By Saurabh Srivastava, Ellora Mubashir, PhD and Debarchita Sinha
The community-led project Samridhi in the villages of Behror block of Alwar district of Rajasthan is a CSR initiative of Pernod Ricard India Foundation, implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation. It began in 2019 in five villages, and is now in fifteen villages, till March 2023.
Increasing the Availability of Water
Reducing groundwater is the only source of irrigation, and water scarcity results in lower crop yield. Project Samridhi undertook initiatives both for water harvesting and water conservation. Three check dams, twelve recharge wells, and six ponds, with an annual groundwater recharge potential of about 133.05 million liters of water, have been built. With increased soil moisture content, the water requirement for irrigation has been reduced. The annual water-saving capacity created in wheat, the largest crop that is mostly flood irrigated, among the prevailing crops of millet, mustard, jowar, and cotton, is 195 million liters in 300 acres using laser leveling, 118 million liters in 118 acres using mini sprinklers, and 60 million liters in 80 acres using farm bunding.
Promoting better Agricultural Practices
Agricultural land in villages is much degraded, also resulting in lower crop yields, which the farmers supplement mostly with urea and DAP. However, the soil remains macro and micro-nutrients deficient. Besides the farmers also practiced an incorrect way of composting.
A two-pronged regenerative approach by setting up demonstrations of a scientific Package of Practices (PoP) based on soil testing and demonstrations on Waste Decomposer Composting was taken. So far, 403 demonstrations have been showcased through Farmer Field Days (FFDs), on millet and mustard, and twenty-seven FFDs have been held, reaching to 3,296 farmers.
Creating Enabling School Environment
Government school in village Karoda has been transformed benefiting 250 students, as well as sixteen staff. Improvements include the provision of water and sanitation facility, roof water harvesting, school infrastructure like classroom repair, wall paintings, ‘Swachchhta vahini’ (toilet block), and other amenities. As a result, average enrolment has increased by about 32 percent.
The digital and life skills awareness course empowers students to access government programs, and build their social and emotional skills. 331 students completed the six-month course, between April 2019 to March 2022.
Establishing Community-Based Institutions
Gram Sangathans (GS), were formed in each village to oversee, assist, and ensure sustainability. Twenty community leaders, with 30 percent women make the GS. Trained for a period of one year, the GS is responsible for collecting community contribution, liasioning for government schemes, organizing awareness drives, among others. So far, the GS has linked 211 farmers to government subsidy of INR 9,78,751 for mini-sprinklers and drip, besides social security schemes.
A community center in Karoda, which runs on solar power, functions as a meeting place and a training center, and for holding village events.
Going forward, Project Samridhi will work on advanced mechanization for small and marginal farmers, as well as set up and strengthen farmers’ collective groups and SHGs, especially with women. Initiatives using solar energy, like street lights, spray pumps, and irrigation systems are being promoted.
The growing enthusiasm of the community is visible through the steadily increasing community contribution for development activities.
Saurabh Srivastava is Sr. Program Leader – Local Participation & Sustainability; Dr Ellora Mubashir is Spceialist, Projects and Documentation and Debarchita Sinha is Assistant Program Lead – Local Participation & Sustainability at S M Sehgal Foundation.