Empowerment of People

 
NAGALAND EMPOWERMENT OF PEOPLE 
THROUGH ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (NEPED) PROJECT

THE PROJECT

The NEPED project is being implemented in 2 phases. The first phase started in February 1995 and ended in March 2002, including a 9-month bridging period. The second period commenced operations from April 2001.

The project is being implemented by a team of 14 government officers drawn from various departments and is called the Project Operations Unit (POU). A Team Leader who is also a Secretary to the Govt. of Nagaland heads the POU.

THE FIRST PHASE :

In the first phase, the premise was two fold :   

  • Acceptance of the fact that Jhum cannot be stopped or eradicated completely.

  • Jhum could be made sustainable of measures are taken to address food security by way of enabling farmers to earn income.

The strategy was simple and straightforward. Since the jhum farmer was already planting a diverse portfolio of annual crops, why not ask them to plant another perennial crop – trees. 

Some salient features of this phase are :   

  • NEPED was Nagaland’s first donor funded project with Rs. 12.86 crores allocated over the 5-year period.

  • 1794 farmers’ Test Plots( and not demo plots) were established in 854 villages (out of 1010 villages) all over Nagaland, covering about 5500 hectares of land.

  • Survey conducted by an external evaluator in 1999 has recorded that replication of the NEPED intervention was at a ratio of 1:6 (about 33,000 ha). This figure is likely to be much higher now.

  • Over 7 million trees planted in the first phase.

  • The Government of Nagaland declared 1999 as “The year of tree plantation” and about Rs. 2.5 crores was spent in plantation of indigenous species all over Nagaland, an activity closely coordinated by NEPED staff and the district administration.

  • The village councils voluntarily allotted 93 test plots to women. This was the result of a concerted sensitization exercise in the villages and also the empowerment and the leadsership training imported to 213 women from 123 villages.

  • Women were financed to set up 80 tree nurseries to supply planting materials on a commercial scale. 50 of these are self-sustaining to this day.

  • NEPED adopted participatory methodologies in planning, designing and implementation by constantly validating with farmers.

  • For the first time, environmental concerns figured on the agenda of the tribal bodies and grassroot NGOs. Fort example, the Chakhesang Public Organization (CPO).

  • The “ZZ file”, a computerized spreadsheet and botanical search tool was created. This database incorporates characteristics of over 6000 plant species spread over 256 parameters. The Royal Botanical Society, UK has termed this as “a unique work”.

  • NEPED created a “human data bank” by identifying 14 elders from various tribes and forming them into the ‘Local Experts Team’. These men were respected leaders in society possessing a vast repository of traditional knowledge were instrumental in effective delivery of the project, sustaining it an resolving minor issues/.

  • The POU has authored more than 25 briefing papers for mass dissemination, including international journals. It has also authored a 300-page book “Building upon traditional agriculture in Nagaland, India”, a work that has earned accolades all over.

  • An amount of Rs. 90 lakhs remained unspent in the 1st phase. The donors permitted this amount to be utilized in a “bridging period” between the first and the second phase (June 2000-Mrach 2001).

  • During the bridging period, a “Test Cluster” of 4 villages was created in the cardamom belt of Zunheboto district. An amount of Rs. 16,73 lakhs was spent training farmers, arranging cardamom suckers and experimenting with Kiwi fruit. This was done to create a ‘pilot’ for on farm trials as market research revealed that cardamom could be a major exportable crop for Naga farmers.

  • The rest of this amount was spent in selection and sensitization of villages, formation of District Support Units (DSUs), management training, and publication. Conducting participatory exercises with farmers, carrying out in-depth studies into VDB dynamics, setting up a new office and developing the 2nd phase strategy.

“Since efforts at containment, management and gradual reduction of shifting cultivation will  have to continue for quite sometime and possibility of its elimination in near future is rather remote, the strategy adopted by NEPED project in Nagaland for improvement of the practice may perhaps be more appropriate”.

Dr. J.K.Rawat and D.P. Bankhwal ‘Forest Policy and Legal Framework in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern region of India’. Dehradun, April 2000.  

THE SECOND PHASE:

The second phase is focused on 105 villages equitably spread across all districts of the state. The phase started its operation in April 2001. Criteria for Selection of project villages. 

  1. Performance of the VDB in development activities and the fixed deposit it has.

  2. Performance of the village in the 1st Phase

  3. Accessibility to the project village 

  4. Possibility of formation of village and market clusters

  5. Recommendation of viable villages from the standpoint of the district Administration.

The project strategy is to focus on the village councils (VC) and village Development Boards (VDBs) as the mechanism of delivery. NEPED would capacitate these institutions for village level interventions, instead of merely using them as entry points into local communities. Capacity is being enhanced inVCs/VDBs in order for them to: credit institutions facilitating investment in production. 

