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Fifty years, fifty countries: India

By Cheryl Bannatyne | 17 May 2018

Famine was declared in the Indian state of Bihar on 20 April 1967, followed by catastrophic floods. An emergency call to the Evangelical Alliance from Dr Ben Wati of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) was one of the triggers that led to the formation of Tearfund.

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in India.

Famine was declared in the Indian state of Bihar on 20 April 1967, followed by catastrophic floods. An emergency call to the Evangelical Alliance from Dr Ben Wati of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) was one of the triggers that led to the formation of Tearfund.

In 1971 the birth of the new nation of Bangladesh resulted in an influx of refugees to India and, with the encouragement of Tearfund and other agencies, EFI launched its own relief committee, EFICOR.

The relationship with EFICOR is a thread through our entire history in India, laying a foundation in the earliest days for working with local partners wherever possible.

Battling to feed the family
India has one of the highest levels of poverty in South Asia, and experiences frequent disasters, exacerbated by the impact of climate change. Over the last 50 years Tearfund has responded to many of these, but has also worked with partners to build resilience within communities so that they are able to cope better on their own.

In recent years, EFICOR has been running a project in the Jhansi District of Uttar Pradesh, working with 20 of the most vulnerable villages.

‘The prevalence of caste discrimination alongside illiteracy and ignorance results in increased vulnerability of these families,’ explains Prince David, who leads Tearfund’s work in India. ‘It exposes them to the worst forms of exploitation, like unsafe migration, deaths due to malnutrition, and even farmers commiting suicide in some parts of the country.’

Impoverished farmers struggle to grow crops on the rocky soil in this drought-prone, arid region, and are forced to depend on daily labour or migrate for their living.

Vijay* is 43 years old and lives in one of the villages. He owns one acre of barren land on a slope. Soil erosion and the lack of water meant that his field produced little. He had to move to the city during lean periods to find work.

So much rice
Initially, he showed no interest in the work that EFICOR was doing in his village – raising awareness, starting farmers groups and mobilising the community. However, as his family's condition deteriorated, he began to engage with the project team.

He learned new agricultural techniques and understood the importance of adapting to climate change. He was given help to level his land and was provided with rice seedlings. The villagers also started managing the water flow for irrigating the paddy fields so that erosion was managed.

The change is profound. ‘I have never seen so much rice growing on this land in before,’ exclaims Vijay.

He and his family are now confident of their food supply and Vijay no longer needs to leave home to look for work. He is an inspiration to other farmers and can be seen encouraging others to adopt the techniques he has learned.

Please pray

If you'd like to know more please visit our India page. And if you've missed any other articles in this series you can find them here.

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Photo of Cheryl Bannatyne

Written by Cheryl Bannatyne

Cheryl is a copywriter for Tearfund where she gets to share the great stories of lives being transformed around the world.

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