Fwd: Benefits of Watersheds
- From: Lakshmi Menon
The Deccan Development Society initiated three micro-mini watersheds in Andhra Pradesh. They were exclusively meant for dalits and managed either partially or totally by dalit women in 1) Zaheerabad area - 73 acre plot owned entirely by a group of dalit families in the village Yelgoyi in Jharasangham Mandal of Medak district; it lies at the centre of the semi-arid tract; 2) Yedakulapally is an agriculturally rich terrain of Telangana district; and 3) Metlakunta watershed area of about 106 acres, exclusively owned by about 80 dalit families.
This programme was conceived as equity based model and as an alternative to area-based watershed approach, targeted entirely for the poor. It brings in a completely new dimension to the traditional watershed model, by consciously integrating new ideological positions on issues such as equity, gender, culture, food security, sustainable agriculture, etc.
It employs the same principles of soil and water conservation as any other mainstream watershed, but by consciously choosing to work only on the lands belonging to the dalits, the project focuses all its resources on the upper reaches of a catchment, where the lands of the dalits are usually situated. Such lands are reclaimed and made cultivable and are used for raising food crops (mostly mixed crops), so as to ensure food security for those vulnerable dalit households. In these lands, high cost external inputs like seeds and chemical pesticides and fertilisers are not used. Such an approach is designed to create a subsistence base for the dalits through relocating control over agricultural processes and food production in the hands of the dalit and other poor women. It aims to reduce their livelihood vulnerabilities.
The following is the outcome of these dalit watersheds:
- The watershed programme concentrate only on dalit and poor people's lands.
- The community as a whole has made a commitment that for at least a decade they will not sell their lands.
- The ridge is treated not as a grassland or tree cover but as a vibrant food crop producing area.
- The community has taken a vow not to use chemicals in their agriculture and continue their traditional organic practices.
- The community has taken a solemn decision that it will only grow food crops
- The leadership, planning, designing and decision making has been entrusted to women.
Some of the successes achieved:
- Tapping poor and marginalised people's potentialities and channelising them into a creative land use activity.
- People are implementing their own technologies and there are visible signs that they will succeed.
- Dalit, poor and the marginalised have got a chance to design their own watershed.
- The community of the poor has come together on an ecological goal. Poor have given strong ecological commitments.
- In spite of initial hiccups, people can still work together. Local leaderships which can iron out their internal differences continue to exist.
Source: “Dalits, Women, Tradition and Watersheds: Can there be a harmony? A case study of exclusive dalit watersheds of Deccan Development Society”, by P V Satheesh, Director, Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, India.