Hasu Ram’s story – Khadin vital for farming

Hasu Ram is a resident of village Bhibhara of Sheo area in Barmer district. There are 900 households in this village with a total population of 1500. The major communities residing here are Kumhar (Pot makers) and Muslims. This village was inhabited only 150 years ago. Earlier, it was a forest of Ker, Khejri (local variety of trees), bordi (shrubs) etc. Now there is a Primary school, a tank for drinking water and a Health centre but there are no doctors/nurses in this centre. The village is 9 km. from the nearest gravel road.

Hasu is 78 years old and lives with his wife and one son who reluctantly looks after them. His other two sons and their wives have left them. The family owns 6 hectares of land and live in huts. Livestock comprises of 10 sheep and an old and frail cow.

In July 03, Hasu heard that a meeting of older people of the village was being organised by Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) under the ADOPT project. Inquisitively he attended the meeting in which a village older people’s association (VOPA) was constituted and members were selected with mutual consensus of villagers and a list of beneficiaries was prepared.

The project brought a ray of hope for Hasu and he requested the committee for a khadin. A khadin is an earthen bund (local check dams on farming land) that stores rain water and helps in retaining adequate moisture in the soil that enhances crop production. His application was approved by the VOPA and the khadin was constructed on his land. His khadin measures 1500 feet in length and 4.5 feet in height through which over 3 hectares of land will have the fertility and moisture content to produce a second crop.

 Hasu Ram smiles innocently while expressing his happiness that khadin would not only increase agricultural produce and hence improve economic condition of the household but also the project has organised older people of the village and given them due recognition. Now the older people regularly attend the meetings and share their experiences, problems and also support each other in difficult times. Above all, he says, “older people in the project enjoy a new found status which is respected in the family and community”.

Taanka – the source of water in Thar

Masturo got married when she was only 13 years old and after two years she gave birth to her first child. She is now a young widow with one daughter and three sons. The eldest son is 14 years old and she also has to take care of her parents-in-law aged around 80. Her mother-in-law is almost blind and bedridden. Her husband died one year ago, most probably due to cancer. He used to work in Jodhpur’s mines, which was the only source of income for the family. After his death they were left with almost no financial means. They could not afford his medical treatment either; as a result the initially small tumor in his body kept on growing, finally leading to his death. To provide food for the family, Masturo used to sell ornaments and livestock.

 In the past Masturo had to spend on average 5-6 hours per day on fetching water. The closest naadi was situated 4 km away from her household. She suffered from pains in her back due to fetching water and her family could not enjoy daily bathing. Her dream was to have a taanka, but she thought it was only a privilege of rich people. A taanka is an underground water storage tank that collects rainwater. At that time GRAVIS started with the project aiming at facilitating access to water. She was chosen to receive a taanka, which marked the beginning of a better life for her and her family. Her relatives assisted in constructing the facility, while GRAVIS supplied building materials.

After having the taanka constructed, Masturo has extra time for doing labor work and for taking care of the family. The entire family now has enough water to drink all around the year. While previously she was forced to sell livestock, she owns now a number of 10-12. Four of them are used for providing means of living. Despite her difficult family situation, thanks to the taanka she now enjoys a better quality of life.

Naadi de-silted, spirits revived

“Badi Bhadli naadi” is located in Bhadli village of Jaisalmer District. The naadi (pond) was not functional over a long period due to the silt deposited in it over the years. The villagers have no other near-by source of water and were forced to travel about 6 kilometres for water. The POC project of GRAVIS, in consultation with the VOPA of the village, took up the work of de-silting Badi Bhadli naadi.

The work of its construction was supported by the prompt actions taken by Gram Panchayat, and VOPA members. The local community participated very actively in the process of de-silting. GRAVIS engineers visited the site from time to time to do technical check. Over the course of 3 months, the naadi was de-silted and now has a good excavated area to store water. The villagers hope that with the upcoming rains in coming years, the naadi will be fully filled and will be of great help to all the villagers and their cattle. In the monsoon shower this year, the naadi already got good amount of water. The VOPA members think that older people will be particularly benefitted and will not need to walk long distances. Nearly 1,000 humans and about 2,500 cattle will get water from naadi.

