Land and Water Management leading towards Biodiversity Conservation (2003–04)

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The goal of the participatory project, supported by ‘Small Grants Programme’ of “United Nations Development Programme–Global Environment Facility”, was to contribute to the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity, through land and water management.The purpose of this project was to encourage appropriate biodiversity conservation practices by the community, through restoration of deteriorated traditional water bodies, revitalisation of degraded lands and protection of endangered species of trees, in one select model village of the Chittorgarh district.

Project components

In the context of the semi-arid and drought-prone state like Rajasthan, where degradation of natural resources adversely affects biodiversity, an integrated natural resources management strategy will help safeguard the basic life support systems of land, water, forests, biodiversity and the atmosphere. Therefore, the project components involved the following:

  • Participatory community action to manage land and water for conservation and enhancement of biodiversity;
  • Awareness generation, sensitisation, and capacity building;
  • Advocacy, networking and linkages;
  • Documentation and outreach;
  • Support and association of various stakeholders for sustainability and replication of the project; and
  • Project management.

In Chittorgarh, the major issues mentioned below, identified during community discussions, have threatened the basic life support systems of land, water, forests, biodiversity and the atmosphere. The broad problems/issues are:

  • Peculiar rainfall pattern (20 inches of rain, sometimes in the span of a few days, usually followed by months of dry, hot days that yield a maximum of only four additional inches of rain) and inadequate rainwater management;
  • Insufficient emphasis on traditional water structures, which are sustainable for drought-proofing, deterioration of traditional water bodies (ponds and wells), unsustainable use of groundwater resource and insufficient groundwater recharging measures;
  • Degradation of lands (particularly grazing lands), soil erosion, inappropriate grazing practices and lack of adequate availability of fodder;
  • Withering traditions and practices of conservation of sacred groves (devra, i.e., religious places of worship) and community groves (banni), decaying (genetic erosion) of native trees and insufficient information dissemination regarding plantation techniques and care of groves;
  • Inadequate availability of fuel-wood, pressure on adjoining forest cover/groves and conflict between communities and forest officials;
  • Lack of recognition of indigenous knowledge systems;
  • Insufficient political will and action; and
  • Most important of all, inadequate involvement of community in local developmental planning for biodiversity and environment.

Strategy

To restrict the threats to biodiversity, the following strategies were adopted vis-a-vis the previously-mentioned activities:

  • Protection of endangered species of trees, revival/promotion of practices of community and sacred groves, development of the grazing lands, through soil conservation measures, restoration of traditional water harvesting structure and community management;
  • Peoples’ participation at every stage of implementation and, particularly women’s involvement in the decision-making process;
  • Specifically include components such as the livelihood issues and indigenous knowledge systems of the rural community;
  • Highlighting the link between biodiversity and natural resources vis-a-vis the social, economic, cultural and religious lives of people;
  • Use of local and effective Information, Education and Communication (IEC) for awareness generation, information dissemination and capacity building to wide sections of the population;
  • Regular follow-up with the stakeholders;
  • Networking with research as well as extension agencies, local grass-roots organisations and social activists; and
  • Adopting actions for ensuring convergence of different activities.

Target Groups

The target groups of this project, to be called as environment action committee (EAC), consisted of one ‘environment animator’, one ‘environment administrator’, one ‘community motivator’ and two ‘community leaders’. EACs were formed in the project village for effective implementation of the activities. The ‘environment administrators’ were from the local social action groups (e.g., women SHGs), whereas the local school teacher acted as the ‘community motivator’. The local grass-roots net-worker of the centre was the ‘environment animator’. The villagers were interested in including at least three women in the EAC. The local CBOs and PRIs catalysed the overall efforts, in association with the centre, to ensure sustainability of the interventions initiated.

Project Beneficiaries

  • Women;
  • Small and marginal farmers, livestock owners and landless labourers; and
  • Selected disadvantaged below-poverty-line (BPL) families.

Expected Outcomes of the project

  • Maintained biodiversity and improved water harvesting and land structures, through equitable participation of and action by the rural community;
  • Enhanced association of community-based organisations (CBOs) and self-governance (Panchayati Raj Institutions) bodies; and
  • Better supportive association of leading institutions/organisations and government agencies to promote community activities and practices.

