When participation holds sway

Gouditikra in Orissa provides a model of how community participation can transform a village

By Sudeep Mukhia
Published: Friday 30 September 1994

When participation holds sway

-- (Credit: Sudeep Mukhia /CSE)THE village of Behrampur Gouditikra in Orissa's Bargarh district has an uncommon distinction: all the 109 households have running water. This is the latest addition to its civic amenities, which include latrines in every house, electricity, a school and a motorable road to the highway. All this has been achieved through a combination of local effort and the organisational skills of Gram Vikas (GV), a Behrampur-based NGO.

"Gouditikra was developed as a model that we want others to emulate," says Rajendra Padhee, a town planner associated with GV. "None of the houses have been left out in the watertank scheme," says P Veeraraju, a 55-year-old village elder and prosperous cultivator involved with project since its initiation. Before the advent of GV in the late '80s, the surrounding fields and the canal was used as a toilet by the villagers. Water, till early this year, had to be collected from handpumps. Now, it comes on tap from the towering 70,000 litre tank built with the labour and money of the villagers. There's also a small concrete latrine to each household in the village.

Gouditikra became a model because it had the initial community fund that GV demands from every village before it initiates any programme. Explains Joe Madiath, the director of GV, "We want the beneficiaries capable of handling the programmes after we introduce them. For this, we insist that a corpus fund be raised by the villagers to continue and extend the programmes after we withdraw."

Gouditikra's corpus was already present, since Rs 30,000 was accumulated annually in the community fund. "We've continued the tradition of a community fund from Andhra Pradesh," explains B Abuli, a member of the fund committee. "Each cultivator contributes Re 1 for every 75 kg of rice produced," says Veeraraju.

The villagers' enthusiastic participation in constructing GV-initiated biogas plants led it to launch its rural health and environment programme (RHEP) in Gouditikra. "Hygiene and health cannot be tackled in isolation. We have to work simultaneously on issues like water supply, drainage and primary and health education," says Padhee.
The first thing they did The first thing that GV did was to set up latrines in the village. Recalls Veeraraju, "GV's field officer told us that for Rs 500 each they would help us build latrines in our houses." But when Madiath visited the village, he pointed out that Rs 1,000 a head could get the village the additional benefit of domestic water supply as well. "We made one thing very clear: these schemes would commence only if each and every household declared that it would avail of the benefits," emphasised Madiath. "Even one household using the outdoors would negate the effort."

As the RHEP progressed, the villagers set up committees to continue the projects after GV's withdrawal. These committees meet regularly to decide on expenditures and future plans. The tank committee is working out the management, payments and distribution system. It is also trying some combinations of payment and supply hours to reach an optimum. The village women are carrying out a survey to help this process.

Similarly, a committee supervises maintenance of the latrines and persuades reluctant users. Explains D P Jayakumar, a committee member, "Initially, some complained of claustrophobia but we told them that they just had to get used to the toilets as they were more hygienic." Now, with GV's help, the villagers are laying a network of drains and everybody has to contribute the labour for the part in front of their own houses.

Similar stories of GV's successful programme abound in Orissa. The villagers of Samyapalli, close to the Chilika lake, have begun digging a large tank for pisciculture with GV's assistance. To mitigate the water shortage in the village, GV has twice attempted to dig a suitably deep well but struck no water. A third attempt is on, again with the assistance of the villagers.

Today, many other villages are clamouring to be included in GV's programmes. "This is the best reward for GV," says Padhee, "If villages in the state can decide what they want and how they want to do it, we are most willing to give them the initial push."

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