We kicked off Day Four with a cycle ride around Asansol before I moved on to the next town. Cycling is a meditative practice for me and gives me time to think. It was a beautiful morning cycling over the river on my way to Purulia and it gave me some time to reflect on the #MoveforEarth campaign.
The #M4E campaign has challenged people and helped them move out of their comfort zones. The movement has allowed people on the SwitchON team to emerge as leaders, and I’m witnessing the growth of climate champions even among our partners and outside our immediate network. But now that people are outside their comfort zones, comes the important question: are they going to give in to the negative and pessimistic outlook that sometimes accompanies climate discourse or will they move towards positivity and action? This is a question even I still grapple with. But before I could think about this further, I arrived in Raghunathpur (just outside Purulia) to meet with local farmers.
Farmers gathered in Raghunathpur for a training on accessing Agriculture Infrastructure Funds and Credit Guarantee Funds, hosted by NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development). These kinds of business development opportunities and training are crucial for farmers who are ready to move out of their comfort zones and take on sustainable, climate-smart agriculture practices that unfortunately still aren’t mainstream. As I write this blog, I keep coming back to a conversation I had with a farmer earlier in the day. The farmer told me about how he is the only one in his village practicing organic farming and seed saving and how he hasn’t been able to convince other farmers to make the switch. However, his farm is now well-known in the larger area for being a successful organic farm and people from surrounding villages come to him for advice on how to make the switch to organic farming. It is interesting how sometimes the people closest to us don’t always see the benefits of change, but distance makes it clearer.
After meeting with the farmers, I carried on to Purulia to attend a Green Bengal Entrepreneurship Contest, where college youth talked about their different green entrepreneurship ideas and businesses. I was blown away by the innovative ideas they were putting into practice – one youth even shared a presentation on how he is building a company that turns waste plastic into textiles and clothes. This kind of circular economy thinking is exactly what we need to address the climate crisis.
I ended the day by joining a Multi-Stakeholders Roundtable on the Environment and Air Pollution. It was enlightening to hear about the different environmental issues in Purulia, including a growing water shortage crisis. I also got a chance to draw attention to some positive environmental changes, namely Purulia’s positioning as a major source of millets, considering 2023 is the International Year of the Millet. I’m personally a fan of millet, and I think this international focus can help bring about a climate-smart agriculture revolution in the area.
We are now more than halfway done with this cycle ride, but every day, I feel more and more energised to continue this momentum and encourage people along their climate action journeys.