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05 Oct 2020

Ensuring food and water security amidst crisis

 

Sadly, as Covid-19 has taken its toll on the country, many villages and families have been affected across Rajasthan. Because lockdown restricted movement and the ability to work, numerous people returned to their villages with a limited source of income, finding it hard to secure a consistent daily wage. The many families already struggling to find basic food supplies and water found greater hardship during lockdown.

Families in two villages in the heart of the Aravalli mountain range, Kadha and Kaliwas, rely heavily on earning money through agriculture and livestock. However, both villages are based in water depleted areas and the majority of houses are scattered an average of 1-2km apart with a limited number of roads connecting them. Where roads do exist, they are poorly maintained and can be dangerous. With such remote access and limited water supplies the future for these villages looked bleak.

Seva Mandir first became involved with the villages when they started working with families to help them practice subsistence farming, part of Seva Mandir's strategy entailed working with residents to introduce new water management systems but mobilising the community for meetings proved to be a difficult task with residents living so far apart. This year, however, Seva Mandir and the Village Institution came to a solution and decided to create anicuts-dams that help store water for drinking and crop irrigation.

Both villages welcomed the idea of these new constructions and looked forward to an improved livelihood, but it became difficult to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the panchayat (the local government). The team from Seva Mandir and the women of the villages sat through many meetings and discussions in order to get approval, putting a delay on the whole process. The postponement along with a very mountainous terrain, which made it difficult to transport building materials, entailed a challenging start to the project, but with continued support of the villages and Seva Mandir construction proceeded.

Fast forward to September 2020 and the construction of both anicuts has completed in the Kadha and Kaliwas villages with the help of community members. The builds directly impact more than 250 families who can now grow more food and ensure that their livestock benefit from the water source. Bhurki Bai, from Kadha village says, "This year the rains were good, the anicut has completely filled. It will be good to have water throughout the year!"

A recent organisational study measuring the success of the project found an increase in the irrigated areas per-household, which has helped farmers sow additional crops in their farms. The study also reported an increase in the percentage of farmers harvesting additional crops, jumping from 42% in the baseline to 60.5% after the project intervention. The addition of the anicuts will contribute to recharging wells, providing irrigation support for the coming years for small farmers.

With improved land and water resources and therefore higher farm productivity, Seva Mandir continues to introduce best practices in agriculture, involving the farming community in a participatory way. These positive initiatives will have a great impact on distressed rural communities during these uncertain times.

Click here to find out more about our work on food and water security here.

Written by Sukey Richardson

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