[* A case study originally titled as "People's Participation in Sustainable Use and Management of Agriculture Resources-A case Study of Ralegan Siddhi". sponsored by the PCSD/FARM, RAS/93/067 (ANGOC, Manila, Philippines). Reprinted with the permission of the PCSD/FARM and the author.
** Associate Secretary, Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (AVARD), New Delhi, India.]
An overview of people's participation in natural resource management in India
Recent prominent initiatives of people's participation in resource management
The case of people's participation in watershed management in Ralegan Siddhi
In recent years the notion of sustainable development has emerged as a reaction to the highly technological and centralized processes that have governed thinking on development, the green revolution being a classic example. The process of sustainable development envisages that people should not merely participate, but be in charge of their own development. Some initiatives in India have grappled successfully with this complex process, and different models of people driven development have emerged. Perhaps the most notable of these is the remarkable work of Mr. Annasaheb Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi village. When he first returned to his village in 1975 it was a extremely degraded village. There was large scale migration, ill health, low productivity and a flourishing business in the illegal distilling of alcohol, resulting into violence especially against women. Today Ralegan is unrecognizable. Productivity has increased manifold. There is a sense of community and sharing among all the people, and complete self-sufficiency in foodgrains. Ralegan only demonstrates what village people can do when they take control of their own development. It serves as a testimony to community interest taking precedence over self-interest. This miracle was achieved by:
- The emergence of local leadership: Annasaheb Hazare is from the village and his intimate knowledge of the community, its culture and traditions and his exposure to the outside world enabled him to play the role of a catalyst and a bridge.
- Underpinning of moral sanctions: He recognized the conflict in development between old and new, traditional and modern, violent and peaceful. His intervention gave space to the traditional leadership to reassert their moral authority and lay the foundation for a moral just and human social order. The basis of Annasaheb Hazare 's intervention is a moral and voluntary code of conduct which has been adopted by the entire village community. This is a six point program that includes: ban on open grazing; ban on tree felling; ban on dowry; ban on consumption of liquor; family planning; and donation of labor (Shramdan).
- Involvement of all sections of society, especially the weak and vulnerable: Right from its inception, the Ralegan village participation process involved women and lower castes (Harijans) in all planning and implementation.
- Identification of People's Priorities: Annasaheb Hazare being a son of the soil, was able to identify water development us the primary need of the village, and that helped to mobilize popular opinion in his favour.
- The use of simple but effective technology: Annasaheb recognized that merely providing strong moral basis would be insufficient to motivate people towards constructive change. His intervention to manage rain-water run off through watershed development was cheap, local, and maximized their use of local resources especially labor.
- Holistic and sustained development: Having started with water management, Annasaheb Hazare went on to include community work to prevent erosion and to promote widespread afforestation. The holistic impact of these measures began to be felt within a decade. It is note worthy that the villagers have been working continuously on this process for the last 20 years by now. Thus, long term continuity is a vital ingredient in the strategy for sustainable development.
- The primacy of the village assembly (Gram Sabha): Although Annasaheb has taken the leadership in Ralegan, all major decisions are taken in the Gram Sabha, which has institutionalized a democratic style of functioning.
Breakdown of traditional sustainable systems
Participation of resource poor farmers
Prejudice against women
People's participation is viewed as a dynamic group process in which all members of a group contribute to the attainment of common objectives, share the benefits accruing from group activities, exchange information and experience of common interest, and follow the rules, regulations and other decisions made by the group. Need for people's participation is articulated in terms of efficiency and/or cost-effectiveness, equity in distribution of benefits, sustainability and empowerment of the people.
The concept of sustainable natural resource management is essentially integration of three factors - first, human beings have a common destiny of interdependence with other living creatures on the earth; second, the main concern of development is not growth at all costs but to render the lives of majority of the people easier and more harmonious; and third, there are thresholds of irreversibility which traditional economics does not take into account. Besides, sustainable resource management is not only for environment management but also for poverty alleviation. FAO has defined it as the management and conservation of the natural resources base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.
In Indian context it may be further explained as a means to meet the basic nutritional requirements of present and future generations, providing employment with sufficient income and quality living conditions for rural people; maintaining the productive capacity of the natural resources while protecting the environment and reducing the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to adverse natural and socio-economic factors and other risks as well as strengthening self-reliance.
Natural resources-mainly land and water-under Indian condition are endowed with rich diversity and vast expanse so any kind of generalization about a country with a sub-continental character can only be half-truth and misleading. The three clear cut major geographical features- mountains, plains and plateau represent entirely differing ecosystems and are further subject to diverse agro-climatic and physical factors. However, all these varieties are well integrated as parts of one whole. Besides, the cultural thread binds them together to emerge as unity in diversity.