  • Utilize the seed money (corpus fund) as micro credit support to provide low- interest loans to farmers for incorporating fallow cash crops into jhum cultivation.

  • Provide support to farmers for processing and marketing of these cash crops.

  • Shift from external subsidy-reliant approaches. The VDBs have a pivotal role to play in project operations ranging from:

  1. Operating the credit mechanism,

  2. Accessing the credit need of the participating farmers,

  3. Deciding upon the modalities of disbursing the credit,

  4.  Ensuring and monitoring the repayment of loans, and

  5. Revolving the credit to the expanding numbers of villagers seeking credit support.

           As compared to 1st phase, this represents a massive scaling down wherein the VCs/VDBs are the actual implementers and the POU managers in the project. The approach has been totally decentralized to a bottom-up participatory approach and villagers are been consulted at every step. Farmers are now being encouraged to plant shade-loving cash crops in their plantations, after extensive research on the market demands and the agro-climatic suitability for various biome zones in Nagaland. Some of these crops are cardamom, ginger, black pepper, betel vine and passion fruit.

        Barely in its 11th month of operation now, the response has been overwhelming, with most villagers reporting a ‘waiting list’ of farmers. Some basic facts and figure:   

  • The total fund available over 5 years is Rs.12.85 Crores.Rs.9 Crores shall be directly transferred to the bank accounts of 105 participating villages between 2001 and 2005 fro setting p the revolving credit mechanism.

  • 25% of this fund (Rs.2.25 Crores) is exclusively earmarked for women to take up their own schemes and programmes.

  • Another Rs.1.3 Crores shall indirectly benefit VCs/VDBs/farmers by way of capacity building, training and exposure trips.

  • The remaining Rs.2.25 Crores will be used for monitoring, research, overheads and capital, setting up processing equipment and production infrastructures etc. over the 5-year period.

  • The annual receipt of funds from donors varies from Rs.56 Lakhs (2005-2006) to Rs.3.92 Crores (2002-2003).

  • Between April-November 2001,Rs. 190.75 lacs was transferred to 105 villages’ bank account with an average of Rs.23.75 lacs in each district (see table below) and more than 2000 farmers/SHG have availed of loans.

  • Loans vary from Rs.5000 to Rs.20,000 to commensurate farmers needs. Each loanee places assets proportional to the loan availed as mortgage to the VC.

  • The VC’s/VDB’s fine-tune the credit mechanism to suit their needs based on their local conditions, but within the ambit of the general guidelines. Hence, rate of interest varies from village to village, as does the modus operandi.

Number of farmers who availed loan and those in wait list

District

Kohima Mkg Mon Phek Tuensang Wokha Zbto Dimapur Total
Availed loan 2001 231 209 251 231 357 244 378 175 2076
Amount disbursed in 2001(lacs Rs.) 22.5 22 24 26.25 25 23 24 24 190.75
Wait list for 2002 304 274 278 314 458 312 284 321 2545
  • Farmers are being encouraged to establish SHG’s (Self Help groups) and

  • marketing boards, bringing about social cohesion and a business mindset.

  • An estimated 1362 hectares has been brought under cash crop plantation during 2001.

  • Ginger has emerged as a major cash crop and NEPED farmers harvested about 500 metric tons in February 2002. A buyer from Delhi is purchasing the ginger @Rs.4.75 per Kg at Dimapur. This arrangement has been made after in-depth research into the markets.

  •  As can be seen from the tables above, there is a ‘wait list’ of 2545 prospective farmers prepared by the VC’s, wanting to take loans from the corpus fund during 2002.

  • This ‘waiting list’ in almost every village has resulted in informal ‘peer pressure groups’ on first-round loanee’s, ensuing timely repayments.

  • Subject to approval by ICEF, approximately Rs.3 crores shall be added to the corpus fund in all villages during 2002-2003.

  • Micro business plans are formulated with each loanee to ensure that loaned amount commensurate with his/her requirement and a viable repayment schedule is also worked out.

  • A recent review of the first 9 months of the credit mechanism indicates that repayment rates were high and earlier than anticipated.

  • For the first time, women are being allowed access to land, either by purchase or long-term lease. Modalities vary from tribe to tribe, but with a very definitive tilt in benefit sharing in favour of the women who are organizing themselves in small formal groups to undertake development activities.

  • The department of Rural Development has issued a notification to the effect that women in ‘NEPED villages’ may utilize their share of the grant-in-aid funds to purchase land.

  • Farmers are organizing themselves into formal groups for creating marketable surplus and accessing markets. In some villages, other farmers are also taking to cash crop plantation without availing loans, thereby creating a ‘crop zone’

  • In the near future, cardamom shall become a major exportable item, as indicated by the demand for planting material. Locally available planting stock(over 3 lac suckers) has been exhausted and there is a demand for 7.24 lac additional suckers.

