Like in many other parts of India, people of Bundelkhand have known water scarcity in the past and continue to engage in a battle for water security. Dhikoli is one such village in Bundelkhand which was regularly ravaged by droughts, and the farmers were living a hand to mouth existence. In despair, about 40 per cent of the local population was forced to migrate in search of work for several months every year.
Development Alternatives had been working in Bundelkhand for the last 4 decades. Through innovations, testing and refining alternative methods and models of development we have made several interventions. The focus has been on comprehensive watershed management approach to slow down water flows in the rainy season to recharge aquifers flowing the slopes of the land, ensuring proper drainage and irrigation of farmlands.
We started working in Dhikoli in 2011 and there was no looking back since then. A watershed management plan was jointly designed and implemented, largely through Shramdaan (voluntary labour), where the community contributed substantially by digging the earth, carrying large rocks, and even small amounts of money in some cases. The fortunes changed immediately and dramatically. And the communities demonstrated a new respect for water as the source of their lives – “Aapo bija – bhuta jagata”, as they call it in the Vedic language. To ensure Dhikoli remains water secure, water budgeting exercises were undertaken, and the village collectively agreed to adopt water efficient practices and avoid water intensive crops. But it did not stop there. A low-cost technology for natural treatment and recycling of domestic wastewater was introduced. A watershed committee maintains the infrastructure and monitors consumption. An assured supply for both major farming seasons, and sometimes even a third one, is now guaranteed. Dhikoli, today, is a climate resilient water positive village, and is recognised as a model of integrated water resource management and what is possible when people are determined to work together to bring about change.
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