The endeavor supported by Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd. (Formerly know as Anchor Electricals) known as “Integrated Agriculture Development and Strengthening Quality of Life” focuses on improved living standards through integration of livelihood and quality of life domains. It is based on the premise that livelihood and quality of life activities are to be pursued in a complementary manner if holistic development is the objective. As a result, focus areas of the initiative included water resources development, improved agriculture, access to renewable energy, income generation, community health and nutrition. Capacity building, awareness creation and linkages have been inherent cross cutting components.
The project implementation was undertaken in two villages of Kaprada block – Veribhavada and Chandvengan. These are two interior tribal dominated villages in the block which fall at the bottom of economic progress. There are about ten hamlets in each of the villages.
Timely irrigation is crucial for agriculture which is the primary source of income for a vast majority of rural population. Majority of the farmers in the cluster practice rain-fed cultivation. Even for those farmers with assured irrigation facility, lifting water from source to the fields is a major challenge. Water lifting for domestic uses is another area that is as
important as agricultural usage. Absence of water lifting applications leads to drudgery in fetching and carrying water from source. It also has an adverse effect on health and sanitation. While both the villages have electricity connection for domestic use (single phase), three phase connection for agriculture use is sparse as well as erratic. Solar energy for water lifting is a good renewable energy alternative. Being a tropical region, available solar insolation can suffice most of the requirements. However, initial cost is a hindrance which often leads the potential user to overlook the negligible operational costs.
The project thus identified creation of water resources for harvesting / storage and repair of existing water resources as the primary component to commence the endeavor. The objective was to address the problems pertaining to irrigation and drinking water. The approach followed was that water is a natural common resource and therefore should be shared by the users in a judicious manner. As a result, sites were identified for construction of group open wells, springs, repair of check dams, check dam de-siltation, open well repair etc. The underlying aim of the initiative has been to extend the availability of water to the maximum extent after monsoon.
Along with creation / repair of water structures, equal importance has been laid on efficient lifting and conveyance. It may be noted that water from the source is conveyed to more than a kilometer to cover the households in the command area. Stand posts have been provided for a group of 4 – 5 households for domestic use. As stated above, solar powered water pumping systems have been introduced in this regard. As these were pilots in these villages, cost of the solar system has been supported through the project while people’s contribution has been factored in the form of labour and saving towards maintenance. The largest installation (group open well) covers about 44 households while the smallest (spring development) caters to 5 households. The outcomes observed are outlined below.
Many of the farmers in the area rely on rain-fed agriculture resulting in more or less subsistence farming. To dissuade compulsions of distress migration, it is pertinent that assured sources of income are created in one’s own setting with available resources. This is possible by enabling the farmer to cultivate crops beyond monsoon season. Also, it is equally important to make the farmers aware of good cultivation practices to enhance yield and realize better returns. Pilot demonstrations with material support have also been taken up to convey the importance of quality inputs and timely application. In case of 2nd crop cultivation, emphasis was on short gestation commercial crop cultivation for augmenting household income. The component presented to participant farmers the package of practices for different crops and encouraged adherence to these through capacity building exercises.
Relevance of farm implements for small holders from the perspective of labor saving, efficient operations and drudgery reduction has also been highlighted through this component. Paddy thresher, winnowing fan, foot operated sprayer and knapsack sprayer were promoted among participants. Thresher, winnowing fan and foot sprayer are used by groups.
A total of 209 farmers have directly benefitted in this component. To assess the outcome, random sampling of 50 of these farmers was done for survey. The data reports 30% increase in the yield of gram, pigeon pea and cluster bean while brinjal and okra are new crops 8 adopted by these farmers. It is also observed that cropping intensity in terms of area sown has increased by 18% while net income has risen by more than 40% as depicted below.
Activities in this component cover health, sanitation, nutrition and hygiene. Further, aspects related to women empowerment were also focused upon as it forms an indispensable part of better standard of living. Enabling women groups to leverage collective efforts and earn supplementary income has been pursued in this regard.
It is seen that health and hygiene issues in rural areas are many a time on account of lack of awareness and specific behavioral constructs. Awareness meetings for discussing health problems and conveying sanitation – hygiene practices were taken up across project hamlets. 356 members from the program area cumulatively participated in these meetings. Similarly, health camps were conducted for treatment of common ailments and referral for further check-ups. Two such camps were organized and 387 persons took benefit of the same. Tie-up was arranged with local hospital for health camps.
Nutritional / kitchen gardens were established in 50 households for year round availability of balanced diet. Color coded diet charts indicating source of various nutrients were shared with participants. Nutrition recipes for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children using traditional food sources were demonstrated. Four such sessions were held in which 46 women participated. Further four school based nutrition awareness programs were conducted reaching out to 300 students on healthy living.
Chlorination and hand pump repair were taken up to ensure availability of clean drinking water. Further, soak pits were constructed to facilitate proper flow of waste water from hand pump.
To promote the concept of clean village and home, soak pit preparation and washing platform construction were taken up. Kitchen washing area is connected to soak pit which is further linked to the kitchen garden highlighting proper use of water. Such demonstrations have been completed in 20 households. Health kit comprising of nail cutter, sieve, ladle and pot stand have been given to 100 families.
Micro-enterprises have been promoted at women group level to enable them access to additional income. Four units of vermicompost production covering 27 women and one unit of nursery with 12 women have been commenced in the project.
Capacity building steps are concurrent and complementary to above mentioned activities of program deployment. It is crucial that the community is empowered to carry on with the development process initiated even after the project period. This is possible only with an empowered community. Capacity building is possible through constant interactions and greater involvement of the community in the development process. Trainings, exposure visits, demonstrations, workshops, camps etc. which act as mediums to attain this goal were taken up at different occasions as required.
Sustainability is essential to ensure continuity of the outcomes and impact envisaged during implementation. The key to sustainability beyond technical feasibility is community involvement. People’s contribution is an effective option for increasing community’s stake in the endeavor. Moreover, it removes the community’s extensive dependence on external resources. Cash contribution was incorporated in the activities which will be used for maintenance of water structures created. Labour for laying pipelines was provided the participants. Another aspect of sustainability has been in creating water user groups for structures created. This will also help in collective use and maintenance.
The project has also explored some innovative approaches to enhance impact. With the innovative method of interlinking drinking water structures, water availability period has been enhanced and the families can have access to drinking water during summer too. A novel way of reaching out to people was devised in the form of drama by local actors. The drama explained the importance of cleanliness and sanitation to the whole village.
The initiative is a much needed step towards ensuring overall development and better living standards. Integrating water resources with lifting, conveyance and irrigation is essential for completing the cycle. Further efforts are required for downstream use optimization through efficient irrigation. Integration of livelihood and quality of life in the existing rural setting is challenging but needed. Moreover, combining productive application like irrigation with welfare initiative like health requires meticulous implementation strategy.
Some of the outcomes are evident in the first year itself as described in preceding sections. The coverage now stands at 280 households directly benefitted through engagements which is noteworthy but presents wider scope for following a saturated approach. Such development initiatives implemented over a period of four to five years will yield far reaching results of holistic development.