Research in which a group of farmers study themselves and try to handle their own problems will be presented in an international meeting at Oxford in the first week of April this year.
In areas close to wildlife parks, crop damage by wild animals has been a major problem troubling farmers for a long time. As wild life received protection during the last few decades, the highly dwindled populations have reverted to good population sizes. But this is not without a cost. The cost is mostly paid by farmers whose crops are devoured or trampled almost routinely by wild boar, nilgai and other animals. Although there is a law and a protocol on paper that government will compensate the farmers who suffer from this problem, implementation of the law is very poor. There are no guidelines on how to estimate the damage, the procedure of filing a complaint and further handling the case is so tedious that farmers hardly come forward to claim compensation. As a result, the actual damage hardly ever comes on record. Three years ago, some farmers from two villages in the buffer area of Tadoba came together with an intension to study their own problem and evolve a solution. The groups was coordinated by NGOs namely Paryawaran Mitra (Mr.Vijay Dethe) and Bioconcepts (Mrs. Poorva Joshi) and science and technology inputs were provided by prof. Milind Watve. In three years the group collected and maintained their own systematic data, undertook experiments and designed a new model of mitigating the problem. Today although the problem persists, the group spirit to combat and control the problem is so high that the agricultural productivity of the group has increased significantly. “In most social science and human ecology research, people are “subjects” of research. We are trying to set up a model in which people are research collaborators, not subjects. This is what future social science is going to be like. People will do their own science.” Said Prof. Milind Watve who would represent the farmers at Oxford. The model being established and experimented on is based on certain novel principles of behavioural economics. “Farmers understand complex principles, including those involving some amount of mathematics, if they are relevant to their livelihood. Farmers make excellent researchers and that’s how agricultural research of the new era should be.” The model under trial has a potential to expand and offer a promising alternative to crop insurance in the long run. The title and the abstract of the presentation at the conference is as under.
Title: A support cum reward for farmers exposed to extensive crop raiding by wild animals: A pilot implementation study. Presenting Author: Milind Watve Co-authors: Poorva Joshi, Vijay Dethe, Smita Dethe, Shankar Bharade and the farmer group Abstract: Agriculture near protected areas suffers heavy losses due to crop raiding by wild herbivores. Farmers’ resentment can backlash on the conservation efforts. In India, law enables compensation of the loss incurred by wild animals, but implementation of the law faces several problems, the most important ones being the difficulty in estimating the damage and the personnel required for the damage assessments. Owing to the unpredictable risk, farmers hesitate to invest in intensifying agriculture. The loss of productivity due to this disinvestment is greater than the actual depredation by animals. In the study area where the crop damage ranged from 30 to 100%, we designed and implemented a support cum reward system as an alternative to damage compensation, in which farmers self-report their produce at the end of the season which is endorsed by neighboring farmers. Based on the collective data, a support cum reward amount is calculated proportionate to the average loss in the group but also proportionate to the individual farmer’s productivity. Farmer’s under-reporting thus leads to reduced individual reward and over-reporting leads to underestimation of group support required. Owing to this computation, which is based on behavioral economics, honesty gets the highest pay-off and therefore cheating is unlikely to happen. The scheme assures a basic support based on average damage, but there is an incentive and reward for being more productive in spite of the risk. During a pilot implementation study over 5 seasons farmers were observed to take greater efforts to grow and protect their crops and as a result, there was up to 2.5 fold increase in productivity of rice and other crops. Farmers’ rage was evidently blunted and they found the support cum reward scheme friendlier and more beneficial than the prevalent compensation protocol.