A lot has happened on the watershed programme front in the last few months, from helping mobilize the villages of Taighat and Pachputewadi to facilitating a watershed and village mapping meeting with agricultural officers and residents of Abhepuri.
We had the Block Development Officer of Mahabaleshwar area asking Grampari to host a planning meeting for Gram Panchayat members. Participants from the villages of Godavali, Taighat and Dandeghar gathered to discuss the village development activities for the upcoming year and ways in which they could utilise the Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MREGS). Plans included the digging of farm ponds for rainwater storage to tree planting to gutter construction and village clean up. The main concern that emerged from this meeting was the readiness and availability of villagers to work under the scheme. MREGS offers Rs. 127 for each day of work (upto 100 days a year) and this is often considered too little to attract workers; a worker can earn Rs. 300 per day at a strawberry farm in Mahabaleshwar.
A new project has started in Taighat to repair and renovate an existing water tank. The Grampari team is providing technical help for the construction of a sand dam, working with village residents to come up with the best design and mobilize to find funds. The water that this sand dam will collect will provide water for hundreds of newly planted trees and hopefully can be directed to supply drinking water.
The village ladies contributed by clearing weeds along the channel where the sand dam is to be constructed, a clear signal of their enthusiasm and willingness to move the project forward.
In this same area, Grampari team members dug staggered contour trenches on the forest land above Taighat village. The plan is to demonstrate this practice which increases the water table and protects the soil on the slope from washing away during heavy rains. The trenches are located near the Panchgani Bhoomi Center – this is a new initiative by the residents of Panchgani to start an information and knowledge centre for ecology and nature for tourists visiting Panchgani. It hopes to both educate as well as raise the awareness of our collective responsibility in protecting the serenity of this environment.
Many tourists visiting Panchgani (up to 1 million per year!) create a lot of waste which is usually dumped along drainage lines which in turn end up polluting spring water. The springs that provide water to Taighat and also nearby villages of Dandeghar were analyzed for faecal contamination by our water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) team members. This was done using H2S test bottles that test for faecal coliform. Unfortunately most of the spring sources that were examined are not fit for drinking purposes. Human waste and animal excrement mixing with the base flow make a strong case to construct spring boxes that will protect the spring, ensuring that no villagers practice open defecation and also keep animal grazing restricted to specific areas.
The Grampari team also attended a Gram Sabha in Pachputewadi to introduce our community coordinator, Swati Kadam, to the community. Swati is now living in Pachputewadi and working to mobilize the community on issues that they identify as well as acting as a liaison between the villagers and the team based in Panchgani.
Swati and other Grampari team members organized a late evening ladies’ meeting for the village of Pachputewadi, to help village ladies in decision-making and encourage them to actively take part in Gram Sabha meetings by putting forward their needs during the Gram Sabha, they were helped to enlist and discuss their problems in the more comfortable setting of the ladies’ meeting. The ladies chose to give priority to fixing leaks in the pipes that provide drinking water to the households. The ladies have agreed to meet on the 3rd Sunday of every month to continue addressing their concerns. This is a big step forward as gender inclusion in decision making processes is a key in our approach and to a sustainable development.
A Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was carried out on 30/11/2011 in the village of Abehpuri, which included Pachputewadi and Wadachiwadi hamlets. Village ladies and farmers came together for this PRA program organized by the agricultural department for village mapping and watershed mapping. The purpose of this program was to engage people to plan for their water needs in the coming 5 years. Strategies like constructing check dams, earthen dams, and making contour trenches along the ridge area were discussed as feasible options to implement watershed activities in the village.
All of this basically means that there is much happening and we’re extremely busy – we love it! The quote by Albert Einstein is especially apt right now: “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”