Conserving Peri-Urban Agriculture & Ecosystems to Build Urban Climate Change Resilience in Flood Affected Areas

Conserving Peri-Urban Agriculture & Ecosystems to Build Urban Climate Change Resilience in Flood Affected Areas

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Water Galore

Climate change for the people of Gorakhpur City in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India is not a distant notion. Unseasonal rain, hailstorms and erratic weather have already made it a frightful reality for this city. Rapid urbanization and decreasing capacity of the city to provide basic infrastructure services and other civic amenities are further exacerbated by climate change impacts. The livelihoods of poor inner city as well as the rural migrants living in the fragile peri-urban areas are most severely impacted. Already, the peri-urban areas of Gorakhpur are prone to recurring floods and water-logging for 2 to 3 months every year.

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Degrading Lungs of the City

The peri-urban ecosystems which act as flood buffers, provide food security to the city dwellers and regulate the micro-climate are degrading day by day due to expansion of city and ensuing land-use changes. Gorakhpur’s peri-urban land is a much coveted space, with the developers, real estate builders and municipal bodies eyeing it as a prime location for the city’s waste, refuse and cheap housing. Standing crops have given way to urban sprawls; farmers turn into labourers and open water bodies morph overnight into shiny new multi-storied buildings. This straining of natural resources, absorption of existing agricultural lands, open green spaces and water bodies on the city’s periphery is disrupting its ability to be resilient to climate change impacts.

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The Vulnerable Peri-Urban Farmers

For farmers, life turns more chaotic. Agriculture has always been vulnerable to the vagaries of nature, but here the changing climate spells doom for the small and marginal farmers in peri-urban areas. Peri-urban agriculture becomes more expensive as the input costs of seeds and fertilizers are increasing and the net gains are decreasing. In flooded fields and waterlogged land, unsure of whether their crops will yield enough and unable to meet their past debts, many farmers migrate to urban areas in search of other livelihood opportunities. This distressed migration leads to infrastructural development on their agricultural lands, destroying the natural ecosystems there. The consequence of this conversion is the decreased “Food Resilience” of the city as the peri-urban agriculture is a major source of vegetables and fruits for the city dwellers.

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Innovations in the peri-urban agriculture

Conservation of peri-urban agriculture and ecosystems by innovative farming techniques and adoption of climate resilient agriculture is central to build resilience to climate change for the entire urban area. Use of flood resilient crop varieties which can sustain in water-logged fields, loft framing, mixed farming and adoption of integrated farming methods help the farmers fight climate change. So, with more food produced in the peri-urban areas, better profits are made in the ready market available in the city itself. This flood resilient agriculture helps these peri-urban farmers become more robust, and simultaneously enhances the livelihood security of the vulnerable groups and ensures food security of the urban poor.

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Community-based Approach

City’s expansion in the peri-urban land is also degrading the common property resources like pasture lands, ponds, lakes and open green spaces. The common property resources play an important role in enhancing the city’s resilience to climate change, especially the flood resilience. Besides adapting the innovative farming techniques, the small and marginal farmers from peri-urban villages of Gorakhpur have come forward for the protection of these common property resources by forming small community groups and advocating to stop illegal encroachments.

Cities cannot operate in isolation but within a ‘sphere of dependence’ on surrounding peri-urban areas and their ecosystems. It is of utmost importance to conserve peri-urban agriculture and ecosystems as they give multiple benefits including livelihood security of small and marginal peri-urban farmers as well as ensure food and flood resilience for the urban dwellers contributing to urban climate change resilience on the whole.

A recently formed group ‘Urban, Peri-Urban and Ecosystems Working Group’ looks at how nature can help improve urban resilience and help mitigate the impact of natural or manmade disasters. You are welcome to join this initiative, which hopes to be a learning platform for exchange of ideas and experiences across the various landscapes.

ACCCRN partners, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), Mercy Corps Indonesia and Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation, look at critical themes here, to be able to undertake joint advocacy initiatives in a collective form.

Click here to register

You may also write to us with any related queries or for further information at  info@geagindia.org . We look forward to your feedback.

