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Teresa and Joseph in their field with their granddaughter.
Teresa and Joseph in their field with their granddaughter. They are able to grow more and better crops than ever before to feed and support their family.

Fields So Full of Greenery

By Nikki Massie

Teresa and Joseph live in Bihar, India with their four sons, five daughters, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. It would be a challenge to support such a large family anywhere, but in this extremely impoverished region, it’s especially difficult.

Like most families, Teresa and Joseph depend on their rice crops to eat. Many families also grow wheat. But those crops depend on the monsoon rains to grow. Unfortunately, the rains aren’t always reliable and the landscape is arid. When times get tough, the men of the household go to other cities or towns to work and send money home but often even that isn’t enough.

“There were times when there was no food in the house,” Teresa recounts. “And every member of the family, including the children, would all have to sleep hungry.”

That’s why Lutheran World Relief and partner Action for Social Advancement (ASA) are working to reach out to 1,000 farmers and their families to improve their food security so that they have better access to food all year round.

We’re working to increase food security in several ways: by helping families diversify their crops, gaining better access to irrigation and by improving their rice and wheat production.

Teresa - Member of women's self-help group in the field.
Teresa is also a member of the women's self-help group, which provides women with financial education and access to better seeds and other agricultural supplies.

To help improve irrigation we’re installing lift irrigation systems that use pipes and pumps to get water to families who live uphill from their water source. We’re installing farm ponds that trap and hold the monsoon waters. And we’re training the community to manage these water systems after we are gone.

We’re also helping farmers learn more efficient ways to plant their wheat and rice crops. Traditionally, they’d scatter seeds freely around their field, a method requiring lots of seeds and often led to overcrowding of seedlings and limiting crop yields.

Instead, Teresa, Joseph and other farmers have learned about a planting process called Systematic Rice or Wheat Intensification (SRI/SWI), where they first plant rice and wheat in a nursery-style environment. Once crops start to grow they transfer them to larger areas where the roots have the room and nutrients to grow and yield more — about 30 percent more, in fact!

In Bihar, LWR also focuses on supporting women, who do much of the farming but lack critical resources to build stable futures. Through this project, LWR is establishing 65 women’s self-help groups that will provide financial education and access to better seeds and other agricultural supplies.

Now Teresa and Joseph can feed their family better throughout the year and can even afford to send their two young daughters to school!

And from the looks of their farm, hope springs eternal. Teresa says, “For the last whole decade I have never seen these fields so full of greenery. I hope in the future every land in my village is so evergreen.”

Nikki Massie is LWR’s Staff Writer.

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