Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Subalgarh Para farmers in West Tripura District, Tripura were finding it difficult to cope up with the issue of frequent cattle grazing into their vegetable gardens. We depend on vegetable gardens as one of the major sources of income but cattle grazing have made our lives miserable said Ms. Donswari Debbarma. Persistent cattle grazing posed a serious threat to the entire village where people mostly grow vegetables round the year for their sustenance. The problem doubled each year since last 23 years as the numbers of cows were increasing with the passing years. In our village almost everyone owns cattle & other livestocks and nobody have a right to restrict anyone from rearing cattle said Mr. Sachin Debbarma.

The problem almost ran out of hands & community was somewhat in a compromising mode with the situation. We once approached the local Police station to come to our rescue but that didn't go well said Sachin Debbarma. 

As per the project activities under FARM North East, 
Jana Unnayan Samaiti Tripura (JUST) & Caritas India facilitated the formation a farmers’ club in Sulabhgarh village. We did not have any idea of how a farmer’s club works but now we are happy to know that we do not have to depend on anyone and that we can decide on our own said Mr. Rajendra Debbarma. Regular meetings were held under the aegis the farmers' club where people came together to discuss issues.

Being the facilitators, JUST also attended a few meetings of the club & it was here where the people shared their problem of cattle grazing. The problem was also shared by the community with Caritas India during their visit in May 2014. Caritas India gave them a patient hearing & suggested that they should have a common grazing land made available for the cows. All the cows could be released into the common grazing land thus saving the crops. The community however expressed their inability to implement the proposal due to shortage of land in their village.

Straying Cow Kept in Khowa
We sat together again & I shared my childhood memories, when my grandfather and others used to practice 'Musuk khowa'(shelter for cows) against straying cows said Mr. Sachin DebbarmaSachin further stressed that perhaps this is the only way we could save our crops'Musuk khowa' is a traditional system that was practiced by the community in the good old days. Under this practice, all households are supposed to tie their cows away from the vegetable gardens to prevent grazing. In case an individual’s cow is not tied and found grazing in someone’s vegetable garden, that cow would be immediately caught & put into Musuk khowa. The owner of that particular cow would be fined @ `300 per day. The farmers’ club members would make a public announcement in the market area by beating drums to inform the supposed owner that his cow has been caught & put in the Musuk khowa & that he must come & pay the fines to take back his cow.

The members in the meeting spent no time in agreeing to his proposal. We decided to enact a strict rule in the village from now onwards where all households would have to keep their cows properly tied and away from the vegetable gardens said Mr. Budharai DebbarmaWe were all more than happy to accept the decision taken by the farmers' club as it would serve as a permanent solution to our persisting problem said. Ms. Sandhyalaxmi Debbarama.

The Sulabgarh Para then initiated the system strictly from 19th January 2015 & until today the farmers’ club has been able to earn revenue of `5490.00 through fines imposed on owners of straying cattles. We are a happy people now as we don’t have to spend any extra time to protect our crops from grazing says a happily smiling Ms. Hiranmala Debbarma.

It is clearly a classic example of how community has revived a traditional practice (Khowa) towards working against the menace of grazing. Caritas India is working on more such initiatives by the community where they are trying to upkeep their rich traditional practices. The journey is on....

Contributed by: Vincent Debbarma, JUST, Tripura
Edited By: Prabal Sen & Jonas Lakra, Caritas India, Guwahati

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