Project Introduction Meeting With Community People

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The project, ‘Strengthening Resilience: Sustainable Adaptation to Climate Change in Flood Affected Areas of Assam Through Multi-Sectoral Prevention and Adaptation Mechanisms and Advocacy’ which is going to be implemented by People’s Action for Development (PAD) with financial support from Teree des Hommes (TDH) started its activities at the project site – 10 chosen villages which may be considered as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in Lakhimpur district of Assam, India. To introduce the vision and course of future activities, the PAD team, consists of 11 members, reached 10 project villages and introduced about the project through community meeting from 4th January 2021 to 12th January 2021 with the villagers in the village.

The first project introduction meeting was held at Gankhariati and meeting was presided over by Ramchandra Hazarika, the village headman and also a resident of the village; and about 50 men, women and children actively participated. In the very beginning of the meeting, John Tirkey, a PAD member introduced the entire team of PAD present there.

Introducing the purpose Philipson Sona, the project coordinator told that PAD would implement the project these selected villages for all round improvement of the villages. The project would continue for several years in these villages. The livelihood and lifestyles of the village people were severely affected by unpredictable natural disasters and hardships were increasing year by year. But people must cope up with these changing situations. Through this project it would be tried to make people resilient to the climate change impacts. He also mentioned that for this work PAD was supported by TDH.

Monoj Gogoi, the advocacy and documentation Manager of the project told how disasters like –recurringflood and erosion affected riverine communities. The intensities and frequencies of flood and erosionwere increasing which resulted in more submergence of homestead and agricultural lands, displacementof families – in some cases multiple times in a single year, dependency on alternative cropping etc. Healso told that, “The future is uncertain but we must have to embrace it. Therefore, with the experiencesof the local people and suggestions of concerned experts, this PAD’s project will try to reduce themiseries face by the people.” He added, “We need to learn to adapt to the impacts caused by variouschanging climatic conditions and must be resilient to those extreme events.” MonojGogoi humblyappealed the community to cooperate in the future course of actions of the project.

When asked about the changes in the last 10 years in the village, an octogenarian retorted that had ricegranaries were found at every household but with the time all had vanished. Instead of rice, mustardseeds became the primary cultivation for agriculture dependent village.

Uttam Nag, a Community Organizer of the project stated that PAD had reached Gankhariyatifour years agoand now PAD was getting another opportunity to work with them. He mentioned the works done in theprevious project and people’s positive cooperation. He also told how climate change had been affectinghuman lives and making lives disastrous. From his previous work experiences with the villagers, hepraised them for their unity, strength and way of struggle against the natural calamities. Towards theend of his speech, he also introduced the organization PAD and its works. “PAD works for the Adivasis,tribal, other marginalized, downtrodden and socially excluded communities. PAD also envisions an equaland just society on the earth”, he added.

An old man, who was sitting just beside the president, expressed his gratitude on the previous works of PAD and told, “We are very happy and glad know that an NGO called PAD is coming to work with us.Flood and erosion are not only our problems; we have more other problems – communication, transportation, disruption of classes in school in flood season, scarcity of boats etc. He added that a boatwas provided by PAD earlier but it was very difficult to use in bad weather. This boat couldn’t withstandforceful lashes of winds.

The president of the meeting Ramchandra Hazarika again requested to speak John, John said,” We cameto the village in 2014 but at that time the village people did not anything about NGOs, now they areaware and so they are extending their helping hands towards PAD.” He further said the village andcertain government agencies would be linked for the development of the village. He stated about thenecessity of high rise platform for human and livestock during flood season. Lives in such places could bemade better by certain works guided by a well proofed action plan.

Suddenly a woman stood up and started to say that they were displaced by erosion last from theirvillage once was called Pabhomukh and now all the 12 families settled in a land adjacent to Gankhariyativillage. Therefore she requested the PAD team to include their settlement in the newly launched projectby PAD. When asked she told that her name is Monika Pegu and deprived from either a boat or high riseplace to spend the atrocious flood seasons.

An elderly person of the village stood up and said that catastrophic flooding in the region resulted infailure of kharif crops and people had started to grow boro (a rice variety which is grown after monsoon)rice with the help of ground water. But the poor electricity (low voltage), connected to the electricpumps used in the paddy field, became an impediment for the farmers. For better crop yields, properfunctioning of the electric pumps were very essential and therefore installation of a transformer in thearea was urgent.

A youth told, “We like Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), particularly PAD. We get immensebenefit from PAD. NGOs help us a lot.”Concluding the meeting, the president Ramchandra Hazarika told the people had always beenconfronting immense natural problems including flood and erosion. But NGOs gave us opportunities toface those challenges. He told, “We need more and stronger boats during flood to confront the windand speedy current of the water. Teaching and learning halted due to the breach of roads during floodseason.” He alleged that the state agriculture department including the gram sevak was non-existent forthe agriculture dependent villagers. He also assured the he and the people of the area were ready to extend their helping hands to the works of PAD for entire period.

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