CAMPAIGN

 






People fight back

Delhi Harvesting

Centre goes for decentralisation
  

NETWORKING

Enhancing public understanding

Initiating solutions

Spreading the good word

Youth for action

Agents of change
 

INITIATIVE

A quest for water
  

   
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Vol. 3   

No. 4

August  2001

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A quest for water

The third paani yatra was organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) from July 8 to 14, 2001. A total of 25 people from different regions and diverse backgrounds participated in the yatra. The group included architects, geologists, zoologists, doctors and representatives of NGOs from Uttaranchal, Orissa, Gujarat, Haryana and Chandigarh working on the issue of water and community development. The paani yatra was a guided tour to the rural areas in Maharashtra, where communities have cohesively harvested water and are presently sharing the benefits of their labour. The yatra commenced from Darewadi village in Ahmednagar district and moved on to Shilvirigaon and Devgaon in Akole tehsil in the same district where the work of the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) was observed. The yatra then proceeded to Ralegan Siddhi to witness the water harvesting work accomplished by the people under the leadership of Annasaheb Hazare (See box: Turning point). The yatra culminated at Hivare Bazar, where sarpanch Popatrao Pawar, following the footsteps of Annasaheb has transformed the village by motivating the villagers to take up water conservation activities.

Turning point
Ralegan Siddhi, 1975 : surrounded by rocky, barren hills, this village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district was characterised by 50 breweries, chronic drought and abject poverty. The per capita income was an unbelievable Rs 271. Today after 25 years, the village is basking in prosperity brought about by integrated watershed development. The availability of water has raised the per capita income by more than 25 times. Meet the architect of Ralegan’s prosperity: Anna Hazare.

What have been the landmarks in the development of Ralegan Siddhi, since you came to the village?

The first straw on the camel’s back was laid with the repair of the Yadav Baba temple in 1975 for which I had contributed all my savings. This helped me tremendously in gaining the confidence of the villagers. As a result when I gave the proposal of doing watershed works, I was well received. Within a year, the villagers through shramdaan built a number of water harvesting structures and as the result after the monsoons, the structures were brimming with water. The breweries were closed down in 1979 as the watershed programme provided new employment opportunities. In the same period, higher classes were added to the school from fourth standard to the seventh standard which by 1989 was taken upto tenth standard. Community-based watershed development initiatives created a cohesive village thereby demolishing the social barriers. Community marriages were  introduced in 1977, where as many as 14 marriages from different castes took place simultaneously with the participation of the entire village. The grain bank was introduced, in which every farmer contributed part of his produce which was given out the needy.

What initiatives have been taken to replicate the success of Ralegan in other areas?

Being a staunch believer of the saying that the progress of the nation is in the hands of the youth, we had sent letters to 3000 promising youth from different regions inviting them to Ralegan for a challenging and exhaustive training programme for rural development. After a number of rounds of self elimination, we are left  with only 96 dynamic youth ready to face all the hurdles we have planned for them. One such young man is Popatrao Pawar, sarpanch of Hivare Bazar, who by replicating the watershed programme has done wonders to the village in a record period of  just seven years.

The group reached the WOTR training centre in village Darewadi on July 9, 2001, to observe the watershed work initiated and supported of WOTR. The paani yatra began with an orientation programme in which the group was introduced to the works of WOTR, Anna Hazare, Popat Pawar and CSE’s water campaign. A presentation was also made on the  previous paani yatra to Alwar and Bundi.

Watershed Organisation Trust
Established in December 1993 as a support organisation for village self help groups (SHGs) and NGOs implementing watershed development projects, WOTR  projects are spread over 1.33 hectares (ha) in 259 villages across 22 districts in Maharashtra.

One of the projects undertaken by WOTR where the watershed development programme is in the final stage, is village Darewadi. Darewadi,  located around 90 kilometres from Ahmednagar, falls in the rainshadow region of Sangamner taluka and has a semi-arid climate. The normal average rainfall is  282 millimetres (mm) which is extremely erratic. The total area of the watershed is 1,535.24 hectare (ha) of which, 934.85 ha is arable land.  The rest is hilly and uncultivable. Recalling his childhood days, Maruti Gauri Awhad, chairperson, village cooperative society said, “After Independence, the Bhils and Thakurs started cutting the forests which by 1962-63, were all gone. The land soon became barren and unproductive, since with no forest cover the soil got washed away.”  

