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April 16, 2009

Village games – workshop by Sudha and Dwiji

Filed under: agriculture, NGO, social change — neosurya @ 19:14

Last Sunday, we had a workshop by Dwiji and Sudha, two colleagues from AID who are doing excellent work in Sitapur, UP. The workshop placed the attendees in different groups with roles modeled around the lives of villagers. For example, we had:

  • Five village families, each with about 2-3 members.Two of the families were dalits. These families had various assets. E.g. 2 acres of irrigated land, 1 acre of un-irrigated land, one unmarried daughter, 0-1 old parent, Rs 10K of debt with monthly interest of 2K (!!!) etc.
  • A rich farmer, alo called बडा किसान (bada kisan). The kisan would employ villagers and pay them some amount of money.
  • A contractor, ठेकेदार (Thekedaar). The contractor would employ villagers to go to the city and work for a season.
  • A pradhaan प्रधान (village chief). The village chief executes various Govt. programs. This workshop limited him to the NREGA, which provides a minimum of Rs100 per day of work.
  • A social worker. The social worker conducts programs to develop the land quality. He can give the farmer some money to participate in land development, and the farmer in return has to pay him a portion of his produce.

The game is played out for three years, with each year divided into three seasons. Each of this role had a goal to achieve by the end of the game: The villagers had to stay alive, make sure that their daughters were all married etc. Staying alive or dying was determined based on meeting food requirement for the family for three consequtive seasons. The contractor had to make money, the social worker had to do a few projects etc…

Vagaries of weather and fate was determined by a draw of lots. A draw of lot could indicate that your farm got pest-infested and you lost your crop for the season. Such incidentals could even include death in family, sudden increase in debt. All was not bad in the lots and occasionally a village family could be graced with a bumper crop.

As we played the game, we realized how difficult it was to even “play” the role of a villager who very much a hopeful human, but subject to vagaries that were hopeless, and most inhuman. Even in a non-drought year, several families opeted to fast. Most of the players were educated and could still not figure out how to balance the debt payments, food consumption and plan for next season’s food intake. And, this was without complexities of having to buy seed, pestiside, managing health and a host of other factors that accompany village life.

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