Collective farming in Majuli, the Israeli way - Two women from Jerusalem replicate kibbutz model on island for uplift of women, landless

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  • Published 27.05.13

Jorhat, May 26: Two youths from Jerusalem in Israel have transplanted the concept of a kibbutz (a collective community) to improve the condition of the landless and the marginalised on Majuli.

Gili Navon and Shaked are helping widows and promoting community farming through their organisation Amar Majuli, formed along with a few island youths.

Navon, who is also the director of the organisation, said, “We are mostly working for the empowerment of Mising women. We have built two kitchen gardens in the houses of two widows at Sumoimari in Majuli. In another house, we built a bamboo shaft and constructed a portion of the wall, where a plastic sheet was covering one side.”

She said the sense of community was very strong in Israel and the kibbutz was a type of community agricultural settlement where all the people took up collective farming, used the profits for development of the community and brought up their children through collective effort.

“We would like to try something like this on the island and our next step is to put up a community farm on a much larger area of land,” Navon said.

She formed a bicycle bank, which loaned cycles to women, with the aid of Impact NE, an NGO, when she visited Majuli as a student while doing her internship in community development about two years ago.

“During that time, a Mising women’s cooperative named Rengam was formed and we opened a bicycle bank with 12 bicycles for solving transportation problems on the island, owing to the terrain and frequent floods and rain,” Navon said.

A self-help group now runs the bicycle bank and gives cycles on loan to women applicants and the number of applicants was increasing. “We all move around on bicycles on the island,” she said.

Navon has completed her post-graduation in community development from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, while Shaked is a post-graduate in agriculture and environment and the manager of field operations for Amar Majuli.

The duo said “donations from generous people in Israel” are helping fund the project.

Raju Gam who is a native of Majuli coordinates all the work of the organisation. Recently, Navon and Gam took 30 women from Majuli to Bongaigaon by bus for an exposure visit to a Bodo weavers’ production centre.

Gam said the women were taught to fight atrocities, form women’s communities and other aspects of empowerment apart from running a weavers’ cooperative, with help from Action Northeast Trust, a Bongaigaon-based NGO.