In this article the authors share their experiences from working with farmers' organizations, where a process, which reinforces human values, has helped farmers to keep themselves on the path of self-reliance. The Uttar Pradesh Sudhar Nigam (UPBSN) started up a sodic land reclamation project in 1993, where the main beneficiaries were small-scale farmers. Under the project, land has been reclaimed affecting 150,000 families. The project was initiated through the formation of farmer organizations at village level and the project was implemented in collaboration with local NGOs. To ensure sustainability of the project and the farmers' organisations after the ending of the reclamation project, an exit policy was implemented based on experiences from an extension of farmer-led farmer field schools tried out in the Pratapgarh district. A series of sensitisation workshops and exposure visits to the Pratapgarh farmer field school was organised, and six farmer field schools and 41 farmer clubs covering 740 villages were established. It was soon realised that there were several problems that threatened the sustainability of the new farmer schools, such as lack of vision and self-reliance. This articles presents experiences from dealing with these problems. A workshop was held where several key questions relating to self-reliance were discussed, SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound) goals were set, and resource persons for each school were selected through paired ranking. The authors conclude with some reflections on the project process and on working towards self-reliance.
International Institute for Environment and Development