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Presentation on theme: "T ENANCY IN THE E ASTERN G ANGETIC P LAINS : C OLLECTIVE ACTION TO OVERCOME AGRARIAN STRESS Fraser Sugden International Water Management Institute, Nepal."— Presentation transcript:

1 T ENANCY IN THE E ASTERN G ANGETIC P LAINS : C OLLECTIVE ACTION TO OVERCOME AGRARIAN STRESS Fraser Sugden International Water Management Institute, Nepal Research team: Fraser Sugden, Niki Maskey, Panchali Saikia, Floriane Clement, Ashok Rai, Vidya Ramesh, Anil Philip

2 Introduction Eastern Gangetic Plains – region of highly concentrated poverty Inequitable landlord-tenant relations are central to reproduction of poverty and social exclusion Tenants: a significant and often overlooked class of farmers – Tenure related constraints to productivity – High vulnerability to climate and economic stress This paper proposes collective leasing as short term approach to strengthen livelihoods, build resilience and increase the political bargaining power of tenant farmers.

3 Methods Data collected from three districts in the larger Mithilanchal region: – Madhubani (Bihar) and Dhanusha (Nepal): Caste based social formations, local level landlord-tenant relations – Morang (Nepal): predominantly tribal region, large area of land under absentee landlordism. Quantitative survey in three ‘focal sites’ made up of a cluster of adjacent villages; Collation of qualitative oral histories; focus groups. Case study research on existing agricultural collectives, to offer insights into progressive alternatives. IWMI led research between 2012 and 2014 funded by CCAFS, WLE and ACIAR, but draws on research in the Nepal Terai stretching back to 2007.

4 Bihar Kathmandu Biratnagar Tibetan Autonomous Region T e r a i (M a d h e s h) Nepal Survey sites Janakpur Bhairawa Rajbiraj Darbhanga Madhubani Uttar Pradesh India

5 Part 1: Landlordism, climate change and agrarian stress for tenant farmers

6 Trajectory of agrarian structure in Mithilanchal History of feudal state formations combined with caste based social structure evolved to form inequitable landlord-tenant relations of today Failed land reforms in 1960s – Integration of landlords in state bureaucratic alliance and reluctance for real change – Successful avoidance of reforms by landlords Land inequality increased in 1980s-2000s due to economic pressures – Indebtedness – Rising cash needs – Speculative investments in land by urban people

7 Agrarian structure today Dhanusha and Madhubani – Small class of land owning farmers at apex of agrarian structure. 2% of farmers in Dhanusha focal sites and 9% in Madhubani possess <2ha, yet own a third of total land. – Significant population of landless labourers, tenants and part tenants who represent 41% (Dhanusha) and 58% (Madhubani) of the sample in the focal sites – Landless labourers move in and out of tenancy periodically Morang – Significant class of absentee landlords – 69% of farmers in the focal site are tenants and landless labourers – In the three villages which make up the focal site, 45%, 75% and 80% of the land is under tenancy respectively.

8 Sitpur, Morang

9 Climatic/economic stress and tenancy Tenants suffer from acute food insecurity, surrendering 50% of harvest as rent, Highly vulnerable to usury, with indebtedness widespread. Agrarian stress due to climate change and spiraling input costs, reducing returns from agriculture Adaptation to climate stress through tubewell irrigation offers significant opportunities, but is thus far restricted to larger land owning farmers.

10 Irrigation economy and tenancy Groundwater investments of reach to tenants – Dhanusha: Less than 10% of part-tenants own a well, no pure tenants – Madhubani: Less than 5% of part-tenants own well, no pure tenants Tenure insecurity means risk of fixed investment high – Lack of tenancy papers – Tendency for landlords to change tenants frequently Government program often out of reach to non-land owners. – Need for tenancy papers or land ownership certificate Dependence on expensive, monopolistic groundwater markets. Limited landlord cost sharing

11 Consequences… Low monsoon paddy productivity (often less than 1000kg/ ha) amongst tenants Preference for tenants to leave land fallow during dry season rather than investing in irrigation. Limited cultivation of dry season crops such as wheat or winter vegetables Significant rise in wage labour/migration of males from tenant households. – Feminisation of agriculture – Increased vulnerability for women who stay behind Sporadic remittances, high workload and social and economic isolation. Rakuwari, Madhubani

12 Thalaha, Morang Part 2: Solution through agricultural collectives

13 Agricultural ‘collectives’ The collective pooling of land, capital and labour could offer a solution for tenant farmers Collective farming dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ in 21 st century, yet there is compelling case for new model of group farming Agarwal (2010) – “Rethinking agricultural production collectivities” – Soviet era collectives were top down, undemocratic and too big to be manageable – New model of group farming must meet following criteria: (1) democratic decision making; (2) voluntary membership; (3) small groups of 10-20; (4) socio-economic homogeneity. A number of successful case studies from South Asia today which meet these criteria, mostly of women led collectives

14 Advantage of small scale collectives Productivity gains, as the group can share investments in tubewell irrigation and other equipment Operation of contiguous plot makes use of technology and irrigation more practical – deals with problem of scattered rented holdings Allows pooling of knowledge – Group members can be engaged for training – Group members from different backgrounds bring in diverse skills and knowledge

15 Accessing land through collective lease In the long term, collectives can be an outcome of a successful redistributive land reform, which can distribute plots to established groups. In short term, land can be accessed through collective leasing, where a group takes a joint lease from a private land owner. – Particularly important in Nepal Terai and Bihar where uncultivated, public or abandoned farmland is scarce. – Can provide opportunities for landless labourers to join collectives – Can also increase bargaining power of tenants, and group power can be used to negotiate other improvements to land such as tubewells.

16 Challenges to overcome…

17 1. Whether to pool only land and capital and not labour Collectives set up in Morang in Nepal provide individual plots to farmers Ensures households retain individual responsibility for performance However, pooling of labour also has advantages Facilitates management of labour during times of high demand (rotation system), and other group members can stand in if worker is unable to perform due to illness or other constraint Not new – exists in traditional systems such as parma. Depends on culture and history of collective action. Some notes of caution: There must be reliable system of accounting in place, although peer pressure can discourage ‘shirking’ in a small group

18 Seasonal collective production in Cooch Behar

19 2. How to ensure landlords do not take back the land Landlords frequently change tenants due to fear that farmers may claim ownership. Critical challenge is to ensure that the benefits of for landlords outweigh risks – Cash rent must be equivalent to what was received in kind by individual farmers, – However, it still must be profitable to collective (can be achieved through productivity increases) Developing ties of trust with landlords is important Technologies must be mobile, so they can be transferred to a new leased plot

20 Conclusions Collective leasing has considerable potential as a small scale and durable solution for tenant farmers in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, so long as collectives remain participatory, small in size and homogeneous However, there are ongoing challenges, and long term success of collectives depends on redistributive reforms so they do not depend on the same landlord-tenant relations they seek to undermine. Nevertheless – this presents an agenda for research, and the model will be piloted by IWMI and a consortium of partners next year in three sites in Bihar, West Bengal and Nepal.

21 Thank you Nayabazaar, Morang

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