India has a history of civilization built on irrigated agriculture in the river basins and rain-fed cultivation combined with small scale irrigation works on the drier plains. For thousands of years rural people farmed in a sustainable manner that maintained the traditional agriculture systems and conserved soils and water resources. The farmers' local knowledge of their environment followed by healthy resource management practices continued to meet people's need without any significant threat to environment. In nutshell, the ancient Indian agricultural practices had in-built mechanism for sustainability of natural resources base at community level.
During the colonial period, the process of commercialization of agriculture started and people's involvement was often forced for selfish reasons without any concern for people's needs or future crisis. Such moves often served as a starting point to mobilize people against the colonial rule in pre-independence days.
After independence the eradication of mass poverty by over exploitation of natural resources became a major cause of degradation. Green Revolution brought in adoption of modern varieties of wheat in the mid 1960s and of rice in the 1970s and with its crop-specific focus based on excessive use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, expansion and intensification of irrigation from surface as well as ground water, a shift to mono-cultures and multiple cropping witnessed spectacular progress in production and saved the country from mass starvation. But at the same time it gave rise to waterlogging and salinity. Large dams and centralized water resources management raised ecological vulnerability of the ancient river systems and destroyed the age old traditional systems of irrigation aligned along natural drainage features. The modern varieties decreased biomass for animals and soil fertility and lowered eco-system productivity. Considerable strain on ground water resources have led to emergence of new weeds and soil micro-nutrient deficiency. An Indian scientist/philosopher Ms. Vandana Shiva termed the scenario "Violence of Green Revolution: The Indian Tragedy".
The agricultural land in the country is owned by individuals, where as large irrigation schemes are owned by the Government. Rich farmers have their own irrigation structures - tanks, lift devices or tube wells. The resource poor farmers can hardly afford to utilize costly inputs. Besides, only about 40% of the people have access to land which also suffers from skewed distribution pattern. 49% of the cultivated land belong to 10% of farmers with large holdings of 4 ha and more (1985-86). Only 13 % of the land belongs to 50 % of the farmers with marginal holdings of one ha or less. The common lands too are often encroached by rich farmers.
Unequal access to land, water and other resources is a major constraint to people's participation in true sense in many places. This is in two forms: First, extensively large cultivated farms. Secondly, due to hereditary rights, the best lands are usually held by old and influential families to the exclusion of poorer households. The remaining, ecologically more fragile land, is therefore under pressure from landless and socially vulnerable people.
Insecurity of tenure in case of share croppers keeps them off from improving and conserving the natural resource base. Besides, social insecurity gives rise to conflicting interests between different groups of farmers and farming and non-farming communities which only culminates in degradation of the natural resources.
Similarly, in case of water resources the participation of poor farmers is minimal. Rich farmers pump out and use most of the ground water reserves without any concern for others. India had well managed traditional community tank irrigation systems in the past with no problems of either sharing of water or its maintenance and repair. But that spirit of caring and sharing has disappeared today.
Women are very closely associated with many activities relating to appropriation of natural/agricultural resources and/or their products. They are responsible for collection of fuel-wood, fodder, forest produce, collecting grasses from grazing lands (gaudier), fetching water for household use and sharing larger agricultural operations. But this participation by women is treated as invisible. Besides, in many cultures and castes, women are discouraged from participating in the meetings and training programs along with men hence their participation in resource development and conservation programs is negligible. However, many experiences show that when conscientised and given opportunities, rural women do participate actively in the meetings and training camps and are able to identify their problems and suggest solutions.
The growth in any kind of production involves social and ecological costs and there are signs that under the present agricultural development system these costs are approaching a level where they outweigh the benefits. Over exploitation of natural resources is clearly unsustainable in the long run. However, in most places it is not too late to devise more socially and ecologically cost-effective ways of achieving continued growth to meet the growing need of the present population while preserving its productive capacity for the future generations.
Save Narmada movement (Andolan)
Bodh Gaya Andolan
Ganga liberation (Mukti) Andolan
AVARD'S irrigation schemes
Water council (Pani Panchayat)
Rope makers of saharanpur
Chakriya Vikas pranali (the cyclic system of development)
MYRADA's self-help groups
Rural labor association of Halpati Sava Sangh
Self-Help groups by Taj Mahal gram Bikas Kendra
Mahila Vikas Sangh (women development federation)
Self employed women's association
Some of the well known recent (over last 30 years) initiatives/movements are identified here.
It was launched in early 1960s and named after the village of its origin, Naxalbari in West Bengal State of India. Its major plank is skewed land tenancy which is the major cause of degradation of natural resources. It facilitates access of poor to natural resources by organizing them and acts against exploitation of the poor by the rich. It believes in use of force to attain political power and in Maoist-Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
It is a Gandhian movement led by Mr. Sunder Lal Bahaguna whose genesis goes back to early 1970s in Garhwal Himalayan region of Uttar Pradesh. The movement has mobilized people against commercial felling of trees to safeguard the fragile Himalayan ecology in the larger interest of the people and wild life.
