Amidst the reports of poverty and hunger, here is good news.
Lakhs of people of Balangir migrate to Andhra Pradesh every year to work as labourers in brick kilns. However, no one migrates from Sargiguda, a village under migration-prone Tureikela block, about 400 km west of Bhubaneswar.
Sargiguda is a picture of lush green amidst arid and barren landscape that typifies a majority of the villages under Titlagarh and Patnagarh sub-divisions, among the country's poorest areas.
The 150-odd families, including 85 those belonging to below poverty line, in the village are busy throughout the year growing paddy, cereal, sugarcane, vegetable, groundnut, tuber and papaya.
In Kharif and winter crops, a total of 100 acres in the village are cultivated. Rabi crop is grown over 50 acres.
Interestingly, while the people having their own land in many villages of the district migrate for work, most families of Sargiguda are landless.
Belonging to the (gardener) community, they use the gochar (revenue land used for grazing) for cultivation.
They have dug up more than 500 chuan (small non-concrete earthen wells) in between their agricultural fields that take care of their irrigation needs. Every chuan is fitted with a tenda-pati (water lifter made of bamboo or log) to irrigate the land.
At any given time, more than 150 wells are functional, says Kumara Putel (32), who grows three crops from his two-acre patch, earning about Rs.50,000 in a year.
Sadini Putel (55) says that none of the village youth sits idle. Some of them are engaged in marketing the vegetables in the village. Some others add value to the sugarcane produced in the village by selling its juice Kantabanji (in Balangir) and Khariar (in Nuapada) towns. The village has eight sugarcane crushing wheelers, she says.
The villagers also trade in scraps. They take their trolleys to far off places to collect iron, bottles, tin and other scraps in exchange of potato and groundnut. They sell the scarp to the whole seller in Kantabanji.
Obviously, the per capita income of people in Sargiguda is better than other villages in Titlagarh and Patnagarh sub-divisions. Better income has resulted in better healthcare and education.
Topographically, Sargiguda has one advantage over other villages. Its low location near the nearby Khujen hill has ensured rain water trickling down the village and recharging the ground water. But then, being one of the eight villages that transformed the barren 377-hectare hill to a dense forest by protecting it helped Sargiguda immensely.
Vegetable farmer Gopinath Putel (34) says: "The forest has not only ensured enough water in the wells throughout the year, but it has improved the quality of the soil as well."
The success story in Sargiguda has been scripted without any intervention by the administration.
Village elder Chandra Putel (64) says: "As such we have never depended on the administration. We are hardworking. We have a fair knowledge about farming. The government should actually ultilise our traditional expertise in farming to combat drought and hunger in the district," he says.
Patnagarh based social activist Jatin Patra says that the government officials should respect people's priorities and basic needs, instead of pushing a plethora of government schemes down their throats. Allow people to manage their resources and development will follow automatically," he added.