land terracing is done along with small bund-building in streams, for diverting water flow into fields, ponds. This also prevents monsoon water from running downhill, taking precious top soil with it. Vidhayak Sansad’s engineer works with farmers in planning and implementing such projects.
From November ‘94 - May ‘95 the beneficiaries worked to develop their land and watershed, using voluntary and paid labour. In the three villages, farmers experienced an increase in crop yield from 50% - 100% during the 1995 monsoon season. The production of a second-crop during the dry season, mostly rice and vegetables, is being developed, and farming families from other villages will soon come to visit the three pilot projects to expand the project.
Social Forestry :
Vidhayak Sansad implemented project of Social Forestry with the help of tribal people and government.
In the social forestry project, small and marginal farmers were chosen as beneficiaries. Apart from this, the project was also implemented on 'gram panchayat' and forest department's land. Released bonded labourers and landless labourers along with small and marginal farmers were given jobs. Under this project, a village in Vasai 'taluka'. 12 villages in Wada 'taluka'. 43 villages in Bhiwandi taluka'. 2 villages in Shahpur 'taluka' and one village in Palghar 'taluka' were chosen by Vidhayak Sansad. In all 67 villages and 595 people were benefited by this project. Being well aware of the area's social as well as geographical conditions, these people were better equipped to implement this project by consulting Vidhayak Sansad. Vidhayak Sansad was spared the necessity of providing them training in social forestry. The people got gainful employment which in turn helped Vidhayak Sansad to take root in the area and gain the confidence of the people. Vidhayak Sansad, chose to plant fruit bearing trees on private lands of small and marginal farmers. This helped them to further increase their income. Kaju, lemon, pumpkin, and perennial fruit bearing trees were grown on private lands, whereas on forest land and gram panchayat lands, eucalyptus, casurina, babool, tamarind and bamboo were planted. These plants are extensively grown in this area.
Co-operative Societies :
Rehabilitation of bonded laboures was the main concern for Vidhayak Sansad. Co-operative society was proved important solution for this concern. Vidhayak Sansad registered truck society, fishing co-operative and also agricultural co-operative societies of released bonded labauress. Truck Society of released bonded labouress of Ambode Village was the first co-operative truck society of released bonded labouress in india. This was the best example of rehabilitation of bonded labours in india.
These co-operative societies proved to be best instrument for economical development of poor tribal’s.
Later, in recent time’s vidhayak Sansd along with its allied organization struggled to get title of forest land under FRA Act2006, VS succeed to avail title of forest land towards more than 15,000 tribal families; VS also struggled to get water in scarcity affected areas.
Jetropha Plantation :
Before the enforcement of forest right act -2006, the policy of plantation of Jatropha was approved and declared under Maharashtra government employment assurance scheme on the presentation of registration of forest land for tribal by the provisional level effort of the organization. Tribal planted 7000000 (seventy lakh) Jatropha plants on an approx. on the land received under forest right under the government scheme. During 2006, when the plots were allotted as per rules, these cultivations evidences provided good earning and benefits later on.
Vidhayak Sansad - ICICI Bank Tree Plantation Programme :
With Financial Support of ICICI Bank Vidhayak Sansad have Started tree plantation programme. We have selected 300 tribal farmers for this programme.
Vidhayak Sansad is implementing this programme in 2 district, plaghar and thane. We are cultivating 30,000 cashew plants in project area. These 300 Formers have received the title of forest land under FRA 2006 but due to lock of resources they are not in position to utilize this land. This project will be an opportunity for these tribal families to utilize their forest land as well as to obtain economic stability.
Vidhayak Sansad is now focusing on various activites of Agriculture; we are working with Tribal farmers group to explore livelihood opportunities through agriculture development. Thane and Palghar district has a high migration ratio amongst tribals. Tribal’s from the backward blocks of Thane and Palghar District migrates to urban areas, brick kilns and on construction sites in the search of jobs. It badly affects on the socio- economic empowerment of tribal. Thus we have decided to work on the agriculture development which will indirectly help them to empower socially and economically. We are organizing them, assisting them to avail benefits of government designed schemes, to selection of crops, availability of markets, providing the training for farmers and creating the models.
Vidhayak Sansad’s major activities will be :-
Vidhayak Sansad is guiding tribal families regarding farming or proper utilization of their agriculutral land which they got under FRA 2006 after facing many difficulties and struggle for their economical upliftment.
Taking consideration of increasing health issues and percentage of major diseases like, cancer, diabetes, lungs related diseases ets. in the world due to excess use of chemical fertilizers vidhayak Sansad has taken initiative in doing awareness about organic farming. V. S. is guiding and encouraging farmers to practice organic farming. for this purpose we have started vermi compost unit of 12 beds and we are providing training of making of vermin compost free of cost to the farmers.
Tribal families of Palghar & Thane district has very less income sources. taking their economical condition in consideration vidhayak sansad is providing training and encouraging tribal farmers to take crops which has less investment, less maintenance but more production & income.
Vidhayak Sansad is strengthening tribal farmers through forming their groups for group farming.