It is an all India strategic network of social activists and NGOs to mobilize people against the building of Sardar Sarovar (in Gujarat) and Indira Sagar (in Madhya Pradesh) dams. The main issues are displacement of local people without proper resettlement/compensation and demand for the rights of the communities to their own natural resources.
It started in 1970s to address the issue of redistribution of some 3,600 ha of ceiling surplus land held by Bodh Gaya Matt. It generated tremendous popular participation and peaceful action.
The Ganga Liberation Movement started in early 1980s to abolish water lord system. Social activists and youth organizations organized the fisher folk and created pressure on Government to bring necessary legislation to change the exploitative system.
The schemes started in 1968, created irrigation structures, introduced equitable water distribution/sharing and management systems through popular participation. The schemes also served as a rallying point for the people.
Initiated by Gram Gaurav Pratisthan, Pune, Maharashtra, it is a community-based water council. The groups of people share water equitably on per capita basis under non-transferable water agreement. People contribute 20% of scheme's cost and even the landless partake in schemes who sell their water to needy farmers.
It is a successful effort in community-based micro-watershed development by the construction of three small dams in Haryana State of India.
It is an initiative of community-based action and social movement combined to empower the rope makers in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh to regain their traditional rights to use and sustain their natural resources.
The cyclic system of development is a community-based natural resource management system by bringing landless and land holders together through equitable system of sharing income and introducing technological innovations, multi-layered multi-cropping based on symbiosis between different species of plants and crops.
The organization enjoys the distinction of organizing people for self-development through their known resources generated by small savings and collective efforts in Karnataka State of India.
The organization, a member of AVARD, has very successfully organized agricultural laborers in defence of their rights and minimum wages.
It is a unique example of participatory watershed management and all round development in Ralegan Siddhi village of Parner county (taluka) in Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra. This is later presented here in detail.
The organization, a member of AVARD, has successfully, organized rural poor women in a muslim dominated pockets of Howrah district, West Bangal. Over 4,000 women are members who generate resources through small savings and use it for the development of micro-enterprises.
It has organized women in a tribal pocket of Bihar through awareness generation, education and monitoring for income generation activities to ensure a better earning for improvement in quality of their lives.
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) has organized self-employed women's union through awareness generation, education and training for income generation activities.
Approaches/methods used for people's participation
Reflections on the experience and insights gained
Lessons, achievements, weaknesses and constraints
Development fundamentally refers to human beings. It should be a human experience to meet people's physical, mental and emotional aspirations and potentials, not just in economic terms but should also lead to a sense of self-sufficiency and fulfilment. Ralegan Siddhi, often termed as an oasis of greenery surrounded by dry and bare hilly tracts is a unique example of transformation from poverty to plenty and a living model of people's participation in natural resource management in a watershed.
The physical setting
Ralegan Siddhi is a small village with an area of 982 ha in Parner county (taluka) of Ahmadnagar district, Maharashtra, India. The location is shown in Fig. 1. It is situated on latitude 19° 22' N and longitude 74° 27' E at an altitude of about 755 m AMSL. It is 87 km of Pune city towards north-east, 5 km away from Pune -Ahmadnagar State Highway.
It is a drought-prone and resource poor area with annual rainfall ranging between 50-700 mm and temperature varying between 28°C and 44°C. The village is surrounded by small hillocks on the northeast and southern sides. The land is undulating and slopes vary from 3-15%. The soils are shallow. In lower areas, patches of black soils mixed with pebbles are seen but towards the higher areas the soils are inferior and unsuitable for cultivation. In about 70% of the area the soils are light to medium in structure.
The 1991 Census enumerated a population of 1,982 living in 310 households (presently estimated to be around 325). The sex-ratio being 902 females per 1,000 males (1,029 in 1971; 1,013 in 1981). The continued decrease in the ratio is explained as the return of male folk to the village with improvement in the socio-economic conditions of the village. Backward classes (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) constitute only 14.23% of the total population.
The level of literacy has gone up from 30.4% in 1971 to 39.65% in 1981, and further to 50.95% in 1991. As of now, according to the villagers, no one in the 15-35 year age group is illiterate. Today, the over all literacy rate is estimated to be around 65 % which is far above the national average of 52%.
Marathas of Khatri caste out-number other castes and constitute nearly two-third of the families. Among others are the backward castes including Mhar, Chamar, Bharhadi, Pardi, Sutar, Barber, Fishermen, Matang etc.
There are only five landless and 13 artisan households in the village. Most of the landholders are small. 51 % of the landholders own 1-3 ha land which is about half the total area as well as population of the village. There are only 12 farmers (about 3%) owning more than 6 ha, who own about 18% of the total area. Though the average size of landholding (2.5 ha), appears to be relatively large, considering the poor quality of soils and low productivity levels, the holdings are quite modest.