The 131 households of the village with a population of 1,000 persons including seven landless families were mobilised and supported by WOTR to take up watershed development as a means to address their water problem.   The villagers agreed to follow the rules put down by WOTR. These rules  included four days of shramdaan, a ban on grazing, felling trees, and borewells, plantation of water saving crops and restricting sugarcane, rice and banana cultivation. WOTR initiated a comprehensive capacity building programme (CBP) under the Indo German Watershed Development Programme  in April 1996. In the CBP, 100- 150 ha of area was treated by the community with WOTR rendering  technical support and training related to project management to the village committees on watershed and the SHGs. The decision  about the kind of treatment was carried out through social mapping in which the entire village map was laid out in front of the villagers on which the planning of the watershed was done. This was followed by participatory planning where a detailed survey was undertaken with the land holder’s family and decisions about the kind of interventions were taken on the site. The project moved on to full implementation phase in April 1997 in which the project was managed by the village watershed committee having 23 members, including six women.

The watershed project focussed on poverty alleviation through equal distribution of benefits from the watershed development works. Therefore instead of a drainage line treatment that focuses only the water channels, a  ridge to valley approach was applied. This is predominantly a decentralised area treatment in which the whole catchment area from the top of the ridge to the base of the valley is treated. In Darewadi, the yatris visited a newly treated area  where continuous contour trenches (CCTs) had been dug in an area of 89 ha.  CCTs are 2- 3 feet deep trenches,  dug on the slopes of the hills  to capture runoff and facilitate percolation. CCTs are constructed predominantly for plantation purposes and checking soil erosion in semi-arid areas.

In a meeting organised in Awadvasti hamlet with a population of 60 persons, the group spoke to the family of 72 year-old Maruti Gouri Awhad and his wife, a member of the women SHG. The four year-old SHG in this hamlet has 15 women members with monthly contribution  of Rs 20 per member. Twice in an year, medhawas, (a experience-sharing camps) are organised: one for the watershed community and one exclusively for women SHGs. In these medhawas, besides sharing experiences with other villages, the groups attend various workshops organised with experts to guide them on their problems.

Today after six years and around 1,330 ha of treated land (through water harvesting structures, pastureland development, afforestation, to name a few)  the effect is clearly visible in the smiles of the people as there is no migration even as the area is going through a severe drought. The milk production has increased with increase in fodder through social fencing  and water availability. According to Manoharji, a farmer in Darewadi owning 25 acres of land, “ Earlier, all my  four sons used to migrate to Narayan-gaon to work in the brick kilns. But today all of them work on the fields, which with field bunding and recharge from the upper catchment are now able to support good crops.”

Besides working in semi-arid areas, WOTR has also undertaken projects in areas with excessive rainfall which suffer from acute soil erosion and heavy runoff. Two of such project was observed in villages Shelviri and  Devgaon in Akole taluka covering a total area of 6,000 ha. These villages lie in a rainfed zone receiving an annual rainfall of 1,400 mm.  The main aim of the watershed project that commenced in 1998 in these areas was to check the speed of water flow and minimise soil erosion. Thus CCTs have been dug extensively to check erosion and facilitate percolation. After the watershed development, the water table has risen and the area under arable land has increased. Now they are able to take both kharif and rabi crops which include cash crops besides bajra, rice, wheat and bengal gram.

A quest for water
The third paani yatra was organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) from July 8 to 14, 2001. A total of 25 people from different regions and diverse backgrounds participated in the yatra. The group included architects, geologists, zoologists, doctors and representatives of NGOs from Uttaranchal, Orissa, Gujarat, Haryana and Chandigarh working on the issue of water and community development. The paani yatra was a guided tour to the rural areas in Maharashtra, where communities have cohesively harvested water and are presently sharing the benefits of their labour. The yatra commenced from Darewadi village in Ahmednagar district and moved on to Shilvirigaon and Devgaon in Akole tehsil in the same district where the work of the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) was observed. The yatra then proceeded to Ralegan Siddhi to witness the water harvesting work accomplished by the people under the leadership of Annasaheb Hazare (See box: Turning point). The yatra culminated at Hivare Bazar, where sarpanch Popatrao Pawar, following the footsteps of Annasaheb has transformed the village by motivating the villagers to take up water conservation activities.