  • Processing and storage units and other forms of value addition will be set up soon.

  • NEPED is programmed to go in for ‘organic certification’ of its farmer produce by 2005.

  • A model Integrated demo plots has been set up at Merema, near Kohima, on 5 hectares of land allotted by Agriculture department. Some of the ‘best practices’ and farmer innovations observed in phase 1 are demonstrated here for the benefit of visitors, researchers, farmers and scientists

  • NEPED has set up a Resource Center in its office at Kohima. This center contains documentation and compendia on many aspects of agriculture, forestry, botany etc., both international and national, including NEPED’s own local contribution on the subjects. This has been established for the benefit of students and researchers.

All these activities are being undertaken as per itemwise timelines and budget allocation incorporated in the Project Management Plan, a comprehensive document prepared in consultation with the donors, which charts the course for the entire 5- year period. Audit is carried out every 6 months at Kohima by George Read & Co., Chartered Accountants from Calcutta.

OTHER SUB-PROJECTS :  

  • The research activities of the first phase on jhum-related interventions continue being fine-tuned. This is being done through a much smaller parallel 3-year project funded by IRDC with an amount of Rs. 65 lacs allocated.

  • Selected farmers in all districts are actively involved in attempting to induce a third year of jhum cropping (intensification) by introducing leguminous cover crops that would increase the jhum cycle by 1/3rd number of years. In Settsü village of Mokokchung district, all 45 households have resolved to undertake this experiment.

  • The State Agricultural Research Station (SARS) under Department of Agriculture is an active partner in this activity, especially in Mokochung, Tuensang and Mon districts.

  • The International Potato Center (CIP) has come up with a proposal to introduce True Potato Seed (TPS) in Nagaland. This project too shall be SARS-NEPED collaboration with inputs from IDRC. Although fund availability will be clear only after March 2002, CIP has already sponsored 2 officials from Agriculture Department to undergo training outside the state on TPS propagation.

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has approved a project proposal from NEPED and sanctioned Rs.17 lacs to set up a center for in situ preservation of endangered and endemic plant species. This center shall operate from the Merema Integrated Model Plot.

  HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT :

Based on the premise that as the project evolves, so will the needs of the participants in it, NEPED has expended sufficient resources in capacity building of all partners. Moreover, due to the international significance attained by NEPED through its networking, several other donor agencies in the development world have provided comparatively more substantial financial resources  to learn more about the project, its innovations and experiences. Through this, the POU have been able to maintain an ‘open window to Nagaland’ for the outside world. As a result, several researchers, scientist and development practioners have also visited Nagaland, including a doctorate thesis student from Canada.

Exposure trips:

10 farmers from various districts with POU/DSU members were taken to Himachal Pradesh to see agro forestry  And agri marketing –sponsored by project. 

·        POU members were invited to make paper presentation in several fora:

  1.   Guiyang, china sponsored by CBNRM ,IDRC, Singapore.

  2.  American Evaluation Association - sponsored  by IDRC, Ottawa.

  3. Gender analysis at Nairobi and Call- sponsored by PRGA, CGIAR Peru

  4. Experience sharing at Khajuraho (MP) -sponsored by project.

  5. Natural Resource Management at Chiang Mai –sponsored by CBNRM, IDRC, Singapore.

   Training:-  

POU were trained in: -

  1. Results Based Management Financial Management Systems, PRA, VDB functioning Credit Marketing, Outcome Mapping, Sustainable Livelihoods  Analysis – all in Nagaland - sponsored by project and IDRC.

  2. SHG formation at Varanasi - sponsored by project.

  3. Cardamom Plantation by villagers at Sapotimi village , Zunheboto - sponsored by IDRC

  4. Participatory Research  & Development at Philippines - sponsored by IDRC.

  5. SHG functioning at BAIF Project, Rajasthan – sponsored by project.

  6. Export Basics by APEDA, Guwahati - sponsored by project.

           Others:-

  1. 23 farmers were taken to Tadubi and  Pfütsero for training in passion fruit and cardamom farming and processing – sponsored by project.

  2. VC/ VDB of 105villages trained in accounts maintenance and bookkeeping -sponsored by project.

  3. 5 villagers   from Sapotimi trained in cardamom processing at Pfütsero – sponsored by project.

  4. VC / VDB / Farmers of 105 villages trained in Resource Mapping – sponsored by project.

  5. Members of District Support Unit (DSU) in all districts, mostly officers from agri and allied departments, were trained in VDB dynamics, participatory monitoring and project management – sponsored by project. 

  6. Project exchange trip of staff and farmers between Ratnagiri Project, Cambodia and NEPED – sponsored by IDRC.

  7. Project exchange for experience sharing between BAIF project and NEPED – sponsored by projects.

 

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