Livelihood Diversification Pursued by Farmers in West Bengal

Biswarup Saha and Ram Bahal


Livelihood Diversification has come under increasing scrutiny because of its powerful and pervasive impact. Department for Information Development (DFID) adopted livelihood diversification as central to its strategy for meeting the goals set out in its 1997 White Paper ‘Eliminating World Poverty’. In this context this study, presents evidence that non-farm and off-farm activities are carried out by a significant proportion of adults and make an important contribution to livelihoods in West Bengal. It shows that there is a high involvement of farmers households (76.25%) in different non-farm income sources along with agricultural income. There was a high involvement of women (24%) also in different diversification activities. It was found that diversification activities make a greater contribution to cash incomes for poorer households, as the proportion of total cash income from off-farm and nonfarm activities is larger for poorer wealth groups. The most important diversification activities were trading. The paper also highlights that Average Diversification Index in the study area was 0.46. Majority of the diversifiers (60%) had medium extent of Diversification as against only 21.74 per cent of diversifiers adopted high extent of diversification. It was found that for a vast majority of the rural population, livelihood diversification was distress driven. The adults from Darjeeling district were more diversified (52%) as compared to Uttar Dinajpur district (39%). This study also looks into the role of extension in non-agricultural activities in the livelihood securities of farmers and relationship between farm and non-farm income. It revealed that nearly two third of the farmers participated in different non-farm activities. About 53 per cent of the diversifiers were successful and 47 per cent were unsuccessful in their diversified activities. Nearly 41 per cent of the successful diversifiers had moderately high success and only 13.10 per cent were under high success category. Majority of the diversifiers (62.50%) under the high success category adopted non-farming nature of diversification along with farm diversification. It is also important to note that some of the households had highly diversified livelihood, which included farming, nonfarming and migration. However, this highly diversified nature mainly scattered under low success group. Despite the vast potentiality to diversify the livelihood towards farm and non- farm activities in the study area, there were problems such as negative perception of the community, outdated method of production, lack of improved technology and skills, lack of business start- up budget and absence of wide market for the non-farm output. State machinery should play a facilitator’s role in terms of promoting investment in infrastructure development

Keyword: Livelihood diversification

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