The group reached the WOTR training centre in village Darewadi on July 9, 2001, to observe the watershed work initiated and supported of WOTR. The paani yatra began with an orientation programme in which the group was introduced to the works of WOTR, Anna Hazare, Popat Pawar and CSE’s water campaign. A presentation was also made on the  previous paani yatra to Alwar and Bundi.

Watershed Organisation Trust
Established in December 1993 as a support organisation for village self help groups (SHGs) and NGOs implementing watershed development projects, WOTR  projects are spread over 1.33 hectares (ha) in 259 villages across 22 districts in Maharashtra.

One of the projects undertaken by WOTR where the watershed development programme is in the final stage, is village Darewadi. Darewadi,  located around 90 kilometres from Ahmednagar, falls in the rainshadow region of Sangamner taluka and has a semi-arid climate. The normal average rainfall is   282 millimetres (mm) which is extremely erratic. The total area of the watershed is 1,535.24 hectare (ha) of which, 934.85 ha is arable land.  The rest is hilly and uncultivable. Recalling his childhood days, Maruti Gauri Awhad, chairperson, village cooperative society said, “After Independence, the Bhils and Thakurs started cutting the forests which by 1962-63, were all gone. The land soon became barren and unproductive, since with no forest cover the soil got washed away.”  

The 131 households of the village with a population of 1,000 persons including seven landless families were mobilised and supported by WOTR to take up watershed development as a means to address their water problem.   The villagers agreed to follow the rules put down by WOTR. These rules  included four days of shramdaan, a ban on grazing, felling trees, and borewells, plantation of water saving crops and restricting sugarcane, rice and banana cultivation. WOTR initiated a comprehensive capacity building programme (CBP) under the Indo German Watershed Development Programme  in April 1996. In the CBP, 100- 150 ha of area was treated by the community with WOTR rendering  technical support and training related to project management to the village committees on watershed and the SHGs. The decision  about the kind of treatment was carried out through social mapping in which the entire village map was laid out in front of the villagers on which the planning of the watershed was done. This was followed by participatory planning where a detailed survey was undertaken with the land holder’s family and decisions about the kind of interventions were taken on the site. The project moved on to full implementation phase in April 1997 in which the project was managed by the village watershed committee having 23 members, including six women.

The watershed project focussed on poverty alleviation through equal distribution of benefits from the watershed development works. Therefore instead of a drainage line treatment that focuses only the water channels, a  ridge to valley approach was applied. This is predominantly a decentralised area treatment in which the whole catchment area from the top of the ridge to the base of the valley is treated. In Darewadi, the yatris visited a newly treated area  where continuous contour trenches (CCTs) had been dug in an area of 89 ha.  CCTs are 2- 3 feet deep trenches,  dug on the slopes of the hills  to capture runoff and facilitate percolation. CCTs are constructed predominantly for plantation purposes and checking soil erosion in semi-arid areas.

In a meeting organised in Awadvasti hamlet with a population of 60 persons, the group spoke to the family of 72 year-old Maruti Gouri Awhad and his wife, a member of the women SHG. The four year-old SHG in this hamlet has 15 women members with monthly contribution  of Rs 20 per member. Twice in an year, medhawas, (a experience-sharing camps) are organised: one for the watershed community and one exclusively for women SHGs. In these medhawas, besides sharing experiences with other villages, the groups attend various workshops organised with experts to guide them on their problems.

Today after six years and around 1,330 ha of treated land (through water harvesting structures, pastureland development, afforestation, to name a few)   the effect is clearly visible in the smiles of the people as there is no migration even as the area is going through a severe drought. The milk production has increased with increase in fodder through social fencing   and water availability. According to Manoharji, a farmer in Darewadi owning 25 acres of land, “ Earlier, all my  four sons used to migrate to Narayan-gaon to work in the brick kilns. But today all of them work on the fields, which with field bunding and recharge from the upper catchment are now able to support good crops.”

