Equity in watershed development in Hivre Bazar, western Maharashtra

The paper discusses the extent to which social and economic changes following watershed development have been equitable in Hivre Bazar, western Maharashtra

This paper by Priya Sangameswaram in the Economic and Political Weekly deals with equity in watershed development in Hivre Bazar in Western Maharashtra. The village of Hivre Bazar in western Maharashtra is now well known in NGO and governmental circles for its social and economic changes following watershed development. This paper discusses the extent to which these changes have been equitable, with a particular focus on equity across different landholding categories.

The equity outcome in Hivre Bazar is better than in many other watershed programmes, mainly due to the use of watershed-plus and other attenuating measures. As such, it is a good example of how certain kinds of equity concerns can be taken up and implemented with local initiative. However, there are also limitations in the equity outcome, which raise important questions for future water interventions. The paper makes the following conclusions -

  • Equity concerns in any single project are influenced by a number of factors such as the differing conceptualisations of equity by the various agents involved, limits to the number of radical concerns that can be taken up any one time, macro-level factors such as government policies and laws on relevant subjects, and the nature of the development process that people are interested in setting in motion.
  • For instance, in Hivre Bazar, the way “family planning” has worked or the association of SHGs with women’s empowerment is strongly influenced by discourses constructed at national and international levels.
  • Similarly, the equity potential of government schemes for wells is limited by the requirement that beneficiaries should have a minimum landholding of three acres; while the logic behind this is that without a certain level of landholding, the water in the well would not be optimally used, the result is that marginal farmers find it difficult to avail of the schemes. 
  • But given the constraints within which any project functions, the Hivre Bazar experience stands out, not only in terms of its equity outcome, but also in terms of improvement in livelihoods and the impact on sustainability. The measures to attenuate the negative impact of the ban on grazing, the rules about use of water and the careful targeting of watershed-plus measures have been particularly critical.
  •  An important lesson that one can therefore draw from Hivre Bazar is that some of the inequities considered ‘inherent’ to watershed development projects can be partially remedied by local-level initiative, and it is important to think about ways in which this experience can be used to improve the equity outcome in other watershed development projects.
  • At the same time, it would also be useful to reflect upon the limitations in equity in Hivre Bazar and the questions raised by them about the kind of development one is aiming for, the best way to meet the livelihood requirements of the landless and marginal in rural areas as well as to empower them, and how to reconcile different notions of equity.  

Read the case study here


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