Population: 400
Initiation of water harvesting: 1995

Gandhigram is today experiencing reverse migration. "When I learnt our village has enough water and agricultural work, I decided to return and work in my own fields," said Mohanbhai, a villager, who returned from Muscat.

Since 1995, Gandhigram has consistently built its water harvesting infrastructure with the help of the Shri Vivekanand Research and Training Institute (vrti), an ngo and contributions from the drda, government of India and private donors.

In 2000, when the dte team visited the village there were 4 big dams, 30 small ones and 31 nullah plugs. "Today, we have 5 big dams, 72 small ones and 72 nullah plugs in the village" says Bhimji Premji Chowdhry, president, Gram Vikas Mandal .

These structures have helped in drought proofing this village. During 2001, although the village received only 165 mm rainfall as against the average of 340 mm, the reservoirs were brimming with water. Groundwater was recharged and villagers received an uninterrupted piped water supply from their well. The distribution of this water is managed by a pani sanchalan samiti , a local body that collects Rs 3 per month from each household, towards operation and maintenance costs. Villagers prefer to pay and get water rather than depend on the government's unreliable water supply system.

Villagers have also set up the pani vitharan samiti (pvs), a village institution to manage water. "After the rains, we visit reservoirs to assess the quantity of water harvested and the extent of land that can be irrigated with it. Accordingly, villagers discuss the crop pattern and individual requirement," informs Mohanbhai, president, pvs. This local body also prepares a time schedule for farmers to irrigate their fields. Farmers pay Rs 250 per ha for irrigation water. "These deposits are earmarked for maintenance of the structures," informed Arvindbhai, secretary, pvs. For instance, this fund was used for repairing cracks caused by the earthquake in January 2001.

Sensible water management practices have yielded results. "This year we were able to grow groundnut in nearly 121 ha and 50 ha of land was brought under rabi cultivation," says Gangaram Lalji Chowdhary, a villager.

Gandhigram's success does not stop here. It topped in groundnut production in Mandvi district this year. The villagers also introduced new crops like wheat, onion and jeera (cumin) and increased their agricultural yield. Profits flowed in. Work availability has also benefited landless labourers.

These riches were channelled back into the village. In April 2002, farmers repaid Rs 2.5 lakh out of the Rs 5 lakh loan from Mandvi Gramin Bank for the construction of the Lokshakti dam (see Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 16, January 15, 2000). They also invested Rs 2 lakh in fencing the village to protect their crops from wild animals. "Another indicator of economic growth is the increase in the number of tractors from two in 2000 to 14 in 2001," says Arvindbhai.

"The village is now planning a cooperative for processing and marketing agricultural products," says Kanzariah, director, VRTI. Rainwater harvesting is paying dividends.
Source: A Midsummer dream, Down to Earth, June 30, 2002

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