Besides working in semi-arid areas, WOTR has also undertaken projects in areas with excessive rainfall which suffer from acute soil erosion and heavy runoff. Two of such project was observed in villages Shelviri and  Devgaon in Akole taluka covering a total area of 6,000 ha. These villages lie in a rainfed zone receiving an annual rainfall of 1,400 mm.  The main aim of the watershed project that commenced in 1998 in these areas was to check the speed of water flow and minimise soil erosion. Thus CCTs have been dug extensively to check erosion and facilitate percolation. After the watershed development, the water table has risen and the area under arable land has increased. Now they are able to take both kharif and rabi crops which include cash crops besides bajra, rice, wheat and bengal gram.        

Village Hivare Bazar

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Education: an important part of the watershed programme in Relegan Siddhi

The year 2000 drought brought out a mass devastation in which more than 8,000 children died due to malnutrition in the Nasik division of Maharashtra. In this drought where more than half of the 35 districts were affected,  Hivare Bazar village in Nagar taluka of Ahmednagar district of the same division was like a lonely island of  hope. This contrast was brought about by the efforts of sarpanch Popat R Pawar who initiated the Adarsh Gaon Yojana (AGY) in 1994 in the village. The AGY was launched in Maharashtra in 1995 with the idea of developing one village from each taluka as an ideal village. Since then it has brought about significant improvement in 60 villages with help of  villagers and local NGOs of which Hivare Bazar is one of the most successful ones.

Till 1991 Hivare Bazar was a typical drought prone village  with an average annual rainfall between 625-700 mm. Soil erosion and a consequent heavy runoff was its malady. The uncertainty of rainfall and lack of water resources made agriculture and the consequent village economy unstable. This lead to disruption of the social fabric marked by alcoholism, gambling and conflicts over water. The situation was so bad that in the 1980s, it became infamous as a ‘punishment village’ where forest officials, primary school teachers and policemen were transferred for punishment. “A number of families had migrated to the cities. Women had to trudge several kilometres to arrange water. Though water was scarce, liquor was abundant.” That was how Rao Sahib Pawar, chairperson, village watershed committee, described Hivare Bazar before the watershed programme was launched.

Today Hivare Bazar, once known for its wrestlers boosts of   its social and economic strength. According to Popat Pawar,” The next century would see it as an arthik pahelwan (economic wrestler). “When Pawar started talking about Adarsh Gaon Yojana (AGY), only a few village elders supported him. He then arranged a trip to Ralegan Siddhi. The result was miraculous. “Ralegan Siddhi and Anna Saheb inspired them and they vowed to transform Hivare Bazar,” recalls Pawar. In 1989, for the first time, the village unanimously selected the gram sabha and selected Popat Pawar as their sarpanch. The village adopted a   integrated development plan keeping in mind the needs of the village and constituted a five year plan with top priority given to drinking water, irrigation and education. The watershed work  under AGY began in 1994-95 by planting nine lakh saplings in the forest land  by digging CCTs with the assistance of the forest department. Most of the work was done through shramdaan. Certain self-imposed restrictions played an important part which included prohibition from selling land to outsiders, using dugwells instead of tubewells for irrigation,  using drip irrigation, social fencing and promoting stall feeding for cattle, family planning and shramdaan. By banning felling of trees and restricting grazing, the village saw an increase in the fodder yield from 200 tonnes in 1994 to 6000 tonnes in 2000.  Within a year the gram panchayat  got a profit of Rs 30,000 by selling the excess fodder to the nearby villages.

Today Hivare Bazar is a picture of perfection with mind boggling statistics of prosperity. With the availability of fodder, milk production increased from 200 litres to 2,500 litres per day, and now every month the village earns  rupees one lakh from dairy production. Where previously 90 per cent of villagers were migrating annually in search of work, the last five years saw reverse migration of 26 families to the village. According to Pawar the results are in the statistics, “In the 1982 Below Poverty Line (BPL) survey, as many as 168 families out of 180 were BPL. The same survey conducted in 1998, showed a complete contrast with only 53 families out of 210 still BPL.”


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