In transition: Peri- urban areas

In transition: Peri- urban areas

Peri urban areas are defined as the transitional zone between a sprawling city and its rural surroundings, neither rural nor urban in the conventional sense. Simply put, it is basically the area that surrounds our metropolitan areas and cities. As cities grow and expand the existing peri-urban areas slowly become part of the city, and new peri- urban areas spring back again, along the newly drawn city boundaries.

Today rapid residential and commercial development is replacing agriculture and other undeveloped land on the outskirts of cities. Urbanisation is changing the existing land-use patterns. There is a loss of open vegetation, and as land prices skyrocket, encroachment of common property resources and water bodies becomes common.

What is easily forgotten is that these same peri- urban ecosystems provide a whole range of services. The open spaces help in groundwater recharge, act as buffer to floodwaters, provide a range of products such as food, fuel, fodder etc, and also are as a source of cultural & religious gatherings.

A photo feature of Gorakhpur, located in the Terai belt of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas,  showcases this peri urban space. It highlights why protecting ecosystems and their services in peri-urban areas is essential to the survival of the poor, as well for enhancing a city’s resilience.

Brick lane

The peri-urban area, is neither rural nor urban. It provides natural resources for growing cities, but also depends on the urban market for sale and employment.

Farmer with raddish 2Small & marginal farmers grow vegetables in the peri urban areas, that find a ready market in Gorakhpur city. Today, their agricultural land is giving way to real estate.

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Peri-urban agriculture has the ability to provide food in periods of floods and waterlogging too.These open spaces also act help in recharging water bodies and act as buffers to flooding.

A couple walking down green corridor

With increasing urbanisation and reducing profits from agriculture, many livelihoods have been lost forever, contributing to rapid migration. This adds to the densification of the city’s fringe areas.

Boy on a cycle covering face with scarf

The eco sensitive land, the farms and open spaces, in peri-urban areas are soon lost or encroached upon. These areas are marked by a lack of hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, with the solid waste of a city often being dumped in here.

Construction 2

There is usurpation of ecologically sensitive lands for housing and other construction activities. In Gorakhpur’s peri-urban areas, most land that has been sold, has or will be converted into housing. Construction like these, that usurp open spaces reduces the resilience of the city

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Most of the city, being below the river bed, faces waterlogging. These urbanisation processes have exacerbated the nature of flooding and waterlogging hazards for the city.

Woman with gauvas 2

Eco system services are vital for the livelihoods of people as well as for resilience to climate shocks, and must involve the people who are the actual keepers of the ecosystems. Climate resilience can be built sustainably by protecting these ecosystems and ecosystem services in peri-urban areas.

Reference:

This photo series is based on the Working Paper Series, Asian Cities Climate Resilience, titled ‘Wheezing ecosystems,livelihood services and climate change resilience in Uttar Pradesh.’

A helping hand against climate change

A helping hand against climate change

In Uttar Pradesh, frequent extreme weather events & climate change has had impacts on small, marginal & women farmers. With meager resources to buffer them from the new risks that climate change poses, they usually end up paying a high price for this.

The impact of climate induced changes added an extra pressure on them, their lands and ther livelihoods. What they needed was the knowledge, training & information on the varied approaches available, so that they could follow a flood resilient farming system. To help them in getting solutions to their agricultural problems, linkage of farmers with Farmer Field Schools, Village Resource Centres, and other government programmes & departments was the need of the day.

A little help, and the livelihoods of these women farmers turned not only profitable but also resilient!

This innovative agriculture work of Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in the flood affected Maharajganj, Sant Kabir Nagar & Kushinagar districts of UP, was suppported by PACS-DFID.

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Field days & related training programmes opened up the world for Piyari. She learned from the agriculture scientist & fellow farmers, and decided to prepare her own bio inputs & do integrated farming.
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Asma Khatoon attended Farmer Field Schools (FFS) & took up innovations in farming & improved production. Integration of banana, maize & chillies made her farm robust to floods & diversified her income.
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Maimunnisha became a memebr of Self Help Group and learnt the new techniques of making bio-manure & pesticides. She then decided to take up multi- tier cropping, grew bitter gourd on her 0.6 acre of land, and made a neat profit of Rs1,50,605.
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Just 1 SMS information proved a boon for Laldeyi. She postponed her sowing of potato & peas crops, after receiving a weather advisory on heavy rains and saved Rs 10,280.
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Prema Devi attended a training programme on growing Sesbania (Dhaincha) for green manuring, fuel & fodder. She then planted Dhaincha crop on 5 ‘bighas’ of land after the harvesting of wheat crop & incorporated it in situ before thetransplanting of rice crop.