Occupation-wise cultivators are in majority, followed by agricultural labor. Agriculture is the mainstay for majority of the people. Others like grocers, drivers, cobblers, barbers, blacksmiths, broom makers, health workers, teachers, shopkeepers, flour mill operators, welder, and bank workers represent the services and rural artisans. Another interesting factor in the Maratha families is that most of them like to send at least one of their sons for military service. However, the occupational structure of the village has been under going change since 1976 in favour of agricultural sector.
By 1975, prior to intervention by Mr. Anna Hazare, the village had become quite notorious with all sorts of social evils, moral down fall and with badly shattered economic conditions. In general, the village presented the profile of a poverty-stricken and debt-ridden society. Scarcity of water was key to distress which limited the prospects of agriculture. The water table was below 20 m, most of the wells used to dry up during summer and the drinking water had to be fetched from the neighbouring villages. The high rate of surface run off, due to high degree of slope and lack of vegetative cover had washed away the top fertile layer of the soils. Barely 20 ha of the village area was under irrigation. As a consequence the agricultural production was too meagre to support and sustain the livelihoods of the people particularly the resource poor farmers. Not even 30% of the food grain requirements could be met from rain-fed mono-cropping practised in the village. About 45% of the villagers had a single meal/per day and about one-third of the households missed their meals every alternate day.
The poor farmers and agricultural laborers forced by their poor economic conditions had only two options - either to migrate to nearby cities of Pune and Bombay to find some manual mobs or join the army of laborers working under Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Government by commuting a distance of about 22 km daily. Any short fall in the earnings had to be met by borrowing from the money lenders (Sahukars), the Shylocks of the times. The inability to repay the loans often led to further indebtness and bondage. An enterprising villager being depressed by his impoverished condition went to the neighbouring village and mastered the technique of distilling liquor by using 'Shindi' grass which grew in abundance in the area. His success attracted many more in the trade and by 1975 as many as 40 illicit liquor distilling stills came up. Even school children fell in the den of drinking. The wide spread alcoholism brought many undesirable and anti-social elements and the village emerged prominently on the crime records of the police department who along with money lenders exploited every bit of opportunity for their selfish ends.
Fig. 1: Location map of case study village
The combination of poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, indebtness, mutual suspicion, use of money and muscle power for malpractices, not only shattered the village economy but also degraded the social/community life. Majority of children were denied access to education - hardly 10% children attended schools, drop out rates were high. It was difficult for girls to step out in village streets which were full of rogues and drunkards. Social strife and tension became routine, conflicts and crimes were common. The community was divided along the lines of caste, creed, political following and economic status. Thefts, arrests, extravagance on festivals and marriages, funeral rites, discrimination against lower castes (dalits) and atrocities on women were common. Women had to bear the brunt of drunk males in various forms. Children were denied of their basic rights to minimum needs, women were humiliated and all the old value systems and cultural norms of a civilized society had receded to the rock level.
The devastating drought of 1972 made the situation from bad to worse. The Government in its bid to help fight the drought, constructed a percolation tank but due to faulty design, lack of supervision, and high rate of percolation, it failed to serve the purpose. Another help came from Tata Relief Committee and Catholic Relief Society in the form of construction of check dams, deepening of wells and provisions for medical relief. Despite all these, much could not be achieved in any of these initiatives due to lack of people's participation.
Creation of a common platform
Identification of the most pressing common problem
Initiating the process of change at individual level
Socialization of costs and surpluses
Democratic decision making process
Social reform with strict discipline
Need-based planned socio-economic development
Cooperative management system
Special focus on women
Facilitating village organizations
The base-line situation shows that the conditions in the village were rather hostile to any reconstructive initiative for an outside agent. In this critical situation, Mr. Kisan Baburao Anna Hazare, popularly regarded as 'Anna' (elder brother) appeared on the scene (life sketch and achievements in box). He was shocked to see the pitiable condition of the villagers, particularly the resource poor farmers' women and the children. The man, Anna Hazare, with a high level of confidence and with his life's sole aim of service to the people, resolved to intervene to bring about a change in the situation. His guiding factor was "it is better to light a candle than blaming the darkness". The approaches/methods used by him for the participation of farmers in natural resource management works are highlighted below.
First of all, Anna went through a careful envisioning of the deteriorating situation in village life and decided to initiate through religion-moral undercurrent by persuading the people for reconstruction of Sant Yadava Baba temple. But he failed to impress and influence the people at large, primarily because the people were too busy with their own business and the worldly affairs.
The second step was to set up examples by self-practising rather than mere preaching as Mahatma Gandhi used to do. Initially it went on unnoticed but in due course it gathered momentum. Particularly, he tried to organize the youths of the village under 'Tarun Mandal' (youth organization). Besides, participation from all the sections of society was ensured and encouraged. Thus, the construction of temple was completed by voluntary labor only.
Keeping all the differences and disparities aside, a common platform and meeting ground was created in the form of Sant Yadav Baba's temple. People started sitting in groups during evenings and discussing about the affairs of the village and common concern. Thus, the process of friendship, cooperation and communication started.
