Anaura’s Water Conservation Success Followed by Many-sided Benefits


Water conservation can be the key to many-sided rural development, and the recent experiences of Anaura village in Birdha block of Lalitpur district provide a very promising example of this.

Basudev, a leading social activist of this district, says—“ Various water-flows were identified carefully to create check dams and field bunds at various places so that the maximum water could be conserved and so possibilities of  many kinds of development opened up.”

On the other hand Manohar Singh, an earlier pradhan of the village panchayat who started the highly successful water conservation work here, gives a lot of credit  to Basudev and his voluntary organization Bundelkhand Seva Sansthaan (BSS)—“It was Basudev who opened up the potential before us by taking us to see outstanding examples of water conservation in Dhamtari, Vidisha ann Chitrakut. This really inspired us, and we tried to implement the best of what we saw at various places in our village. So what has emerged is a result of us working together, and I must say that looking at our dedication several senior district officials too have helped a lot. So what you see is really a combination of the cooperation at all three levels—our panchayat, BSS and several officials who took a keen interest in the development of this village.”

In the more recent panchayat election following Manohar’s good work his wife Saroj was elected. She has continued the good initiatives, with Manohar continuing to help in important ways.

Four important aspects of water conservation effort can be easily identified. Firstly, there are the field ponds, or the ponds created within farms. Secondly, there are the extensive field bunds. Thirdly, on various water flows, a series of check dams were constructed. Last but not the least, the path of a rivulet which had been extinct was carefully traced and successful efforts were made to revive the water-flow.

As a result of all these efforts combined, a lot of land that had been left uncultivated earlier is now being cultivated, while extra crop can be taken on other land. In addition per acre yield has also increased on most land. Manohar Singh says that the production on his own farmland has gone up by four to six times.

A more recent initiative has been taken to increase natural farming in this village and a group of 50 farmers has been formed for this purpose. In fact natural farming has a bright future in view of the availability of plenty of cow dung and urine in the village.

This is because of the selection of this village for setting up of a gaushala, or a shelter for strays cows. In this region stray cattle have been a big problem due to which a lot of standing crops are harmed. A cow shelter enables stray cattle to be kept confined to a place. Under a government scheme dry fodder and feed are supplied regularly. About 700 cattle are kept in the cow shelter in this village. Thanks to water conservation efforts, there is no shortage of water for these cattle, at least not so far. Problems arise when such shelters are not managed honestly, but in this village the shelter has been managed honestly. As a part of this scheme, a villager who comes forward to look after two or three such cows from the cow shelter is paid Rs. 50 per day per cow for taking care of this cow. As a result several villagers have been able to get cows and are also getting this allowance. 16 villagers have also got employment using MGNREGA funds for looking after the cow-shelter. I asked these workers if they get paid regularly and they replied that they are being paid regularly at the rate of a little over Rs. 5000 per month, but they will be happier if they can get a raise soon.

Hence this scheme has opened up the potential of improved agriculture with special emphasis on natural farming as well as animal husbandry and dairying. In addition a large number of trees (over 8000) have been planted, with special help from the BSS, with emphasis on indigenous fruit tree varieties like guava, mango, lemon, jackfruit, pomegranate, anvla etc. Bamboo has also been promoted. In addition efforts have been made to spread vegetable farming. Water conservation has also contributed to the success of these various initiatives.

Making this village open defecation free has also succeeded to a significant extent with several women I spoke to expressing much happiness about this. There is an effort also to promote better waste management based on waste-segregation.

At the same time, keeping in view priority needed for weaker sections, the encroachments of richer farmers were removed so that land pattas could be given to some Sahariya tribal community members and other weaker sections. Similarly efforts were made to link weaker sections with government schemes. Some of them have received houses under PM-Awas scheme. MG-NREGA work has been taken up on a very wide scale particularly for water conservation.

What makes many government schemes successful here is a combination of honest panchayat efforts, valuable contribution of BSS and a keenness on the part of some senior district officials to keep up and increase the good work in a panchayat which has emerged as a success story. The panchayat makes a big effort to make the best use of government schemes by taking many initiatives, and the officials have been responding well too.

Future efforts include having a school up to class ten which will be particularly good for girl students, as well as a biodiversity park.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include India Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.   

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