Grass Returns to the Sundarban Delta

Four years after Cyclone Aila ravaged the Sundarban Delta, causing saline floods and the loss of dependable food sources, grass is finally returning to the land. Recent soil data shows that salt is reducing naturally due to rainfall in the past two years. This is a good sign, as it means that farmers can return to growing staple crops, like rice, and livestock can be brought into the region and enter the diet of the severely undernourished population. GHS  has been working with the people in the village Chotto Sehara since April 2012, and is happy to help people to begin to return to their normal livelihoods.

July 2013, sheep return to graze on grass surrounding rice fields

July 2013, sheep return to graze on grass surrounding rice fields

The Sundarban Delta is home to 4.5 million people, who often have poor access to roads, education, clean water, and medical attention. It is also uniquely vulnerable to climate issues due to its location. GHS is working with seven progressive local farmers, including two women, to introduce flood and salt tolerant crop varieties, and techniques in diversifying crops, shaping the land, and managing fallow land using nitrogen fixing plants in field trials. We are also working to make medical care more reliable by establishing televideo connections to doctors in more populated areas.

February 2012, many rice fields are dry and barren

February 2012, many rice fields are dry and barren

February 2012, a farmer stands on a grassless hillside

February 2012, a farmer stands on a grassless hillside

Only last year, the ground in Chotto Sehara remained mostly barren, those who were fortunate enough to own livestock were forced to pay to feed them costly food, rather than allow them to graze. However, this year there has been remarkable growth in the grasses, along with the planting of nitrogen fixing plants, which has helped to reinvigorate the soil to and bring back much needed grazing animals. This is a sign that the soil is becoming more hospitable, and will allow GHS to move forward with plans to help form group farming and mixed farming projects. We believe the successes achieved in Chotto Sehara may be able spread throughout the Sundarban and pull more families and farmers out of poverty.

February 2012, cows eating out of baskets

February 2012, cows eating out of baskets

July 2013, cows able to graze on grass

July 2013, cows able to graze on new grasses

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Sundarban Delta Project Featured in FullyEngaged Newsletter

photo-superors2 GHS was featured on the front page of the Winter 2013 issue of fullyENGAGED, a newsletter from the University Outreach and International Programs here at UC Davis. Titled “Reinvigorating the Sundarban Delta,” the article sheds light on a current GHS project geared towards “promoting health and economic development through improved nutritional and agricultural education and research” in India’s Sundarban Delta. The Sundarban Delta region was severely impacted by Cyclone Aila in 2009, and inhabitants of the region have since been caught in a cycle of poverty, malnutrition, and disease that is often characteristic of rural, climate-challenged areas.

Along with their partner and collaborator, the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, GHS will design and implement an interactive, community-based research program to mitigate nutritional deficiencies through the use of locally grown, regional, traditional foods and promote economic growth through the introduction of an appropriate community-based agro-economic system that encompasses small-scale entrepreneurship opportunities for women and identification of suitable climate-resilient crops. One goal will be to further health and economic development by identifying optimal farming practices to better equip individuals to cope with cyclone-associated flooding in the future.

We would like to thank the UC Davis University Outreach and International Programs for providing the seed funding necessary to begin Sundarbans project. We are still growing!

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Links:

Article, http://uoip.ucdavis.edu/documents/newsletterFE2013.pdf

University Outreach and International Programs website, http://uoip.ucdavis.edu/