The last of our community visits were to tribal villages around Udaipur. These were facilitated by the NGO Wells for India. The main theme of Wells for India is about getting communities mobilized to solve and fund their own projects.
In the first village we visited, we met with farmers who had decided efficient and judicious ways of irrigation from groundwater. Two large reservoirs were built, and one groundwater pump is used to fill that reservoir. 12 families divide that water, and irrigation is distributed on a rotating schedule. Excess water in the tank is infiltrated back into the ground to recharge the groundwater. A number of traditional water management techniques are used as well, such as stone walls to terrace sloped fields, which help reduce runoff from the fields.
This community also invested in scientific information. They fundraised amongst themselves and received donor funds to build a weather station. Indra, a 19 year old girl, explained to us how the weather station works, where she keeps her measurements, and how her information is used to help farmers determine when to take action, such as protecting against frost or when to sow seeds. She was a confident speaker and was so clearly proud of her contribution to her community. It’s beautiful to see people empowered like her.
The second village we visited was even more remote, causing us to finally abandon our bus and walk a kilometer (though they were kind enough to also send some men on bikes to fetch us for that short leg!). Aleppan village (spelling not verified) is very mountainous and has several monsoon streams. They pooled money to build a small dam on the stream in order to be able to retain more water after the monsoon season to use for irrigation. The birds were clearly happy with this situation – we saw many beautiful egrets, cranes and possibly a flamingo.
I have been amazed on this trip to see how welcoming villagers are when we visit. I think it’s a mix of curiosity about outsiders with a genuine pride in their work. What more could someone hope for, really, than to be proud of what they’re doing in life?