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How Gujarat’s rural poor fought drought with help of water structures in arid Rapar-II

In this concluding part of the report, we reproduce the case studies selected from a wide number of water structures that NGO Samerth supported to build in Rapar taluka of Kutch district. These water structures helped the rural poor fight drought in the peak of summer this year. The photographs, clicked by Samerth team in May 2016, are a testimony of the success of the massive intervention:
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Chitrod gram panchayat has a total population of 5820 people out of which 1494 live in the five vandhs around it. The population of the entire panchayat consists of Patels, Muslims, Harijans and Kolis. Most Koli families live in the vandhs. The total number of cattle in the village is 4688. Out of the total 1300 families, only 897 have tap connection in their homes. The Narmada water supply is erratic, as of May 2016 it was once in 7 days in village and 15 days in vandhs. In 2014, Samerth undertook the renovation of its Gam Talav (village pond – to be accessed by everyone) in line with a high demand from the community. It also featured as highest priority in the water security plan. The pond was renovated with support from a private donor and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act MGNREGA) – a sanction of Rs 4,92,000, with 150 people working for eight weeks).Hussain
We reach Chitrod in the afternoon, and are still wondering if we will have any visitors to the pond braving the heat. And sure enough, within few minutes of our reaching there, we meet 27 year old Hussain and 10 year old Shivang Koli. Hussain looks at us dispassionately, he has face that says that he has seen it all, and his eyes seldom show any change of emotion. Between him and Shivang there is a herd of 107 animals of sheep and few goats, all the way from Rava vandh, which is at a distance of 3 kms from the pond. The animals belong to a couple of vandh families.
Hussain is a cattle rearer and for the past many years would migrate to work as a salt pan worker near Gandhidham. He is illiterate and has never gone to school. Shivang, his 10 year old neighbour has also never gone to an aganwadi or school, as traditionally for six months each year his parents would migrate to work as charcoal or brick kiln workers. For Hussain, there was no school or aganwadi in his vandh when he was growing up. Most vandhs do not have any aganwadis even today. But Hussain is aware that his two year old son needs to go to a school if he wants a different life for him. He says this is second year in a row when he and 50 households of his vandh have not had to migrate post-monsoon.Shivang Koli
The water in the Gam Talav has given them the assurance to stay back and look for other livelihood alternatives in and around their village. He says he got his job card made only last year, as he realized that there could be an option to stay back in the village. When asked about aganwadi, he says that this year, since most families have stayed back in the village, they are now talking to the panchayat to provide them with an aganwadi- as the nearest one is 4 kms away.
The pond he says, has given him a reason to dream for a different future for his son. And with that we can finally see a flicker of hope reflected in his eyes.
We then travel to Kanmer to see the renovated gam talav and it is nearing sunset. The beauty of the Kanmer pond makes one forget that we are in the middle of a desert region, where water is scarce. But it was always not so. Kanmer is a poor village dominated by Koli, Rajput, Harijan and Muslim communities. 232 of the total 262 Koli families live in six vandhs surrounding the village. The total population of the village is 3500 and animal count of the village is 1972. When Samerth initially started working here, the village was facing extreme drought, ponds and wells had gone dry leading to heavy migration – to the tune of 50% from the vandhs and villages of Kanmer. Samerth team had a meeting with the villagers, including the sarpanch and other members of local administration and they suggested MGNREGA work for the five ponds of the village.
The villagers were enthusiastic but the sarpanch was skeptical. She, like many others, feared the extra workload that would come with MGNREGA work (accounts etc.) and refused to initiate it in her village. A personal meeting, followed by enumeration of the impact of the ponds in future, convinced her to take it up. Finally five ponds of Kanmer were restored with Samerth support under MGNREGA. A good monsoon ensured that not only were the ponds full, they could also recharge 50 other wells of the region. This has helped 78 poor families of the area to take up two crops cycle and also farm cumin – a cash crop, bringing the migration down to 10%.
In a while we see a herd of cows coming our way. For a while it seems like they are on their own, but then we see two little boys managing a herd of about 60 cows! The boys are shy to tell us their names but say they are koli boys from the vandh and have walked about an hour to get to the pond. They do not go to school, as they would accompany their parents to Gandhidham – where they would work as laborers on construction sites. They tell us that last year they could buy 3 cows, since now there is a dairy collection point in their village and it is remunerative business. Some of the cows are from the village they tell us, others belong to their vandh. The happy energy of the boys recharges us and we bid adieu to Kanmer.Roof rain water harvesting structure at Gagodar Campus.
The Samerth campus at Gagodar hosts 70 people on an average; there are 60 students of the residential hostel for children whose parents migrate. Two families of Samerth staff also live here, thus bringing the number to 70.
