Gaining Trust of Farmers

Kharibari, India


Several years ago, a pond was dug by the Forest Department for a Fishery on land owned by Budhu, but the project couldn’t actually take off for several reasons. I encouraged him to restart the fishery in that pond and assured him of my guidance in whatever way possible. Budhu has agreed to start a fishery in that pond, and he plans to clean it soon.


July continued to be exciting as my friend Rohit came to visit me in the first week of the month. Together we visited Kharibari and spoke with some families. I had called him to come for a visit and do a survey to suggest to me how we move ahead to further our task. The next day, we sat down together and planned about Kharibari. I had planned to form a committee within the last week of July, but the weather had a different plan. From the beginning of the second week we experienced uninterrupted rain, which continued until the end of July and is likely to continue through August.


Even though a committee has not been formed, I continue to visit families and build relationships with the villagers. During this month, the West Bengal Public Distribution Department was distributing digital ration cards at a nearby Panchayat office, so I helped one family get their name entered to get a ration card.


I also informed the villagers, especially women, about ongoing free Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) connection for the ladies belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Unfortunately, none of their names were selected for the same, but they were grateful that I informed them about this program.


Though my goal was to form a committee in July, it could not be because this was the peak season for paddy cultivation, so we planned for the fourth of August. I was told that by that week, paddy cultivation will be over and villagers will be free. In July, I called meetings twice and both times had to postpone them because I wanted the whole village to be there, but mostly the women turned up and only a few men.


Later on, I realized there are two reasons behind the low men’s turnout. First, they do not trust any outsider, though I belong to the same tribe and have been there for quite some time, and in the past, they have been severely cheated out of their land and money by outsiders, and also by their own people. Now they do not trust anyone easily.


Second, most men, after a day’s hard work, turn to alcohol for relaxation, and this seems to be their only form of enjoyment. In a culture where alcohol is an integral part of life, served on every social occasion, it is a challenge to let this habit die. Over the years the use of alcohol has caused many of them to become addicted and they are unable to discern good from bad. What is worse is that they have lost all hope and believe they are born to die in poverty and hopelessness.


Another reason is that they all work on the local river for stone-breaking and boulder collections where they earn nearly 250-300 Rupees (about $4) per day. They think this is a most lucrative job, completely ignorant of the fact that they can earn much more and secure their lives if they opt for other jobs. This job has so many risk factors, such as that the river is unpredictable and can sometimes wash them away. Also, the riverbank has lots of dust, and continual exposure to it can create breathing problems.