 

Outputs Results
Rejuvenation and regeneration of natural common property resources in the
project region
  1. Increased availability of water in the water bodies of the
    project region
  2. Better availability of fodder and fuel-wood
  3. Increased number and variety of native endangered trees protected
  4. Lesser migration out of the village
  5. Increased income of villagers
Increased gender-based participation and decisions by rural communities for management of water and land resources
  1. Community acknowledging the impact of environmental degradation on women
  2. More than half of the women (particularly those belonging to the poor and disadvantaged sections) being involved
  3. Decision-making and leadership skills of women for effective utilisation of natural resources strengthened
  4. Concerns and conveniences of women emphasised, prioritised and included in local development planning
  5. Equal involvement of men and women
Traditional local experts (e.g., water surveyors – shirawa) having indigenous knowledge systems actively and increasingly involved
  1. The traditional local experts disseminating their skills in the community
  2. Increased participation of traditional local experts in biodiversity conservation
  3. Communicating sustainable practices and providing critical inputs to policy makers and implementers
Favourable attitude, enhanced interest and capacity of rural communities
  1. Increased participation in campaigns, training programmes and workshops
  2. At least 10 percent voluntary contribution by the villagers
  3. Formation of rules to conserve the water resources and protect/care
    for the plantations
  4. Voluntary monitoring and protection/maintenance by villagers
  5. At least half of the households in the villages directly involved
Better comprehension among CBOs and PRIs of the need for water and land resources management
  1. Increased attendance of the members of CBOs and PRIs in capacity building programmes
  2. Improved awareness, skills and capability
  3. Sharing of ideas and information among each other
Increased involvement of CBOs and support by PRIs
  1. Voluntary contribution by CBOs
  2. PRIs providing financial assistance and channelling funds for development of water and land structures
  3. Active advocacy/lobbying by the CBOs and PRIs in the community and government
Enhanced awareness of government agencies on community need and sustainable practices
  1. Increased involvement of government personnel
  2. Voluntary participation in the training programmes and workshops
  3. Increased recognition and acceptance of traditional practices on water and land
Improved support by and amongst various organisations/institutions
  1. Improved information/knowledge sharing
  2. Increased field visits by government personnel
  3. Technical inputs rendered as and when needed by the community
  4. Effective monitoring of utilisation of government funds
Proactive policies and interventions for management of water and land resources
  1. Improved focus on and priority for protection of endangered species of trees, revitalisation of degraded lands and restoration of traditional water resources
  2. More effective actions by the District Environment Committee
  3. Increased co-ordination and networking for representations on National and Rajasthan State Water Policies (formulation, revision and implementation)

Highlights of the activities and their impact

  1. Two deteriorated traditional ponds, located in the project village Pemadiya Khera, Nimbahera block of the Chittorgarh district, were deepened and widened. The restoration of these traditional rainwater-harvesting structures has included reestablishment/strengthening of the embankment and deepening as well as widening to collect more runoff.

Outcome
Both the ponds have been significantly restored and water holding capacity and time period has also increased. Employment has been generated for the villagers. Ground water has increased.

  1. To protect the drainage area above the ponds against erosion as well as sedimentation in the pond and thereby to lengthen the effective life of the traditional rainwater harvesting structures, plantation has been done.

Outcome
This helps to control soil erosion as well as pond sedimentation, retain the impervious nature of the pond soil and thus conserve as well as enhance biodiversity of the area. Employment has been generated for the villagers

  1. Technical and material assistance has been provided.

Outcome
Technical assistance for project implementation and sustainability has been sought from irrigation, civil, ground water, soil conservation, watershed and agriculture engineers and geology, forestry, agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry professionals. Indigenous specialists (e.g., traditional water surveyors were also being involved. Material assistance has also been provided for the construction of the west weir and gully plug restoration of the nadi and plantation purposes.

  1. ‘Environment Action Committees’ (EACs) were formed and their meetings conducted for community mobilisation and participation.

Outcome
Information regarding the formation and composition of the target group is called environment action committee (EAC). There is one EAC in the project village. The members of this EAC facilitate in project implementation, viz., awareness generation, community mobilisation and action, by organising monthly meetings to make strategies and evaluate activities.

The members of the EAC, in association with the local community, identify and select disadvantaged families, formulate rules for proper usage of water and protection of trees/shrubs, etc., and monitor, including the maintenance and protection. The EAC co-ordinates between various stakeholders, including the community, the PRIs and government agencies for project sustainability.

