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Tenant collectives in the Gangetic Plains – a new model for gender equitable grassroots irrigation and land management


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Presented by IWMI's Fraser Sugden at a seminar held at IWMI Headquarters in Sri Lanka, on March 3, 2016.

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Tenant collectives in the Gangetic Plains – a new model for gender equitable grassroots irrigation and land management

  2. 2. Rethinking the collective – a new model for land and water management in South Asia? Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  3. 3. Landlord-tenant relations in the Eastern Gangetic Plains • Severe inequality in land – particularly in Bihar, Nepal Tarai and NW Bangladesh • Insecure tenancy (frequent change of tenants) • Poor economies of scale for irrigation due to fragmentation • High rent (sharecropping predominant) make investments unfeasible Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  4. 4. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Madhubani Purnea Sunsari Morang Dhanusha landless labourer tenant part tenant landowner <0.5ha landowner 0.5-1ha landowner 1-2ha Agrarian structure in 14 village study (2013- 15) INDIA (Bihar) NEPAL Tarai (ADIVASI) NEPAL Tarai (MADHESHI)
  5. 5. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Madhubani Purnea Sunsari Morang Dhanusha % area under tenancy % area under tenancy in 14 village study (2013-15)
  6. 6. Feminisation of agriculture • Out-migration essential for tenant households to meet their subsistence needs • Women who stay behind to manage the land face further constraints in accessing irrigation – Gendered barriers in groundwater markets – Sporadic remittances and loss of daily wage labour income. – High work burden and challenges of labour management • Highly vulnerable to climate stress
  7. 7. Solution through agricultural collectives • Emergence from 2012-14 CCAFS Gender work, early engagement with grassroots organisations in Bihar • Collective leasing of land • Pooling of labour, costs and profits • Joint ownership and management of equipment (borewells, pump sets, threshers, zero till machinery etc) • Feasible so long as collectives remain (i) participatory, (ii) small in size and (iii) homogeneous Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  8. 8. Operation of a contiguous plot Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  9. 9. Labour management Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  10. 10. Potential for shared investments and management of equipment Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  11. 11. Knowledge pooling Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  12. 12. Innovation from the grassroots up Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  13. 13. Improved bargaining power with landlords Photo: Fraser Sugden
  14. 14. Utilisation of fallow land Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  15. 15. Research questions to be addressed for upscaling Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  16. 16. 1. Option to pool only land and capital and not labour • Two collectives in Bihar, and two in Nepal utilize this model • Ensures households retain individual responsibility for performance • Allows existing tenants or even smallholders to be mobilized, so is logistically feasible – allowing rapid upscaling. • However, this model is not new, and it does not solve the problem of labour management, particularly for women headed hhs. Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  17. 17. 2. How to ensure landlords do not take back the land • Landlords frequently change tenants due to fear that farmers may claim ownership. • Critical challenge is to ensure that the benefits of for landlords outweigh risks – Cash rent must be equivalent to what was received in kind by individual farmers, – However, it still must be profitable to collective (can be achieved through productivity increases) • Developing ties of trust with landlords is important • Technologies must be mobile, so they can be transferred to a new leased plot Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  18. 18. 3. Energy questions and appropriate technology • While it is preferable to pilot new technologies such as solar, costs and forward/backward linkages are a constraint • Pragmatism is necessary – e.g. use of diesel pumps more efficiently due to better maintenance or use of micro-irrigation. • Not all technologies are appropriate – e.g. laser levelling and zero tillage piloted in Bihar (via SRFSI), but may not be sustainable without development of service provider model. Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI
  19. 19. Questions for further discussion • Are collective forms of production really redundant in 21st century? How do we avoid the pitfalls of Soviet era collectives – in particular addressing free rider problems? • What does the collective farmer group approach mean for the dominant ‘leader farmer’ model of extension in the region. • How do we coordinate the multiple micro level efforts at collective production being carried out across the region. The concept is not new in South Asia, it has just not yet been up-scaled.
  20. 20. Thank you Nayabazaar, Morang Photo: Fraser Sugden / IWMI