Integrated, participatory, seasonal observations for land systems
Rajeswari S. Raina*, Anand Sharma and Zia Mohammed
*Scientist, National Institute of Science,
Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS),
Dr. K. S. Krishnan Road, New Delhi - 110 012.
Officer-in-charge, and Systems Manager,
IPSOS project, Gram Vikas Kendra, IDC- Field Office,
Village Rahepwa, P.O. Pinangwan, Gurgaon District, Haryana.
This paper draws attention to seasonality as an essential concept in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating land-based rural development programmes. It presents the need for a conceptual re-orientation in land-based rural development programmes. The case of an information facility in Rahepwa village in Mewat, Haryana State is used to illustrate the critical role of integrated and participatory seasonal observations for rural development. Rural knowledge is conditioned by the exigencies of rural livelihoods. Seasonality, with low mean incomes and high seasonal variance in incomes, is one of the primary causes of distress in rural livelihoods. Seasonality of rural livelihoods is not confined to the economics of income. Seasonal changes also aggravate the gamut of existing economic, social, political and cultural handicaps that directly determine or indirectly influence the well-being of the rural population.
This paper presents participatory generation and use of meaningful information, within the framework of the seasonality of rural livelihoods, as a crucial input for sustainable land-based development. Section II here presents the case for a season-sensitive land information base. It is argued that information for development must be generated and used by the rural population, by integrating different sources of information, starting with peoples primary perceptions. Section III calls for the use of systems concepts in land information base to solve the seasonality problem in persistent poverty and under-development. Systems concepts inform all the important stages of an “integrated participatory seasonal observation system” (IPSOS hereafter), and participatory project formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Section IV presents crucial insights gained from the IPSOS project in Rahepwa village in Mewat. We conclude that land information in a systems format, as in the IPSOS case, is a desirable institutional change for rural empowerment.
Seasonal observations for sustainable development
Seasonality is and will continue to be a major stumbling block in rural development in every LDC, where agricultural and rural livelihoods depend on seasonal fluctuations in access to food, employment, income, and seasonal changes in status of health/morbidity. The developed countries are also subject to seasonal changes. But rural livelihoods there are not so absolutely dependent on seasonal fluctuations. Food, for instance is never completely absent or inaccessible. Moreover, in the North in general, “harvest, the main agricultural labour peak, comes at a healthy time of year.” (Chambers, 1979, p.13). Even with capital intensive labour saving technologies, the rural population in developed countries experience minimal seasonal migration or displacement. Along with developing appropriate (location specific) counter-seasonal technologies, these countries have also “shifted resources” (labour and capital) from “seasonal industries to non-seasonal ones.” (Gill, 1992, p.7)
In terms of rural livelihoods, the most significant implication of this shift of resources to non-seasonal industries, is a lower variance in income during the year. Besides the Engel’s coefficient being low in these developed countries, the seasonal consumables occupy a relatively low share in the consumption basket of the rural population in these countries. High levels and quality of material and social infrastructure ensures that any loss of or reduction in seasonal production or income is accounted only as additional production costs and is duly ‘passed on to the consumer’. (Gill, 1992, p.18) The case is quite the reverse in the LDCs, where the incidence of poverty and seasonal industries is high, and the market and State infrastructure favours the consumer more than the producer.
More recently, research on the impact of global climate change shows that there will be distributional impacts, with developing countries generally worse off than developed countries. (Rosenzweig, et al, 1993, and Kaiser, 1994) A significant point emerging from studies on global climate change and agriculture, is the increase in seasonality (climatic variability) that may arise from a changed climate. (Oram, 1985). It is this seasonal variation in temperature/ precipitation that will influence crop yields more, than the effects of an overall change in climate. Climate change is afterall not any discrete change, but a gradual dynamic evolving phenomenon of changes in temperature and precipitation. Therefore, more studies are needed to tell us “how climate change will impact the variability of climatic variables.” (Kaiser, 1994, p. 9) We need to take a fresh look at climate change and the information needed to analyse the impact of climate change. Technically, conceptualizing and modelling climate as a gradual, evolving phenomenon, or reducing the grid sizes of general circulation models, or improvements in the representation of land surfaces/ clouds, will be required. (Kaiser et al, 1991 as given in Kaiser, 1994, p.9). On the economic and social front, a new conceptual framework is needed to understand the social impacts of climate change. (Sonka and Lamb, 1987, given in Kaiser, 1994). What is imperative in these studies though is “adequate information” on how climate change affects land systems, plants and animals. It is important to realize that in a world with changed climate, there will be a changed world; there is a highly complex and dialectic relationship between the world (of land and agriculture) and the climatic factors that affect it. (Rosenberg, 1992).