In Warda district of Maharashtra State, India, silted seasonal rivers could no longer supply water for agriculture. Monsoon rains burst their banks, flooding fields, destroying crops, and eroding land. This desperate situation provoked increasing suicides. After mobilizing the community in 2009, Kamalnayan Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation (KJBF) initiated studies to restore the river system.
Farmers were reluctant to donate land for stream revival. However, through respectful dialogue, they came to support the project. KJPF’s research, shared with all stakeholders, was key to this process. KJBF organized beneficiaries into user groups, which were active in all aspects of the project.
KJBF set farmers’ contribution at 10 % of the cost and let user groups decide how to share the cost. Because farmers supported the project, they contributed quickly; some even contributed for less fortunate colleagues. During implementation, village volunteers marked the channel and supervised the work.
KJBF generally funds its projects; some are implemented in collaboration with government, NABARD and TATA Trusts. Community contribution, in cash and labour, ensures ownership and maintenance. Community volunteers assist KJBF’s experts and social worker. KJBF’s machines excavate at less than half the market rate rentals. A “no profit no loss” formula covers operations, maintenance, salaries, and depreciation.
Spreading the Word
As word has spread of the benefits, user groups now organize themselves to raise their share. The Water Resource Team does a feasibility check, prepares a design, and works out details with stakeholders. When all stakeholders are on board, KJBF starts work.
KJBF has made three major changes to optimize results. First is excavating ponds for storage, recharge, and silt capture. User groups distribute the silt to farmers. Second is improving embankments. Third is raising farmers’ contribution to 17%, with their agreement; the additional 7%, contributed in kind, purchases pipes to drain overflow back into the river.
Stakeholders are also working together to develop organic farming and learning water-saving techniques to mitigate climate change. KJBF collaborates with all stakeholders, levels, castes, and shades, including women.
Maintenance is the main obstacle; government funding is scarce. KJBF trains user groups; some village committees contribute. KJBF is working with stakeholders to improve management.
On the supply side, 91 check dams conserve monsoon water, reviving 135 watercourses. Ample water from wells and conserved runoff has eliminated the need to bore into the aquifers. On the demand side, drip irrigation and sprinklers save water. Conservation measures and captured silt rejuvenate the soil. Consequently, agricultural production has increased substantially and the water table has remained stable. There have been no suicides among families in the programme.
This programme is replicable throughout India. The WAFA Award can also help to communicate this possibility globally.