A state that is just over a decade old and highly industrialised. Literally called ‘the land of forests’ and densely populated with tribal groups, Jharkhand has been focussing on state-specific developmental plans, policies and growth targets, which would bring the backward states at par with the developed states of the country within the next five to ten years. Committed to holistic rural prosperity, the people of four villages of Ramgarh show us how intensive planning by the people, harvesting water and utilising government funds can be used to regenerate natural resources. The watershed has changed lives in more than many ways. Not only has it altered the ecological landscape but has also enabled economic and triggered a slow socio-cultural change. Today it is also a successful rural experiment that serves as an exemplar for others to learn and emulate from.
At the turn of the millennium, Auradih village in Gola block of Ramgarh district in Jharkhand was reeling under acute poverty. The locals usually migrated to nearby towns to work as rickshaw pullers. The ones who stayed back depended on forests for food and by cutting down trees to sell the wood for a living. Agriculture was not possible due to undulating surface with impermeable slope-like terrain that could not hold water.
But in a matter of a decade, the area stands transformed. From a time when no agriculture was possible, these villages now have a 33 percent net sown area against Jharkhand’s average of 22.63%. And, nearly 24% of its net sown area is utilized for triple cropping. The waterless wasteland is today a water-rich plantation. The seeds of change were sown by Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), who visited this area just after the formation of the new state. Tyma, a small rivulet of the Bhairavi river that joins Damodar at a later stage, runs through the area proved to be a life-saver. Now, the Tyma Watershed is an example for the entire district while the others are still learning to prosper economically and socially.
The rivulet has proved to be very crucial for creating a watershed model to demonstrate an integrated development that can be helpful for similar zones. Four villages situated along the watershed were mobilised and involved in improving livelihood through conservation of natural resources. The water-holding capacity of the rivulet has increased due to the watershed structures built in the area. Today, there are several people’s committees to protect the forests, maintain the watershed structures and SHGs. The result is not only an ecological transformation, but also an economic and social transformation.
Table 1 : Tyma Watershed : Facts and figures
Even though Jharkhand receives an annual rainfall of 1100 mm, 70% is lost due to its topography. In 2000, ground water was available at around 70-80 ft. There was immense potential as it was a natural resource rich region. It all began in 2001. “An exposure visit to Purulia in West Bengal helped in understanding, observing and visualising similar work and inspired the villagers to undertake the experiment back home. They motivated others in Auradih and started making elaborate plans” says, Rabindra Nath, one of the two people from Pradan who initiated the idea. With the area’s topography, terrain and rainfall the people decided that watershed would be the best approach to improve living conditions.
A two-member team of PRADAN ended up in the nearby area in 2000 to explore the newly formed state of Jharkhand. The overwhelming rural majority is dependent on agriculture for livelihood. Initially, Self-Help Groups (SHGs) were introduced in the area. Due to its terrain the area displayed potential for creating a watershed model for demonstrating integrated development that could be helpful for similar zones. With a forest nearby, undulating terrain and high level of involvement of the local people, the team approached the people for a better livelihood option. With their earlier experience of working in the area of natural resource management, they were able to attract funds from NABARD and began work with very precise planning. The Tyma Jalchajal Vikas Samiti (Tyma Watershed Development Committee) was registered in 2008 as a trust, as per NABARD’s guideline for handing over the work completely to the community. PRADAN is now working on different projects in the area and hardly realises the need to intervene in the ongoing work
The community undertook detailed baseline survey and systematically gathered data, followed by the formation of watershed committees and SHGs at the village level. The community actively involved women in various mappings–for resources, land use, intervention maps and family-based plans. The budgeting, accounts maintenance, role division for implementation and supervision by community was also charted out in this phase. By 2008, the plans were completely implemented. Farmers were trained to adopt improved technology for productivity enhancement creating resource persons for livelihood service delivery including marketing.
Table 2 : Monetary Contribution
The results that these brought about touched every aspect of the lives of the villagers. Shifting from mono cropping to triple cropping, ensuring food security of 80 percent families to adopting new technology for increasing annual income – Tyma transformed the lives of the four villages. Now Auradih village alone boasts of 82 percent increase in enrolment of students in primary schools and 38% increase in retention of girls students.
It was the first time that in the state a community’s effort has been sustained over a decade for a large project involving 4 villages. From a Jal Bachao Samiti that was built especially to protect forests, to a ban on illicit felling for fuel wood and timber – the villagers kept a sharp eye on each other to avoid conflicts. Hamlets of Auradih, Jaradih, Sarlakala and Hulu have controlled free grazing by ensuring that one person always accompanies grazing animals. Violation leads to a fine of Rs.100 to 150 per head paid by the defaulter to the community. A common maintenance fund account has also been initiated and attempts have been made to contribute some part of the fine in this account. In addition, the practice of shramdaan – compulsory and for wage aided the entire process. Not only did it enable the labour for structure formation, it also brought the people together and helped in developing a common stake for their own development.
In 2008 the villagers registered the Tyma Jalchajal Vikas Samiti (Tyma Watershed Development Committee) as a trust in Gola district. They hold monthly meetings to discuss an array of issues- from introducing newer practices to overall project implementation. The trust helps people in adapting technologies that can increase water productivity and also tries to add more areas to improve overall hydrology of the area. They also undertake off- farm enterprises for landless families and attend to the needs of the community such as drinking water and sanitation, electrification and better road connectivity. Many people have also returned to the village to cultivate land with the help of the Trust.
“Water bodies as well as biodiversity production systems have to be regularly protected, maintained and managed to get maximum benefits. Any community requires technical support and financial aid for management of such systems .” says Shri B.Nijalingappa, IFS, Chief Executive Officer, Jharkhand State Watershed Mission. He stresses that MNREGA, NHM(National Horticulture Mission) and such schemes should facilitate them for maximum benefits. Tyma serves as a strong participatory model to show what communities can achieve on their own, with a supportive framework of governmental and NGO help. The model goes beyond ecological and economical growth and shows how people can take social development in their hands. Ganesh Murmur, secretary of TWDC says, “ It doesn’t stop here. There is a slow but positive change amongst the people now with superstition and tribal development. The watershed has been the most important development in our life. It has changed everything.”