Socio - Economic Empowerment through Ecological Restoration
A decade of water scarcity cost Bajar Wahegaon, a village in Jalna district of Maharashtra, heavily. A water tanker fed village during summers with limited agricultural income & livelihood struggles. However, the determination of the villagers was stronger than the problem to change this scenario through the support of Crompton CSR foundation & Vanarai trust that work on Environmental conservation and Sustainable Rural Development.
The collective efforts of the villagers paid huge dividends. The initial income of Rs. 20,000 per year per household went up multifold in five years since the inception of the project in 2016.
For over a decade from 2005, the Gram Panchayat with a population of about 5000, used to spend Rs. 15-18 lakh on water tankers in the months of April and May. They required about three tankers per day for drinking purpose and general use (180 tankers in 2 months). The two natural water streams which are the primary source of water in Bajar Wahegaon became narrow due to silt accumulation. This resulted in depleting groundwater level which added to the woes affecting the agricultural income & livelihood of the farmers by leaps and bounds.
Most of the land on the banks of the water streams are under cultivation. The agricultural productivity started decreasing year on year due to drying up of natural water streams over the years. Farming, being the primary source of income for villagers, caused restriction of one cropping cycle throughout the year due to water scarcity.
This fueled the problem of soil fertility and deposition of silt which further reduced water flow & ground water recharge. The environmental & socio-economic problem started taking toll on the villagers which was addressed by people’s participation through removal of silt from the water streams. Now, water started to flow freely with Bunds and trenches further helping in ground water recharge. This presented farmers with the opportunity to produce multiple crops (wheat, soyabean and tur dal etc.) throughout the year. Soil & Water conservation paved the way for increased agricultural activity leading the village to sustainable livelihood.
The most important thing for future sustainability was to control soil erosion of the water streams. The positive impact of the previous efforts motivated the villagers to strengthen water resources for perpetual benefits.
Project Bamboorai is at the heart of strengthening Soil & Water Conservation. The villagers unanimously agreed to plant bamboos along with native trees on the sides of the water streams which will play a vital role in controlling soil erosion. The villagers took it upon themselves to carry out Bamboorai project. Bamboo expert Vinay Kolte collaborated with this holistic approach, based on his guidance; four varieties of bamboos were planted in Bajar Wahegaon. Five teams were formed to implement the plantation of 5000 bamboo saplings with 8000 native saplings and seeds along a 9 KM stretch of the desilted water streams. Kolte advised the teams to plant native species between two bamboo saplings to speed up the growth of bamboo. Vanarai, Crompton CSR foundation through people’s participation successfully implemented & executed one of the biggest bund side Bamboo Plantation in the country.
Project Bamboorai in Bajar Vahegaon is all set to turn a new leaf in the lives of the farmers. With 5000 bamboo saplings, it is arguably one of the largest plantations along a water stream in the country. People’s participation is what makes the project stand out as an example of sustainable rural development.
Now the village is looking forward to using bamboos for economic benefit. Bamboo, despite being a grass has multiple uses for construction, craft, biofuel, making cloth and paper etc. It is largely responsible for reducing carbon emission and improving soil structure. Bamboorai project has been instrumental in bringing sustainable development for Bajar Wahegaon by socio-economic empowerment through ecological restoration.
(For Vanarai by Bhagyashree Dodamani)