Karanji project is touching the roots of today’s major problems in the dry areas of Maharashtra: poverty, degradation of soils, deforestation, water scarcity, lack of food security, migration. Without functioning water cycles no living organisms can exist and we can easily say:
No water, no farmer, no food; no trees, no air-conditioning- No life
Therefore restoring water cycles is the key starting point for all activities aiming at restoring natural resources. Watershed development, catching or harvesting the rain where it drops must be the initial step. Combining these efforts with questioning agricultural practices and trying to convert farmers from chemical towards ecological farming is the second important step to improve restoration of natural resources again. Water awareness how to use water – including grey water – and how to manage it, will be further steps.
In today’s situation the farmer at the lower level have water and those higher up very little water. This is basically due to the lack of water harvesting structures on top along the hill sides and on the fields itself.
Restoring natural resources can only be done; if this is done as a community’s act where everybody joins the work. Therefore we need additional efforts to build community structures such as basic communities the members of which cooperate and come together for the development of the community its surroundings, environment, take care of the natural resources and self-help groups to empower people to take care of their problems on their own. In doing so it is necessary to get all memebrs of the community i.e. involved into several activities. They are necessary to bring the message of hope and development to the future generations.
Economic situation at project start:
In Bhattewadi hamlet 4 families are below poverty line, 16 families are just above the poverty line (1 US$ income per day) and 5 are a bit better off. Coming out from nomad communities cattle play still an important role in their lives. The whole hamlet is dependent on agriculture. A few families have members working in larger cities and they send some money back. But degrading soils and lack of water (droughts) have made agriculture more difficult. Being former nomad communities, they are neglected as such and face a lot of difficulties to approach government schemes and being respected in the overall village community. Their infrastructure is poor.
- Climate information
For almost 12 years people were praying for a good monsoon rain as we could see in summer 2016, comparatively good monsoon was a boon to the villagers and the water bodies just constructed harvest a lot of water that slowly percolated and recharged the wells.
Due to that extraordinary rainfall of about 500-600 mm we have to make sure that this is not the normal pattern we can calculate on in this region.
2. Project activities
We have listed below the activities in line with the project proposal and not basically in the timely frame they took place.
A) Capacity building/project preparation
Full unity of a community can rarely be found in a village or even hamlet. Therefore the capacity building phase is crucial for the success. Social Centre has initiated the participatory planning process with several meetings. Only a carefully executed capacity building enables the people to create ownership in the project. It must be theirs and not just ours.
Although minor disputes may erupt from time to time we can say that people are quite united in all aspects of watershed development. Convincing the farmer community on ecological farming is much more difficult but we started with encouraging backings from some of the community leaders.
B ) Restoration of Natural Resources
The project start in April was already towards the end of the main working season with the farmers in the dry season. This is the reason why the cost intensive works of the watershed development related activities couldn’t yet be fully used and only part of the budget was spent.
As we had to concentrate on the construction of water bodies first to store a large amount of water, we could only start with major continuous contour trenches and water absorption trenches in December 2016.
WATs (water absorption trenches) and CCTs (continuous contour trenches) have the function to harvest the rainwater that it can slowly percolate and recharge the groundwater streams in the lower areas. The bundings are used to stabilize the structures and for plantation of trees (afforestation).