GEAG believes that for people to deal better with disasters and their changing characters, it is important to build the adaptive capacities of communities through raising awareness and creating a knowledge base. A learning which has emerged with more than two decades of experience in DRR strategies is—once facilitated people learn through their own institutions, solve each other’s problem and educate each other. With this backdrop, GEAG has worked towards developing villages as “live models” on adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies undertaken by the most vulnerable section of the communities in Campierganj block of Gorakhpur district and Mehdawal block in Sant Kabir Nagar District of Uttar Pradesh.
Arti Devi, 37, of the Dhobi caste became a member of the Village Disaster Management Committee (VDMC) and also runs the Village Resource Centre after getting trainings and facilitation from GEAG in Karmaini village of Mehdawal block. Bounded by Rapti River and Bakhira Lake, around 60 per cent of this block is prone to floods and waterlogging. Small and marginal farmers comprising 40 per cent of the block’s cultivator suffer huge losses due to floods and waterlogging.
Arti Devi along with other members of VDMC was trained by GEAG in improved low external input agriculture, health and sanitation and managing flood emergencies. Through her association with GEAG, Arti learnt the techniques to store grains and seeds in grain banks and emerged as a model for other poor women in the community. She initiated a grain bank in the village with 29 members of poor farmer families. These people each saved about 8 kg of foodgrains a year. In times of scarcity (drought or flood), people borrow it at the sawa (25 per cent) rate, that is, for every 10 kg of grains borrowed, the repayment is 12.5 kg. The surplus at the end of the year is sold, and makes up the financial savings of the group. In one year of the formation of this group, they could save Rs 5,400 in the bank. Lending grains to non-members further enhanced their profits. More than the enhanced food security and monetary gains, however, it's the highly increased self-confidence and morale that is important. Says Arti - “We don't have to beg from the rich upper caste Thakur farmers any longer. They would charge exorbitant rates of interest short-change us and on top of it humiliate us. This is our committee and we own it. Nobody can dictate terms to us.” Learning from each other, several farmers saved quintals of grains and seeds in the grain banks and helped the needy families in times of scarcity.