The Lalitpur district is a drought prone area with past history of famines. With rains being uncertain and at times sparse, using the available water efficiently is vital to the 85% rural population of Lalitpur. Water is life and villagers need the precious fluid not only for their day to day drinking and washing needs, but also for the largely rain-fed agriculture that most small farmers still pursue.
Watershed management is based on the idea of working to retain as much water on the land as possible. The “watershed” is a geographical area from which all water drains into a common river. “Micro-watersheds” are the smaller catchment areas that feed streams who make up a given river. With most of the rain falling during a limited monsoonal period and “running away” without recharging the ground sources, the ‘watershed management’ approach seeks to slow down the water for maximum benefit to ground water sources. This is done by treating agricultural and waste lands to retain water and prevent soil erosion. Land treatment is done so that water which gushes down slopes is slowed to running water, running water which rushes across soil is slowed to a walking pace, bodies of water with slow flow are stopped to allow water to gather in pools which can percolate into the soil and recharge the ground water.
This does not happen automatically, and requires community moblilisation to agree upon how to best treat the mosaic of different landforms that make up a village environment. Resources are needed to put the decisions into action. Cooperation leads to better landuse. When everyone just looks out for their own interest we see degraded lands.
The HBM hospital community health and development programme (CHDP) team has worked with community watershed management in various parts of the Lalitpur district since the pioneering work done by Mr. Antony Samy in the mid 1990s.
The current HBM CHDP watershed management programme works in 15 villages in the Baar block. Our HBM CHDP team serves to facilitate village watershed management committees to make decisions about their environment. Working together with these local bodies, the team assists the village watershed committees to map out their terrain and decide which land treatments can be done to both benefit the land as well as give labour employment to disadvantaged groups in the village.
Further work to improve village livelihoods is done through setting up Self-Help Groups for women. These small savings groups help women pool their resources together and develop assets – as well as building up their self-confidence and cooperation. With malnutrition being a major issue for children in the area, the HBM CHDP staff and village based organisations have developed feeding clubs to help mothers better care for under-nourished children.
Some of the villages also have farmers clubs where new forms of agricultural and rural livelihood opportunities are discussed.
All these inter-locking activities seek to help prevent distress migration where families have to leave the land in search of labour which disrupts children’s education, as well as putting individuals and whole families at risk of bonded labour and human trafficking.
The scanty rainfall across the Bundelkhand region for two successive years in both 2014 and 2015, has led to a drought situation for most villages in Lalitpur district. Many families who would normally not migrate have left the land in search of work to survive, others are poised to do so too. The HBM CHDP’s our main funding partner TEARFund UK came forward to release special funds to augment the existing land-treatment work of the village watershed management committees as a ‘cash for work’ initiative to provide rural employment and reduce distress migration.
To date 495 beneficiaries have been given prompt payments for doing land treatment and well renovation work. Activities chosen by the Village Watershed Management committees include making gully plugs and contour-trenching on common lands as well as farm-bunding on agricultural lands. In addition, a number of open wells have been renovated which have helped marginal farmers as well.
We believe that God has made our environment as a gift to humanity and wants us to take good care of it. Managing land across different ownerships and in situations where caste conflicts are rife is very challenging, but we want to see people fulfill their God-breathed potential to live lives of purpose and community together.
Our HBM hospital CHDP team is a humble attempt to live out the love of Christ in these areas. Ultimately, our work is not just about conserving water, but about building relationships which last and which will benefit each other for generations to come.
The HBM hospital CHDP is very grateful to our partners in TEARFund UK whose support and guidance has helped us with this work.