 

This is the third series of real life resilient stories, originally featured in the booklet ‘Inclusive Resilience Stories of Small Marginal Woman Farmers’ by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), 2015

Women rear farm animals & make money

Women rear farm animals & make money

The people of Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh have always known and lived with floods. What is new is the altered flood patterns, their intensity & complete unpredictability. And if you are a farmer who has a small land holding and also a woman, the vulnerability increases many folds. Climate change then impacts your basic survival needs, & tends to magnify the already existing patterns of inequality, leaving the women farmers weaker and their farms less robust. Or so it was assumed.

Till the women turned towards small animals for their small farms. They raised hens & goats, added nutrition to the family food & made money in the process too!

This resilient agriculture work of Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in the flood affected Maharajganj, Sant Kabir Nagar & Kushinagar districts of UP, was suppported by PACS-DFID.

Meet these champions who reared animals and fortified themselves against floods & waterlogging, right here….

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Suman rears hens, makes money of them and ensures good nutrition for her children too.
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Dukhna Devi, cofidently explains ‘Goats can tolerate extreme heat.’ She now sells goats from her doorstep & makes a neat profit.
goat in disaster
Santri Devi took up goat rearing, that helped her save & sustain her family during disasters. They are her insurance against crop failure due to weather uncertainties.
hens
Raising hens to raise money, especially when farming is hit by changing climatic conditions, is what Kavita Devi has proudly done.

This is the second series of real life resilient stories, originally featured in the booklet ‘Inclusive Resilience Stories of Small Marginal Woman Farmers’ by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), 2015

 

 

When women farmers turn champions!

When women farmers turn champions!

Climate change affects men & women differently. In India, more than 84% of women are involved in agricultural activities; as a result they often become the greatest victims of climate change. They who gather the wood, carry the water and grow the crops, suffer the most; given their dependency on subsistence crops, limited access to resources and lack of decision making powers. Rising male migration and recurring floods added to the woes of such women farmers, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

But these women had ALL the making of a champion!

They took a re-look at the land & the local ecology, dusted their forgotten traditional knowledge, incorporated provisions of government programmes & GEAG’s skills and embraced a holistic approach to innovate and adopt agricultural methods that would make their livelihoods profitable & resilient.

This resilient agriculture work of Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in the flood affected Maharajganj, Sant Kabir Nagar & Kushinagar districts of UP, was suppported by PACS-DFID.

The champions- in pictures.

integrated flood
Ramrati Devi linked farming sub systems. Her fish pond gets feed from the excreta & waste from the poultry house on stilts. Banana plantation surrounding the pond prevents soil erosion, and since 2012, her profits have gone over 300%.
nursery
Phoolpatti Devi, true to her name, started a nursery as it requires less water & can withstand drought conditions. Today she earns profit and the family has food to eat throughout the year.
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Sayda Khatoon began mixed vegetable farming, applying organic manure to the soil. Today she grows more than 30 varieties of vegetables in her 1 acre land.
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Sandhya Devi grows sunhemp after wheat harvesting, and uses it as green manure for next paddy crop to improve soil quality. Sunhemp fibre is also used to make ropes, helping her garner profit.
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Adopting a loft system, Gulabi Devi, prevented her vegetables from getting spoilt in the water logged fields. She has been able to sell & make profits upto Rs 1.8 lakhs.
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Kalawati has gone organic. She replaced chemical fertilisers with bio-manure & bio- pesticides, reducing her input costs & providing healthier  vegetables.
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A rice variety that gives good production even if it is submerged in water for 18 days, proved to be a blessing for Shakuntala Devi whose farm suffered from erratic floods & heavy rainfall leading to waterlogging.

This is our first series of real life resilient stories, originally featured in the booklet ‘Inclusive Resilience Stories of Small Marginal Woman Farmers’ by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), 2015