Though there is a Narmada pipeline connection at the campus, Samerth has four roof rain water harvesting structures that together harvest 65000 litres of water. A well has been built on a natural slope zone that can recharge 60,000 to 65,000 liters of water. The water structures are a boon to the campus and take them through the hot angry summer months, with erratic water supply. 20 such structures with water tanks have been constructed in vandh areas too, which have no ground water.
Mewasa, is a small village with a population of 983 members, predominantly from Patel (50%), Bharward (31%), Koli (10%) and Harijan (5.5%) communities. Total livestock in the village is 1165, major livestock being sheep – 700 of them. The main form of livelihood is agriculture-related – either in their own fields, or as share croppers, or as a labourer. In Mewasa, we visit the Anditimbi talav that was renovated in 2012. The pond was selected on the basis of geo hydrological testing of the soil. The pond is located close to a cluster of farm lands. The water of the pond is pre dominantly used for drinking – by cattle & humans. There is no water source within 4 km radius of the pond. Earlier a small muddy road led to the pond, which would break every monsoon, making it difficult for people and animals to reach the pond. The talav and the road leading to it were renovated and undertaken under MGNREGA.
We meet Shamjibhai Patel from Mewasa, with his bull at the pond. He is coming back from Chitrod after selling his farm produce at the market. He remembers the time when they would dread a market visit post the winter months, as there would be no water source on the way back and the bulls would get restless. The pond he says would invariably dry up, and they would be forced to hire tractors in order to move around. Shamjibhai owns 15 cows; all of them are brought to the pond to drink water in the morning and evening. He said he has been able to buy cows only in the last two years, since the pond ensures water through the year.Nanda Panchayat
We now travel to Nanda village, where Samerth supported in renovation of a pond and a well with cattle trough. Nanda is a village of 102 households. 43% belong to the Patel community, 40% are Rabaris and about 16% are Harijans. Nanda is one of the far-flung villages of Rapar. It rises like an island in the middle of the desert. The entire village is dependent on the pond and four wells for their water needs. The number of cattle in the village is 500 and animal husbandry is one of the main livelihood strategies. After the renovation, though water dries up in the pond in peak summers, there is always water in the well.
We cross the dried pond bed to reach the wells located at the end of the pond. Here we meet Sursang, Hetubhai and Vashabhai who have come with a herd of 35 buffaloes. Hetubhai tells us that regular water supply has led to an increase in the strength of animals in the village by 30%. This has also allowed three dairies to set up their collection centre in the village – leading to substantial increase in the income of most households, especially Kolis. Sursangbhai points out that kolis, who would earlier migrate and were restricted to charcoal, salt pan work or labor have now diversified into animal husbandry too. The three men then proudly show us the five buffaloes that they have now added to their herd. A meditative calmness descends us as the men get in involved in taking water from the well for their herd.
It is almost evening by the time we reach Sanva village. While crossing the market place we meet the Sarpanch of Sanva, Raimalbhai Solanki, who has come to the bank for some personal work. He graciously puts his errands at hold to talk to us and the impact that renovation of two ponds at Sanva has made. He speaks highly of the Samerth staff training the Paani Samiti (water council) of the Panchayat on maintenance of the ponds, ensuring that no washing up (humans, clothes or animals) happens at the pond reserved for drinking water.
He stresses that the samiti is now very strict in ensuring that water from the ponds reserved for drinking is not used for agriculture purposes, this has arrested water contamination to an extent. This has ensured that water is still fit for drinking.
We then decide to visit Jodhpur vandh, one of the first villages of Samerth’s intervention. About 100 families from Jodhpur vandh would migrate to far off regions post monsoon. These were Koli families, who owned small patches of land and with no water source. Here we meet with Velejibhai, who was supported by Samerth to build a bore well in his farm. Earlier he would migrate every year to other parts of Gujarat, but since the construction of the bore well he has been cultivating vegetables in his small farm, that he sells at the market. He has also been able to buy a pump that helps him extract water when the levels go down. He proudly tells us that during peak summers, people from around the area use the well water for drinking and mornings are reserved for people coming from far off areas on their bullock carts to fill containers of water. Jodhpur vandh water is yet to have Narmada water connection.
Velejibhai earns Rs. 5000 from the patch through which he has been able to sustain his family of three children all of whom go to school, wife and parents in the vandh. He is also involved in MGNREGA work, happening at the nearby pond. He has now been able to buy three cows – previously un thought of and sells their milk at the nearest dairy collection centre.
Seventy such wells were constructed in vandhs and villages which have led to a significant drop in migration. Velejibhai tells us that 80 out of the 100 families have stopped migrating and are now involved in agriculture and animal husbandry.

Concluded

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