  1. Awareness drives meetings (paryavaran chaupal baithaks), contemplation campaigns and celebration of significant annual days

Outcome
In total, 18 such meetings, facilitated by the EACs, were conducted in the village. Contemplation campaigns, focusing on the impact of loss of biodiversity and degradation of land as well as water resources, were organised in the project village. Social awareness, cultural programmes, camps, fairs, rallies, marches (padyatras), etc., were part of these campaigns. In the village two campaigns were held.

Significant annual days, such as the World Forest Day (30th March), National Water Resources Day (5th April), Biodiversity Day (22nd May) and World Environment Day (5th June) were celebrated at the village and panchayat levels, by involving various stakeholders. These deliberations on ‘the linkages between natural resources and biodiversity’ focused on the basic life support systems of land, water, forests and biodiversity.

  1. Training programmes

Outcome
To provide systemic inputs to the project staff and build their practical knowledge and skills for effective project management, two training/orientation programmes were organised for the project team, by inviting trainers/experts/subject matter specialists. Additionally, project staff participated in training programmes of other select academic, research and implementing institutions/organisations. Their understanding of the subject has improved significantly.

  1. Capacity building and information dissemination workshops

Outcome
To build the skills and capabilities of members of PRIs and community-based organisations (CBOs) on issues related to ‘natural resources and its relevance in the context of biodiversity’, one workshop was organised. This workshop focused on the reasons for the degradation of natural resources and loss of biodiversity, past traditions and existing arrangements, appropriate conservation, management and protection practices, indigenous knowledge systems, gender issues, The Panchayati Raj Act and leadership development.

  1. Exposure visits

Outcome
To build the capacities of the project target groups and develop favourable attitudes among the project population, as well as increase the involvement of the members of the PRIs and the CBOs, exposure visits to leading institutes/NGOs of south Rajasthan were organised. The community understood the work accomplished by other organisations.

  1. Publication of manuals, posters, wall-newspaper, etc.

Outcome
One reader-friendly training manual on the concepts, approaches, methods and practices of ‘biodiversity conservation, integrated natural resources management and participatory planning’, with special reference to traditional healers, namely, ‘Jaiv Vividhata ke Sanwahak Guni’, was published for the members of the EAC and the project population. For project sustainability as well as replication of interventions and to influence policy issues, another manual on ‘grass-roots advocacy’, namely, ‘Alakh Jaga Hai Gaon Gaon Mein’, was published for the members of the EAC, CBOs and PRIs. Six reader/viewer-friendly, illustrative posters on concepts and techniques of ‘biodiversity conservation, common property resources, rainwater harvesting, plantation, soil conservation and sustainable consumption’ were developed.

Project activities, success stories, gender-specific issues, difficulties/problems/obstacles encountered, etc., regularly included in Gram Gadar (Village Revolution), the popular and widely distributed monthly wall-newspaper, and Aage Badhno Hossi (Women Marching Ahead), the quarterly newsletter of the Centre. These were also updated on the website of the organisation. A quarterly electronic newsletter on ‘biodiversity and natural resources management’, was also prepared.

  1. Baseline and impact studies

Outcome
Baseline survey, involving Participatory Rural Approach (PRA) tools, structured questionnaire survey, focussed group discussions (FGDs) and secondary data analysis was carried out at the beginning of the project. Preliminary activities, comprising of select PRA exercises were done. Impact assessment study was carried out at the end of the project.

  1. Networking with organisations, institutions and other agencies

Outcome
Intensive efforts were made for networking with CBOs, PRIs and government agencies for their support. This comprised periodic interactions and meetings, visits to project villages and panchayats to solicit their views, seeking suggestions and feedback, for effective project implementation, and provide/solicit advocacy inputs. Networking with organisations/institutions, such as M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur (IDSJ), Association for Rural Advancement through Voluntary Action and Local Involvement (ARAVALI), Forestry Training Institute (FTI), Seva Mandir, Tarun Bharat Sangh, was done and guidance was sought for effective project implementation and its sustainability as well as wider replication.

  1. Advocacy (workshops, representations, fact sheets, etc.)

Outcome
To garner active support from the PRIs/CBOs and to promote proactive policy for the benefit of the rural community, one workshop was organised during the project period. During the project period, active lobbying was done with the policy makers/programme implementers, along with the community and networking organisations. One fact sheet on ‘biodiversity status’ was prepared. Comprehensive study/research supplemented this effort.

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