Mr. Anna Hazare himself took this initiative. During informal chats he started quoting the sayings of great men like Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave etc. He also used the ideals of Sant Yadav Baba whose memories were still alive in the minds of the people. Bhajans (hymns) and religious discourses etc., in the early hours of the day through public address system from the temples were used to enlighten the people. Thus, a change in the general attitude of the people was brought about by moral cleansing. This process facilitated the people of different castes and class to be at equal footings in mental/moral level and the differences among the people started sinking. Untouchable (dalits) were allowed to enter the temple and share their thoughts with others.
Anna himself invested all the money he had (Rs. 20,000) for purchasing building materials for the temple before asking others to contribute. He started living in the temple with a resolve to remain a bachelor and broke all his family ties as a form of penance. He has not visited his parents, who live at a stone's throw distance from the Guest House, for the last 17 years. Villagers were impressed by his sense of sincerity, selflessness and sacrifice and he emerged as their undisputed leader by winning the hearts of the people.
The main reason of disintegration, division and distress of the village society was the lack of a sound livelihood support system. The economy of the village was agrarian and shortage of water for irrigation was the major constraint to its development. Thus, assured availability of water was collectively identified as the top priority in a meeting of villagers.
The Gandhian dictum is that change should begin at the level of individuals. If the individuals change, the village will change; and if the villages change, the country will change. This can be clearly observed in the approach followed in case of village Ralegan Siddhi. Stress on personal morality, abstaining from alcohol, cigarettes and from non-vegetarian foods are essential components of a voluntary personal code of conduct imposed by the community itself on the village. Besides, it has been linked with a broader vision of social morality encompassing social equality and egalitarian distribution of benefits of growth. The concept of personal morality has been chiefly drawn from Hindu religion. An oath for giving up drinking was taken up by the villagers at the temple. Personal and social morality have been interlinked nicely to serve as the foundation of the new social order. Untouchability and discrimination of dalits have been vanished.
In the implementation of resource management activities e.g. developing public utilities, tree planting, deepening of wells etc., voluntary labor (Shramdan) is an essential component. This has helped in socializing the costs and has helped develop a sense of belonging among the people, in addition to lowering labor costs of the activities. In addition, 25% of the surplus generated from community resources are set aside as village funds which is utilized for other community projects. Special attention is paid to the development of the deprived sections. This safety set has helped greatly in securing the participation of the resource poor farmers. Assistance to cultivation of harijan's land by better off farmers, provision of grain bank to make foodgrains available during slack periods at low cost, construction of masonry (pucca) houses for harijans with the support of community etc. have helped in reducing the disparities and strengthening the sense of togetherness.
People in the village are not the blind followers of Anna. Every new initiative is thoroughly discussed in village meetings. Pros and cons of any new initiative are considered. Plans for implementation of a particular scheme and code of conduct are openly discussed and a select group of people carry out and supervise the works. Thus, at every stage the involvement of people in decision-making is very important.
Once the decision is taken by the villagers to eradicate a particular social evil, it is implemented with strict discipline in letter and spirit. As in case of drinking, any one found drunk in the village used to be tied up with the pillar of the temple and beaten by the military belt of 'Anna'. Since it used to be a collective decision nobody could dare oppose it. Similarly dowry and extravagance have been curbed.
Since all the decisions pertaining to launching of any scheme are taken in village assembly, the decisions reflect the needs and aspirations of the community. For example, the top priority was accorded to the rain water harvesting and management of the four village watersheds. Every drop of rain was trapped by developing a drainage system, trenches, check dams, drainage plugs, percolation tank etc. by developing and designing micro-watershed specific schemes. This initiative recharged the ground water and now enough water is available all year round at 6.5 m depth as compared to the ground water depth of 20 in earlier. This was followed by regeneration of plants, grasses, development of best locally suited farming systems, continuous watch and monitoring of water distributions to irrigate crops in a judicious manner, selection of crops according to soil moisture and needs of the people. Organic manure is prepared by the farmers by using human and animal wastes as well as crop residues.
Similarly, to meet basic minimum needs of the people solar street lights, community latrines, biogas plants for cooking and above all a well managed high school are installed and being satisfactorily run. Today, not only the children from the village but also from the cities like Bombay and Pune come to study in the village school. The preference is given to the so called "spoiled" children in admissions to encourage these children.
Most of the villagers are farmers. Hence, it is beyond their repaying power to go for bank loans for irrigation wells individually. To overcome this problem, cooperative system of irrigation has been evolved. Two or more farmers develop the source collectively, share the water equitably and repay the bank loan in proportion to the land irrigated by that source. This system has enabled an access to irrigation even to the poorest of poor farmer on equal terms. To avoid any confusion or misuse of water, Water Ration Cards are maintained by farmers. Each farmer can use the water as per his/her allotment. A second turn to any farmer is allowed only when all the farmers have taken their first term.
