Dugwell - An asset for sustainable livelihood: An Arghyam and Action for Social Advancement (ASA) project carried out in 2 tribal bocks of Ratlam district in Madhya Pradesh

Population increase and the resultant increase in consumption has come to lay enormous stress on food production, thus underlying the need to bring in more land under cultivation

 At the same time we also need to keep in mind the judicious use of natural  resources, especially in rain-fed areas. Integrating sustainability and demand is one of the greatest challenges faced by communities and nations today.

The state of Madhya Pradesh has the largest area under rain-fed cultivation. The state is  usually faced with droughts, has predominantly poor quality soil cover and the  tribal districts are known to be hit by dire poverty.   The district of Ratlam, in North-West Madhya Pradesh, is predominantly non-tribal with the exception of two blocks - Sailana and Bajna which accommodates 85% tribal population. These two blocks were faced with major water issue with the net  irrigated area being only about 15%. Villagers had no option but to depend on  rain-fed cultivation. The stress on drinking water availability further used to  gain strength during the summer months.

In order to bring some relief to the tribals, Action for Social Advancement (ASA), in partnership with Arghyam started a project on dugwells in 2009 with the main aim being supply of water for domestic purposes as well as irrigation.

Dug wells are an excellent option for increasing water availability as well as  moisture content of the soil. Construction and maintenance of dugwells would go a long way in ensuring all round livelihood support for the community as a whole. The villagers were consulted and involved at every step of the project, right from the inception to post-construction maintenance.

Beneficiaries were carefully selected to make sure the benefits reached those who needed support the most and the beneficiaries were chosen by the community.  Minimal conditions were imposed among which one of them were that the beneficiary must share the water from the dug well with two neighboring farmers. Work was taken up in villages where watershed management activities were in place  or in the process of being put into place in order to ensure good water  availability when wells were dug. Formal agreements were signed with the  land-owners, but the stress still lay on community ownership and decision making.

Sustainability: Transforming lives

80 dugwells were constructed and renovated in the two blocks. Within 3 years, all  construction work was completed and the water from the wells were able to cater to  the domestic and irrigation needs of the villagers.

Assured irrigation meant assured farm income. As a result of the project, the  villagers were able to reap good harvests from  their lands which would have  otherwise remained fallow for most part of the year. Rabi harvest was made  possible due to assured water supply and vegetable crops helped in fulfilling the  nutritional needs of the community. Some of the obvious improvements were -  increased food security, reduced migration and improved economy at the household  level. Potable water was made available for over 250 families during peak summer.

Local community participation was a contributing factor to the success of the  project. They were involved at all stages, right from the genesis to the construction and  maintenance of the dugwells.

From food security to increased farm income, the project helped prove the significance of dugwells in reducing the  poverty, existing in its varied dimensions, in a region over a period of time.

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