Strengthen the awareness, availability and practices of NUS in West Bengal, India

During the month of May 2022, several activities to promote NUS took place in India among the farmers as well as the general public. Experimental trials were launched, and various events took place that allowed to raise awareness among the indigenous NUS crops as well as events like the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) which support the connections among participants involved in the process of NUS development. Although the project spans across three states in India, the following overview is focusing only on the events that took place in the state of West Bengal. Hence, it shows the activities promoted by CROPS4HD, particularly in the supply side (PUSH) which support farmers in improving their cultivation techniques, and the demand side (PULL) which focus on the attractiveness of traditional crops.

Mother and baby trials (PUSH)

With the support of the local partner, DRCSC*, and the inputs provided by FiBL, a mother trial and 16 baby trials were launched in the region of Sundarbans. These trials focused on one specific NUS: the Mung beans. This is a variety which production has been significantly reduced due to challenging growing conditions caused by extreme weather conditions and susceptibility to viral diseases. The (re)launching of the production of this variety is nonetheless significant in view of its nutritional assets which can help to combat malnutrition. These trials enable cultivar evaluation to be carried out. The harvest began in mid-May, after a sequential land preparation process, soil treatment, seed treatment, and sowing. In each process the farmers were involved and capacitated. In parallel of this, the DRSCS also organized a small farmer convention to promote farmer awareness of NUS. This allowed farmers to visit the experimental fields and learn more about these varieties. It also mostly highlighted the characteristics that farmers look for, such as yield and pods with big grain.

Participatory Market Chain Approach and Seed Fair (PULL)

It is in Kolkata, that the first PMCA event took place at the end of April. This one-day event brought together participants representing different activities, such as producers, consumers, retailers and wholesalers, agricultural product companies, market committees, etc. The objective of this event is to bring all relevant actors together and to share the knowledge and skills of market chain actors and service providers, as well as to strengthen the social capital needed for the development and implementation of effective innovation processes. This specific event permits the identification of viable products, market development and awareness strategy in rural, peri-urban, and urban markets. Group discussions on food system were conducted around identification of key strategy for the development of market in rural, peri-urban, and urban categories, identification of products for further value addition, processing, and key strategy for awareness development around different consumer segments.

Exhibition of different seeds at the Seed Fair.

While PMCA plays a significant role in enabling the creation of synergy between specific actors and contributes to the improvement of food system, other events, such as Seeds Fairs, encourage the sharing of knowledge of NUS and the advantages of NUS production as well as the consumption of NUS.  In fact, a Seed Fair organized by DRSCS for mobilizing indigenous varieties of NUS crops took place in mid-May in Paragana, at which, seed exchange and sale were possible. Awareness raising among the general public regarding the benefits of indigenous variety and NUS cultivation and promotion was also one of the main objectives of this fair.This event brought together more than 1’000 persons from nearby village, who participated in the fair, purchased seeds, and listened to the discussion on landraces conservation and its promotion. Nearly 200 farmers were also present and discovered 46 varieties of crop seeds.

* Development Research Communication and Services Centre.