Indigenous knowledge, livelihood and decision-making strategies of floodplain farmers in Bangladesh
Ghosh, Gour Pada
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This thesis discusses indigenous knowledge, livelihood strategies and decision-making processes of floodplain farmers of Bangladesh. It focuses on Ujankhaisi village. The floodplain is the major geo-ecological feature of Bangladesh, occupying about 79 per cent of the total land area. Here terrestrial and aquatic environments interplay with considerable seasonal variations and people obtain their livelihoods by exploiting these resources. Anthropological research methods have been employed to gain access to information relating to people's livelihood strategies. It was found that different groups use the floodplain in different ways in order to obtain their livelihoods. There exists a multi-resource use pattern of which farming is the major, though not the sole occupadon; fishing and other activities supplement it. Various interventions have been made to increase floodplain rice production without taking into consideration the local socio-ecological realities. As a result, other resource users, notably fishers, have been adversely affected by these 'improvements'. Many problems have emerged relating to fanning and fishing activities. Financial aid schemes intended for poor farmers rarely reach the most needy and can even increase debt. In some cases conflicts occur over access to common resources. This thesis discusses how Ujankhaisi farmers gain knowledge about their environment from their personal experiences. This knowledge is socio-culturally embedded and must not be overlooked from any development scheme. Farmers apply their knowledge in making their agricultural decisions. However, due to various constraints, farmers cannot always go with their preferred choice, and have to turn to alternatives. The floodplain is a risk prone area and farmers need flexible options to make suitable cropping decisions, but they are now limited as crop diversity has decreased significantly due to the domination of HYV paddy and increase in other agriculture risks, such as water congestion in the beel, decreasing soil fertility, etc. This thesis emphasises that development practitioners should consider local people's knowledge, which is ecologically sound, socio-culturally adapted, and dynamic in nature and has the ability to contribute significantly to agricultural development.