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Our latest report is from a recent site visit last month by IDEX’s Executive Director, Vini Bhansali. Take a read at this eye-opening on-the-ground report to see how your donations to this project are being put to this inspiring and effective work!
After a 4-hour journey from Jodhpur, Shashi Tyagi, Rahul Mishra, Abdul (all GRAVIS employees) and I arrive in Kolu Nimbyat village in Western Rajasthan’s rural desert area. I’ve spent most of the trip marveling at the effects of abundant rainfall this July and August. For the first time in almost 3 years in Rajasthan the monsoon has brought enough water. While I cannot describe Jodhpur’s landscape as “lush,” relative to past years there is green everywhere. Cows, buffalos, goats and even dogs that are usually skin and bones in drought-ridden Rajasthan now have some fat on their bones.
Our first stop is at the home of Poonam Kanwar. Poonam planted her garden in 2007 with sesame, lemons, watermelons, cucumbers, moong (a nutritious Indian lentil), moth (another Indian lentil), cluster beans or guar, bor (desert fruit) and millet or bajra. She demonstrates her homegrown drip irrigation system made with earthen pots. Poonam also uses natural pesticides that she makes with cow dung and indigenous herbs. The garden is beautifully tended to and the whole family has seen their health improve since they started eating this nutrition rich diet from their garden.
The Government of India has many agricultural programs for desert areas. One of which is to provide families with 50 units of seedlings and plants. This can be counter-productive for many rural families who simply do not have access to sufficient water to take care of household needs. Let alone tend to animals, and manage a large food garden.
GRAVIS supports families with 4 main crops and no more than 16 seedlings. This is a more manageable amount. It allows families to experiment with growing drought tolerant and indigenous crops. As they adopt more sustainable farming methods they are able to yield more food for their families. They can also use conserved water to gradually increase the size of their gardens. It’s another indication of how holistic, integrated approaches to rural development recognize that water and food security are deeply connected.
One of the impacts of increased water security is that women and girls now have more time available. They all too frequently spend hours each day walking to and fro from water sources. By having access to a taanka close to their homes they instantly have time available to do other things from attending school, developing small businesses, tending to many other family matters, and becoming more involved in community activities.
GRAVIS seeks to engage the women in a variety of other project activities that will empower and encourage them to be more involved in their communities. In the case of girls, GRAVIS encourages their parents to send them to school. For women, they may have the option to attend vocational trainings organized by GRAVIS.
In the past 3 months, 20 women have been able to attend a 2-3 day training workshop to improve their vocational skills. Women learned about knitting and embroidery by making cushions covers for mobile phones and jewelry bags. The jewelry bags are in huge demand during weddings season and for festivals in India. These will be a good source of income.
GRAVIS was also able to organize medical camps that offered consulations by 2 doctors and a village health worker to 10 communities serving 520 people. The medical camps offer health care to people who would have difficulty accessing such care. They made a concerted effort to reach women and offer training on nutrition, reproductive care and common complaints of coughs and colds.
By donating to GRAVIS you are ensuring more women and girls can benefit from improved water security.
Thank you for your support.
On Tuesday, March 16, all donations up to $1,000 per donor, per project will be matched. Donate on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, and maximize your gift.
Low rainfall in India in 2009 has lead to the government officially declaring it a drought year. This drought is impacts Rajasthan badly. Water, which was already scarce to begin with, has led to a loss of crop and animals, vital resources and has led many to migrate to cities.
Despite these challenges, GRAVIS has been working with rural farmers and villagers to help them better manage their water supplies. From their latest report:
• Horticultural training has provided the necessary skills to save approximately 75% of plants that are typically unable to survive drought conditions
• At least 150 farmers have adopted bio-fertilizers
• Many farmers agreed to take on the seeds used in demonstrations on an experimental basis after they received training at the Central Arid Zone Research Institute last year. These are seeds that are drought tolerant.
• 50 farmers and 120 villagers attended trainings on agricultural practices, livestock rearing, composting and seed selection and storage.
• 15 members of local grassroots organizations participated in trainings on drought preparedness advocacy to share with their communities.
• 60 women have improved their vocational skills that allow them to generate household income.
Taankas have also been shown to be key in providing water security. 41 taankas were constructed by November. Fully-filled taankas can save families 300-400 rupees (about $7-$9) per month for approximately 4-6 months. Despite the drought in 2009, all taankas constructed by August were able capture up to 4-5 feet of water. This is an amount will meet a family’s typical requirements for 2-3 months, saving them a significant amount of money. As a result, at least 20 taanka beneficiaries are planning to send their girl children to school.
It is estimated 700 families (4,200 people) have benefited from taankas and agriculture and horticultural training.
Collectively these methods serve to reduce the impact of a drought year, but more work can still be done to improve water access.
Villagers in remote villages in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, where this project takes place, rely on traditional water harvesting structures. These structures- called “taankas”— provide them water in dry periods. Kushlawa is one such village. Like many villages, drinking water is a major problem here.
Dhapu Devi is 73 years old and lives in Kushlawa. Her family has 10 members. They are dependant on farming, and erratic rains are increasingly affecting their crops. The family struggles with extreme poverty and previously had no way to store drinking water. For many years, Dhapu and other women in her extended family had to walk 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) everyday. Even then, they barely had enough for drinking water and other daily necessities.
With the help of GRAVIS and supporters like you, the family now has a new taanka.
The taanka has relieved the family – especially the women and girls— from the arduousness of water fetching drudgery.
They now have enough water for drinking and the water is clean. Because of this, they are protected from various infectious diseases and their overall health is improving. They are also able bathe regularly, and they are saving both money- to buy necessary items for daily life- and time.
And families like Dhapu’s can use all the time they can get for farming activities. Even better, 3 girls from the family have started going to school regularly as they no longer need to spend their time making multiple trips to a pond every day.
“We are happier and healthier,” says Dhapu. “Our new taanka has given us a new life.” Now has never been a better time to support other families like Dhapu’s reach similar levels of health and success!
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IDEX Latin America Program Director