The pre-monsoon rains had arrived on time this year, but the monsoon was delayed. The farmers prepared their field and kept waiting for rainfall. When it rained, it rained heavily, but for a few days. It is estimated that if the rainfall could be stored it would provide water for the entire year. Moreover, in the absence of any effective soil control mechanism, the heavy down pour erodes soil. This creates havoc in degraded forests. Further, if the people have no role to play in forest conservation or protection, then the situation worsens further.
It is believed that the rainfall will improve the biodiversity status, which was threatened due to inadequate rainfall for past five years. We have experienced it during implementation of our UNDP-GEF-SGP supported project on ‘land and water management leading towards biodiversity conservation’. Several species of birds and butterflies were noticed by the villagers around the restored ponds and the plantation areas of the project.
Baseline survey on status of biodiversity and natural resources
In comparison to past, there has been biodiversity loss mainly because of less rainfall/lack of availability of water. People are of the opinion that this has adversely affected their livelihood conditions. Several plant, animal and bird species are either seen in less number or not seen. There also has been loss in agricultural biodiversity.
Forest is a very contentious issue. The forest committee formed by villagers did not have representation from all the communities. Villagers also allege that owners of small ruminants cause major destruction to forest in terms of unsustainable practices.
Awareness drive preceding gram sabha
An awareness drive was organised on 29th September 2003 in the Pemadiya Khera village to sensitise people on the importance of effective participation in gram sabha (meeting of village council) and facilitate people’s involvement in the process to accomplish development needs of the community. During this event, a participatory meeting for collaborative actions was organised in which villagers prioritised their needs to be put up in the gram sabha. After this a video show on traditional rainwater harvesting and community mobilisation was conducted. Pamphlets containing information on panchayati raj, association of women and the disadvantaged were also circulated among the project population.
Training on ‘Watershed Management for Community Development: Towards Gender Equity’
Partha Das from CUTS, Chittorgarh participated in the training programme organised by Indian Social Institute, New Delhi between 11th to 18th September 2003. Among others, the training sessions focussed on, eco-systems, soil and water conservation, in-situ rain water harvesting, community mobilisation, and gender issues in natural resources management.
Traditional Practices and Indigenous Knowledge
Water conservation by women:
During summer months, drinking water becomes a precious commodity in the village. Those days the two hand-pumps, one located in the school and the other in the school, also become defunct for a major period. Few villagers have tube-wells, which are primarily used for agricultural purposes. Some amongst them, being considerate to the problems of their fellow villagers, allow them to take water from their tube-wells. Sometimes due to erratic supply of electricity, the villagers become unable to collect sufficient drinking water from tube-well. Since women traditionally have the task of fetching water, they face enormous problems in those days, in terms of quantity of water to store, timely storage, maintaining its purity, and distance covered to collect it. It is interesting to note that the women keep the drinking water in their bedrooms, which is normally the coolest room of all. This is because no one would spill water there and only when someone really needs water would go in to collect the same. It also addresses safety aspect of the water. This substantiates conservation attitude/aptitude/attribute of women. (Source – Keshar Kunwar)
Village Development Fund –
For project sustainability, the villagers have proposed to develop a fund with voluntary contribution from all households. Initially, it started off as a contribution of the people engaged in physical work of the project. Subsequently, the members of ‘Environment Action Committee (EAC)’ found that most of the people doing physical work belong to poor families whereas the project would benefit everybody including comparatively well-off families. Various other community contribution mechanisms (e.g. Ram Dhun*) were discussed. Moreover, management of project assets is another issue that is being deliberated for quite some time among the villagers. Therefore, during a village meeting Village Development Fund (Gram Vikas Kosh) was proposed. People have voluntarily contributed in it and the total collection has been put in the bank. The villagers have also formed a fund management committee with proportionate representation of all the communities.