Gauri and her husband set up home in a coastal village in West Bengal 28 years ago, where they’ve grown mainly rice and a few vegetables to feed themselves and their two sons.
Unpredictable weather patterns
Since flash floods engulfed their land in 2006, their efforts to grow enough food to eat have been hampered by increasingly erratic rains, flash floods and an influx of saline water - all as a result of climate change.
Gauri said: ‘Rainfall became increasingly untimely and it started destroying the vegetables and rice paddy. The roots would often rot as well. When there’s no rain, which is often when it’s very hot, the seeds can’t germinate.’
Gauri and her family were no longer able to eat vegetables every day, surviving on a meagre diet of rice.
Learning new techniques
Christian Aid partner, Development Research Communication and Service Centre (DRCSC), has supported Gauri since 2006, teaching her multi-cropping methods as well as how to rear ducks and fish. The multi-cropping methods allow her to grow many varieties of vegetables, which can survive on her farm in the often extremely wet environment.
She has also learned to produce her own fertiliser and biogas for her stove using cow dung, relieving her dependency on harmful methods such as burning dung cakes and wood, and expensive chemical fertilisers.
Gauri recalls: ‘Before I used biogas, I used to make dung cakes and collect firewood to cook with. DRCSC encouraged us not to burn dung cakes, as it produces a lot of methane, which is bad for our health and the environment.
‘I experienced health problems from the smoke created by burning these things. I had a heavy cough and my eyes were irritated. The whole house became engulfed in smoke, and carbon soot deposits were on the walls.
‘The methods I use now are sustainable, and when the monsoon floods the land, I can keep going. If one vegetable fails, something else will always grow. Before I only had paddy, so if it failed, everything was lost. But with mixed farming taught by DRCSC, I always have a crop that will grow, or my chicks or fish to eat.’
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