integrated approach in a Rs.365-crore project funded by the World
Bank appears to have worked wonders in some 600 villages in the
hills of Himachal Pradesh, fetching higher self-sustaining incomes
and literacy for its residents.
Take the panchayat of Gopalpur. It has three villages with a total
area of 295 hectares where its 1,862 people were once largely
nomadic, with animal husbandry and farming as the main vocation,
prior to the Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project.
In five years of the project since 2006-07, the enrolment in
primary school has gone up five times, since seasonal migration of
three-four months during winters has come down to under 15
percent, and children are able to reap the benefits of education.
"What the project did was to integrate water, forest, land, humans
and animals," said gram pradhan Anil Kumar. "Each of these areas
had groups of 20-25 people to oversee the progress and the results
are there for you to see," Kumar told a visiting IANS
The 48-year-old village chieftain, who spoke in a local dialect,
said it involved five 'Js' in Hindi -- jal, jungle, jameen, jan
and janwar -- as a result of which people now feel secure, settled
and at peace with the habitat.
According to Lal Chand Patyal, a senior bureaucrat in the Himacal
Pradesh Forest Department now on deputation to this project, the
villages are now also able to earn more not just from milk but
also by selling compost, vegetables and knitted shawls.
"Since water was the focus, we built reservoirs, storage tanks and
provided for rain water harvesting. But we also helped with seeds
for high-value crop, vermi-composting and fencing of meadows to
prevent indiscriminate grazing," he said.
"Now grass for cattle is at hand throughout the year. So migration
has stopped. Family incomes have also risen -- like Rs.500 per
month from selling compost, Rs.3,500 per month from selling shawls
and a lot more from selling high-value vegetables."
Manju Devi, one of the project motivators who once found it
difficult to adjust in the village as a young bride 10 years ago
due to the migration and hardship, looked content and said after
initial hiccups, people had taken to the project.
"What's also very good about this project is most things it offers
are not free. We have to participate too. So there is a sense of
belonging. We did have some apprehensions earlier. But now we say
get us more such projects," added villager Jindo Devi.
The villagers also deputed one of their youth, Vijay Kumar, for
yearlong training at the veterinary department of the Himachal
Pradesh Agriculture University in Palampur. Now, they no longer
depend on outside help to tend to the immediate needs of ailing
With help from the project, villages also installed a bulk cooler
for milk to prevent it from spoiling fast and set up a mechanism
to collectively transport the produce directly to agencies, thus
"So the price they get is naturally higher. At the same time, each
family also saves a lot in terms of half a manday that was
required to ferry the milk and bus fare of Rs.20 per day. All this
works out to around Rs.42,160 per month," said Patyal.
"Mandays saved mean more avenues for income. People are then also
free to work under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee
Act). They also tend to the grass in the reserve areas, plant
trees and grow high-value vegetables," he said.
"This has certainly helped in soil and water conservation and
provided for more fuel wood, fodder and money. But above all this,
children attend schools without fear of constant displacement and
the local bio-diversity has really improved."
Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)