The availability of drinking water, fodder, toilet facilities, bathroom etc. have reduced the drudgery of women. The moral upliftment of the village has improved the status of women at home and in society, due to change in attitudes of men towards women. Mahila Mandals (Women's Groups) manage the women-specific issues. Besides, all women's panchayat (assembly) is another step to encourage the participation of women: The village milk dairy is run by women. Atrocities on women are taken up very seriously and the culprit is dealt with strictly. Even husbands are not spared. However, it still needs more time for women to attain equality with man. A scheme of sewing, cloth cutting and tailoring has failed particularly due to low demand and lower returns. Lack of marketing strategy is the prime cause of failure. In general due to added development activities, the load on women in field and home activities has increased but they feel that they have regained their lost dignity and have equal participation in decision making process, today.
To manage the affairs, village organization have been developed for smooth functioning of each and every activity. The broad administrative organization diagram is given in Fig. 2.
Each of these units are separately registered societies with fair degree of independence and are competent enough to take operational decisions. Thus, in all the above approaches people and moral values enjoy the centre stage, and common good is the sole aim.
Big achievements of a small man
Kishan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, a slightly built, short statured soft-spoken person with small deep set eyes and clad in dhoti, kurta and Gandhi cap hardly looks the sort of person who can create a miracle in community-based sustainable -watershed management with people's participation.
He was born on 15 January, 1940, in a small village called Bhingar of Ahmadnagar District in Maharastra state of India where his grandfather served in army and his father worked as an unskilled worker in an Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy.
In 1952, after the retirement of his grandfather his father resigned his job and returned to his native village Ralegan Siddhi in the same district where he owned 15 acres of degraded land. It was a real problem for his father to support a big family comprising half a dozen children. So Anna Hazare, on the request of his issueless aunt (father's sister) was sent with her to Bombay to continue his studies.
He passed 7th standard. By then his father had mortgaged part of his land and was badly debt-ridden. So Anna being the eldest son decided to support his father and started working on a flower shop for Rs. 401- a month. This was not enough. After gaming some experience he started his own shop and called two of his younger brothers also. He could earn Rs. 700-800 a month. But unfortunately he fell in bad company and in a scuffle he thrashed some one badly and was wanted by police. Fearing arrest he fled back to village where he came to know about military recruitment. He joined army as truck driver in 1960.
During Indo-Pak war in 1965 and again in Nagaland during insurgency he had miraculous escapes while all his colleagues were killed. Being far away from family and friends he was so deeply depressed that at one point of time he decided to commit suicide but for the marriage of his younger sister he changed his mind. While travelling via Delhi he noticed a book 'Call To The Youth For Nation Building' by Swami Vivekananda. He studied that book and many other works of Swami, Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave and got a clear message and mission for life in the service of humanity. He took voluntary retirement and settled in his native village in 1975.
The situation of the village was at the peak of its deterioration. Poverty, illiteracy, degradation of natural resources, theft, corruption, alcoholism, infights, lawlessness and many other vices were common. He was shocked to see all this and was baffled, and did not know from where to start and how?
He started with the renovation of a temple, for which he spent all his money, snapped his ties with the family, decided not to marry, and started living in the temple. Initially nobody extended a helping hand but his sincerity influenced young and old alike. Since he was 35 years old, neither too young nor too old, he could communicate and link with both young and old effectively. He organised youths and with their support eradicated alcoholism, a root cause of many vices in his village. The village assembly collective decided to beat publicly any body found drunk. The temple served as commons platform for meetings for all, without any consideration of caste, creed or economic background.
He always stressed on consensus decision in village assembly, based on which he started with watershed management as the shortage of water was the most acute problem in his village. Five voluntary codes were decided. These were: ban on open grazing and felling of trees, control on population growth (family planning), dowry and alcoholism. Structures were created to conserve every drop of water by using simple but effective technology through 'shramdan' (voluntary labor). Five hundred thousand trees have been planted. Ground water is recharged. Irrigation potential increased from 0.5 % in 1975 to 70 % in 1985. Agriculture production increased by four times. Thus, now there is enough food, fodder, fruit, firewood etc. in the village, not only for own consumption but surplus for export also. In the 1995 only, onion worth Rs. 8,000,000 (aprox. US$ 230,000) has been sold by the village. Now there is an intermediate college, post office, bank, cooperative societies, solar street lights, low-cost latrines, bio-gas plants, training centre for watershed management etc. in the village.
His basic approach has been to change the individual through moral cleansing, collective effort, use of simple but effective technology, special focus on weak and women and above all participation of all in every program. Today he is leading this program in 300 counties (talukas) of Maharastra on the request of the Government of India.
For his contributions, he has been very rightly honoured by the Government of India. His decorations include, Padma Bibhusan, Vriksh Mitra Puraskar, Krishi Bhushan etc.
