Brotherhood of greens

The desolation around Udaipur in Rajasthan is giving way to vegetation through the efforts of cooperative societies

 
By Sengupta
Published: Tuesday 31 October 1995

Brotherhood of greens

A QUIET revolution is gradually transforming the landscape in the villages of Rajasthan's Udaipur district, turning barren and denuded land into thriving patches of green vegetation; Sangwa is one such village. On August 4, Jagdish Chandra Ameta proudly received the Indira Priyadarshim Vriksharmtra Award for 1993, given to the Sangwa Primary Farm Forestry Cooperative Society (urcs). As the society's chairperson, Ameta knew the hurdles the cooperative had had to cross in its onerous responsibility of greening wastelands.

Plantation work in the village had begun in 1987, with the Indian Farmers Fertiliser's Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) - which markets and manufactures fertilisers - trying to promote plantations on farmers' lands. Says Ameta, "At first the farmers were wary Of IFFCO'S motive. They feared they would lose their lands." The IFFCO, on its part, leased land from the Mavli panchayat samiti, of which Sangwa is a part. The success of these plantations - which cover 161 ha in the village - encouraged the local farmers to participate in the initiative, thus raising the membership of the PFFCS from 50 to 206.

"Our primary aim behind encouraging plantations was of providing employment and a reliable source for grass and fuelwood," says Ameta. The PFFCS in neighbouring Chande-sara, a village located 20 km from Udaipur on the Udaipur Khemli railway track, professes a similar purpose. Deforesta-tion and soil erosion have taken a heavy toll of the village land. out of a total area of 2,396 ha under the gram panchayat, only 521 ha: is arable, the remaining 1,875 ha being wasteland. About 78 per cent of the land in the village is highly degraded, hilly, undulating and devoid of any source of irrigation.

Struck by an acute shortage of fuetwood and fodder, Chandesara had to be saved through the intervention Of IFFCO, which organised a PFFCS in the area. Potential areas (under the Ownership of the pnnchayat) for afforestation were identified - which the panchayat leased out to the cooperative through a resolution and plantation work started in 1988. The initial funds for soil working and pit digging came from the famine relief programme of the state government.

Based on an IFFCO - recommended, village level farm forestry Programme has been undertaken, which is been implemented by the registered Chandesara PFFCS. The programme aims at affourestation of wastelands, additional and gainful employrnew the villagers, creation of awareness afforestation through cooperative and strengthening the linkages villagers and government institut departments.

Forty-year old Chunnibai, a Bhil (one of the local tribes) the Chandesara. PFFCS board, incipient difficulties the society had to encounter. idea of plantations came up, there was an uproar in the 'How can we allow our grazing lands to be taken away', Pago felt. But we managed to convince them it was for their be fit," Chunnibai recounts. Additional problems cropped when the society's member in charge of finances d= with the membership fees of the villagers in 1994. This hi restricted the membership to 52 out of a total of 200 fanum in the village, However, Chandesara managed to get over initial hiccups successfully.

Assisted by the IFFCO'S technical and institutional supposh the Chandesara society project has been funded by to National Wastelands Development Board (NWDB) am Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (D%Es) NWDB has provided Rs 5 lakh, while the DNEs has pro Rs 10.08 lakh for the project. Financial aid to the socketq is routed through the IFFCO. Says S L Intodia. propas executive, ui,co, "Technical and financial inputs are from nFco. But the outputs, the benefits, are the societies'. Mayft in another 10 years, the societies will become fin" independent."

Three nurseries set up under the project in Chan" have turned out about 2.9 lakh seedlings in the past 4 year. Out of these - about 10.5 thousand seedlings have been mobvited to farmers for homestead and private land ode& 'Me remaining seedlings have been planted under roonamunity land afforestation programme. With the per ft coo of plantation working out to be between Rs 8,000 Its 12.000 per ha, about 8 ha of private and 175 ha of pe i I lands have been afforested under the programme. Keeping the low moisture-holding capacity of the local 10 Charidesara and other villages of the region in mind, Go of stone check dams have been constructed on the nation sites, which have helped in soil and moisture wwrvation. The survival of trees near these sod-moisture gmrv&Wn structures is significantly high. Various other Npores Ue staggered trenches and box-cum pit technique plaiting are being proposed in the future plantation works. cwastruction and maintenance work is done by the themselves.

The selection of species of trees - 40 per cent of which doelwood species, 40 per cent timber and 20 per cent k- Ims also been done in accordance with the preferences din local community. Most of the species (sheesham, mm Ahmir, ber) are multipurpose and compatible with the Map*-dignatic conditions. Fodder is contained mainly in f@ o(grasses and the tops and tops of fuelwood and timber species.

The 53-member Chandesara cooperative society, under chairpersonship of the village sarpanch (head of the ishaps), has been entrusted with the task of protecting plutations from illegal grazing and felling. Efforts are ig amode to enlarge the membership and increase the =Wofthe project by involving all the resident villagers. Pksmst important benefit from the project has been the im availability of the Cenchrus ciliaris fodder grass from the Central Arid Zone Research Institute), to both Chunnibai and Ameta. This increase in the of grass has resulted in higher milk production. 71his grass has proved nutritious; the cattle have to it.' The villagers in Chandesara pay a token Its 10-15 per person for harvesting my amount of grass. The subsidised rates for grass collection are decided in a general body meeting of the society. The net income to the Chandesara society from the sale of grass (1990-94) has been Rs 15,904; the sale of seedlings in the same period has afforded an additional net income amounting to Rs 54,728. The proceeds from the sales are being used for village development works.

The initial work of generating awareness and motivation about the project had been done by the functionaries of trico. The IFFco has also undertaken various extension activities including slide shows, visits to kisan melas and training programmes.

Promoting peoples' participation and bringing people under the cooperative fold for forestry activities have proved to be a slow process because no immediate gains have been visible. Wage earning remains the prime factor motivating the people in the area. The programme's impact is now apparent in Chandesara, as it has helped create about 54,000 human- days of employment through activities such as nursery raising, soil working, soil-moisture conservation works and planting since its inception. What is more important is that substantial and invaluable assets in terms of fuelwood and fodder planta- tions have been created for the villagers on the panchayatland.

Discussions with the villagers have increasingly highlighted the fact that the programme needs external support for 1 or 2 more years before it can become totally self-reliant; this is mainly because of the programme's high gestation period. Perceptible increases in assets creation, income and local awareness, however, indicate that the society is progressing towards better standards of living. Future plans are ambitious. In the case of Sangwa, Ameta says, "Now that our primary objectives of providing grass, fuel and employment have been fulfilled, we can think of investing the society's money elsewhere. We want to start tailoring classes for women, so that they can earn additional income."

The Cbandesara project is creating a demonstration effect. A number of similar cooperative societies formed at other places in Udaipur and in Sultanpur district (Uttar Pradesh), are reported to be running successfully.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.