Raj-samadhiyala (Rajkot) leading by example
About 20 km away from the district headquarters of Rajkot, this village shows how environmental management can bring about a socio-economic turnaround. According to Narayanbhai Limbasia, a 70-year-old farmer: "Around 15 years ago, people were unwilling to marry their daughters to grooms in this village due to the water crisis." More than 75 per cent of bores in the village yielded no water, says Hardevsinh Balwantsinh Jadeja, head of the village council.
About 10 years ago, the village was declared a desert area and put under the arid zone development programme of the state government. In 1986-87, the residents undertook wm projects. Jadeja led the villagers to construct 12 check dams between 1986 and 1988 (see box Man with a mission. The villagers planted thousands of trees, and undertook stone-trenching, bunding and terracing in their fields on the lines of wm. The state government launched a wm project in 1995-96 in this village, and the District Rural Development Agency (drda) allocated Rs 17 lakh. Since 1998 the villagers have implemented around 50 micro-watershed projects (a micro-watershed project is within an area of 500 ha).
Today, there is ample water. Farmers have sown cotton, wheat, groundnut and vegetables. Even though there was only 316 mm of rainfall this year - against an annual average of over 500 mm - the groundwater level in most of the wells is about three metres, and is 1.5 metres in some wells. "All the 280 wells, 5 handpumps and 35 borewells have water. The surface water is available for at least 10 months now," says Jadeja. There are 51,000 trees in the village today, as against just 1,600 in 1988. The farmers are now developing wastelands.
The farmers' earnings have increased significantly. The residents point out that they earn around Rs 2.5 crore more than the neighbouring villages of Aniyala, Pada, Hadmmatiya Golida, Dhandhiya and Shadan, which do not have water harvesting structures. Raj-Samadhiyala sells vegetables worth Rs 50 lakh every year. "In 1990, when water was scarce, my father used to earn Rs 1.5 lakh from his farms. Today, I earn around Rs 10 lakh from the same land," says Jadeja. Says Devsinhbhai Bhavanbhai Kakadia, 60: "I used to earn Rs 5,000-10,000 per year from my 6.4 hectares. Today, my income is about Rs 1-1.5 lakh. I am confident of earning at least Rs 50,000 even during the present drought."
Jadeja points out that water has not only brought about prosperity but social well-being as well. He claims there is no crime in the village, no police case is registered at present against anyone from the village and that people leave their houses open and unguarded.
Before 1988, most of the families used to migrate in search of livelihood. Migration for employment has ceased now. Today, there are just 50 families below the poverty line, as compared to 138 in 1988. Ashwini Kumar, sdm of Rajkot, says Raj-Samadhiyala received the prize of Rs 25,000 as the best village panchayat in Gujarat.
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