This is in fact, a success story from poverty to prosperity by the efforts of a son of the soil.
The insights gained from the experience of Ralegan Siddhi may be identified as below:
- Involvement and participation of the people is possible provided there is a committed and sincere leadership to educate, organize and motivate the people for the attainment of a common goal.
- Voluntary action either by an individual or people is an extremely vital factor to promote, facilitate and catalyze people's participation in sustainable village development.
- A mix of commitment with flexibility, sensitivity, innovativeness and autonomy are essential for success.
- Holistic approaches to people's participation in sustainable development are necessary for involving people whole heartedly. The approach being employed must have the potential to generate the spirit of cooperation, caring and sharing, adjustment, harmony, self-help, self-reliance and special emphasis on the resource poor farmers particularly women.
- Need-based planned initiatives and their proper priorization by the people themselves through democratic decisions with focus on the poorest and weakest and proper consideration for gender issues ensures better and fuller participation.
- If economic downfall is followed by moral downfall, than moral upliftment is also followed by economic upliftment. Assured economic benefits attract participation of the people.
- The first benefit must go to the poorest of the poor and first input must come from the richest of the rich to sustain the emotions and confidence of the poor. It is a successful method to bring people together. Once they come together they talk, discuss, plan and act collectively and share the costs and benefits in a just manner.
- Any process aiming at arousing people's participation must start with the individuals.
- Sustained efforts over considerable long period of time are required for the people to gain confidence for self-development.
- The basic components of environment, particularly land, water and vegetation are the vital links to bring rural people together as their livelihoods are closely dependent on these natural resources.
Fig. 2: Organization diagram of village Ralegan Siddhi
Achievements at Ralegan Siddhi
- Leadership in voluntary action does not need any formal degree of education. Anna Hazare is a 7th standard pass retired military truck driver. But it demands a high degree of selflessness, egalitarian attitude, foresight and humane virtues to win the trust of the people.
- Moral cleansing is a necessary step to remind people of their moral and social obligations as well as to sensibilize them for community/collective action.
- Rich and poor, high and low, men and women, can cooperate with each other if there is a sound reason and shared concern.
- Any effort to arouse people's participation must touch the basic day to day needs and must ease out people's hardships and help in their self-development.
- Voluntary codes with strict discipline approved by the people themselves do miracles.
- The efforts at participation must he total. No one in the community must be left out of the fold of the process.
- Strict formal rules and regulation are not necessary for encouraging people's participation in natural resource management in a watershed for sustainable development. People themselves can develop their moral codes for cooperation.
- Shramdan (voluntary labor) is a no cost method to bring people together for common good.
- People understand their environment much better than anybody else from outside. Hence, people's participation is an essential element and pre-requisite for, any development initiative to be successful. Hence, it needs to be designed into development programs from the beginning.
- The initiatives to mobilize people should be people/community and place specific. Any kind of generalization may be harmful.
- The weak, poor and women need special consideration and concessions for their fuller participation.
- The efforts for participatory watershed development must aim at the improvement in the quality of life of the people and should be designed for people first.
- Successful abolition of social evils like alcoholism, dowry, corruption and the caste system. These changes paved the way for positive steps to development.
- Successful implementation of voluntary codes e.g. ban on grazing, protection of green cover, check on extravagance on marriages etc.
- Social acceptance of the use of public toilets for biogas.
- Successful implementation of development schemes through cooperatives with the support of Government and bank loans. No aid is taken either from national or foreign agencies.
- Regeneration of watershed resources through people's participation, a living example of watershed development and management.
- Successful involvement of the people in formation of development schemes in a democratic way through village meetings. It has also shown that participatory sustainable development is possible.
- Non-degrading and sustainable utilization of natural resources as well as generating alternative sources of income to enhance the economy at family and village levels.
- Development of agriculture and allied sectors by better farming practices and cropping patterns, judicious use of water by introducing drip irrigation system, yield enhancement etc. as a result the village where nearly three-fourth population was below poverty line, has become self sufficient and is surplus in food grains, today.
- The quality of life of women and people belonging to backward classes because of special attention and focus have improved appreciably.
- Strengthening of infrastructure life drinking water, sanitary facilities, biogas, postal, baking, roads, schools, health centres etc. with the participation of the community and by availing Government schemes.
- Development of managerial skills and capability among people with low level of education, exposure and training.
- Evolving social techniques to establish civil control over public spaces and creation of a civil society which is responsible to itself and its environment and responsive to the needs of its members.
- Enough scope for women for self development.
- An appreciable change in the attitude of the people with high degree of moral standards and ethics.
- Over all improvement in the quality of life of the people, and conservation and use of the natural resources in a very sustainable manner.
- Though there has been tremendous improvement in the status of women and much has been done yet more remains to be done to involve them fully in the process. This means that women development needs specialized and extra effort.
- There is no effort towards the development of agro-based rural/small scale industries to enhance the value of the products and keep the participation of the people intact.
- The managerial capability is weak and it is reflected in the failure of cloth cutting and tailoring scheme and thereby weakening the participating of women.
- It is not easy to find a devote and committed leader like Anna Hazare in the second generation to keep the process going. His effort to choose a leader so far remains unresponded.
- Moral cleansing at individual level in today's materialistic world where personal liberties and human rights come in the way is a very difficult proposition and may pose problems in other areas.
- Ralegan Siddhi village has more or less a homogeneous character having groups of people with not much economic disparity or diversity in caste/religion. The Neo-Buddhists are close to Hindus so there was no problem but in case of Muslims, Christians or Sikhs being part of the society it may be difficult to organize them along religious line.
- Anna has been the undisputed leader of the village and nobody objected to the initiatives floated by him. At the most there used to be only mild queries on the part of the villagers, in case of disagreement. It may not be so easy to generalize the dedicated leader driven approach.
- It is easier to transform a virgin and underdeveloped area like Ralegan but very difficult to develop semi-developed areas. Though Ralegan has made tremendous progress, its impact on the neighbouring villagers is minimal so far.
The case study shows the success of Gandhian approach to people's participation in watershed management. Since 1975, this has resulted into participation of all the 325 village families, renovation of a temple, stopping illicit liquor distillation, water harvesting in 4 small watersheds, construction of many check dams, plantation of five hundred thousand forest trees, controlled grazing, raising of ground water level from 20 m depth to 6.5 m, sale of onions worth Rs. 80 million in 1995 alone (exchange rate in June 1995 1 US$ = Rs. 31.3), solar street lights, village toilets, biogas, organic farming, introduction of livestock, a full high school, institutionalization of decision making at village assembly level, local voluntary organizational capacity building, acceptance and application of voluntary code of conduct, formation of different action committees, etc.
The success has made the Government of India to request the leader (Mr. Anna Hazare) to take up the program in 300 counties (talukas) of Maharastra state.
The major elements responsible for the successful people's participation in watershed management at the Ralegan Siddhi village are: emergence of local leadership, underpinning of moral sanctions for all, voluntary moral codes e.g. ban on uncontrolled grazing and tree cutting etc., GO/NGO partnership, involvement of all sections of society, holistic and sustained development over long time (10-20 years), use of simple, appropriate but efficient technology for watershed management, primacy of village assembly in decision making. The only weakness sighted with this model of people's participation in watershed management has been that it is driven by a strong and highly motivated local leader which is the case of most Gandhian models of development. It is still to be seen if it is replicable when it is tested on the 300 proposed counties.
It gives me immense pleasure in expressing my gratitude to ANGOC for assigning this interesting study to AVARD, the national focal point (NFP) for PCSD, and the management of AVARD for providing me this opportunity and expressing confidence in me to do this study.
May I take this opportunity to thank Shri Anna Hazare, his office Secretary Shri Raja Ramji of Ralegan Siddhi village and Shri Sanab of SACRED, Aurangabad, for facilitating the study in various ways during the field work. I also thank Shri Keshar Singh for his excellent secretarial support.
The Farmer-centred Agriculture Resource Management (FARM) Program is an Asian Program of the UNDP/FAO/UNIDO for support to sustainable food security in China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. As a child of Earth Summit, FARM is designed to support the implementation of Agenda 21, with a focus on the major problems of agriculture resources degradation and poverty. The ultimate goal of FARM is improved conservation, management and utilization (for improved household food security and poverty alleviation) of agricultural resources by resource-poor communities and farm households in Asian rainfed areas.
List of Publications of PWMTA-FARM
I. ASIAN WATMANET Newsletters
Issue No. 1, theme:
WMTUH and FARM Introduction
Issue No. 2, theme:
Status of Watershed Management in Asia
Issue No. 3. theme:
Issue No. 4, theme:
Policy Issues in Watershed Management
Issue No. 5, theme:
Gender Framework for Resource Management
Issue No. 6, theme:
Participatory Watershed Management Training
Issue No. 7. theme:
Gaps in Participatory Watershed Management Training and Education in Asia
Issue No. 8. theme:
Envisioning of WM professionals
Issue No, 9. theme:
Participatory processes in integrated WM
Issue No. 10, theme:
Land use titling - a key to people's participation in WM
Issue No. 11, theme:
Membership Directory (Edition I and II)
II. Field Documents
Status of watershed management in Asia
A rapid review of the NWDPRA in India
Case study of people's participation in WM in Nepal (BTRT area), in Nepalese language
Case studies of people's participation in WM in Asia:
Part 1: Nepal. China and India
Case studies of people's participation in WM in Asia:
Pan 2: Sri Lanka. Thailand and Vietnam.
Recent developments, status and gaps in participatory watershed management training and education in Asia
Participatory processes for integrated WM
Farmer-led integrated upland WM - A trainers' manual (in press)