 The villagers are very happy with this development. “De-silting of a pond not only provides drinking water, but also provides an opportunity of employment to the young folk. We will take very good care of this pond, so that we can get water for a long period without interruption. Our spirits are revived with the naadi”, say some villagers. GRAVIS till date has helped in de-silting of over 200 village ponds which has been a major relief for many villagers and will assure water security.

Milch cow – source for nutrition, income and joy

Rami Devi is wife of Late Goverdhan Ram Nai, living in Sanwara village of Jaisalmer District. She is a widow and is 62 years old. Her husband died eight years ago after being bed ridden for seven long years. She spent her most of belongings in his treatment but all went in vein. The death of her husband left the home in destitute condition. There are six members in the family and their major occupation is animal husbandry and wage labour. She has 5 hectares of land to rear but no money to buy seeds. She has a desire to make her livelihood comfortable for her children.

 Under the POC project, she has been benefitted by the distribution of a milch cow. She was selected by the VOPA of the village considering her need. The cow has helped in changing her. She gets about five to six litres of milk every day. She uses some milk for her own use and the family and the rest is used to make milk products such as buttermilk and ghee. She sells these products in the village and gets a good income.

“The benefit of cow is very good. We get milk, income and a joy in rearing our cow. This is a great help to our family. Thanks,” conveys Rami Devi to the project team.

The activity of distributing milch cows has been thought under the POC project to provide both nutrition and supplementary income to older people and their families. 240 milch cows will be distributed under the project.

Equal Benefits – a Story of a Mahadev SHG of Lawera Kalan village

 The moment we reached Dali’s flour mill during our field visit to the Lawera Kalan village, the power supply went off, giving us an opportunity to talk at leisure with Mahadev SHG. One of the members is Dali herself, who begins the conversation by describing to us how their group had started four years ago. That time, GRAVIS was giving a training programme in her village, where they told the villagers about various income generating activities and loan facilities such as the possibility to save money through the SHGs. However, the beginning was not as easy as it sounds. Many men of the village could not understand why women should join these groups. They did not fully trust in GRAVIS’ motivations and were doubtful about the loan repayments.

In spite of the opposition, the group was implemented. About a year after it took its first loan of 20,000 Rs. from Jaipur Thar Gramin Bank. Nevertheless, six months after the first loan, the members of Mahadev SHG realized that 20,000 Rs was not enough to carry out the planned activities and pay back the loan. Then, after a number of SHG meetings, it was decided that the group would apply for another loan of 50,000 Rs.

To avoid disputes, the group decided to allocate the loan equally to every member of the group and each member used an amount of 5000 Rs. With the money the started their own micro-businesses and improved the food security of their families. Two women had enough space in their homes so they decided to set up a flour mill, five of the members bought a sewing machine and one of them opened a store in the village. In addition, one member decided to use her share for buying a milk cow and another for buying two goats and some fodder.

Dali was one of the women who bought a flour mill. Today, Dali’s micro-business is going on rather well. Her mill grinds about 100-150 kg of wheat per day and she can grind villagers’ grains at the rate of 0.80 Rs per kg. Therefore, she earns about 80 to 120 Rs per day. She is quite happy as she can now easily repay her share of the loan of 250 Rs and save money for the monthly contribution as well as use more money for buying groceries such as fruits.

Another woman called Sanop Bai bought two goats with the loan. As for Dali, the investment has been fruitful. Earlier she had to buy milk for 500-600 Rs per month, but now the goats provide enough milk for her family. The goats also produce manure which can be used for agriculture. In addition, some time ago, the goats delivered eight ewes from which four she sold at the rate of 1500 Rs each, earning 6000 Rs. Now, she plans to sell the other four but at a better price. Overall, Sanop Bai can be satisfied. Indeed, she smiles and says that “the loan has turned our life much better”.

Ladu spent her share of the money strategically thinking about her future. With the loan she bought a sewing machine for 2500 Rs and spent 1000 Rs on accessories such as a table, scissors, thread etc. The rest of the money she used for a loan repayment and group savings since her initial earnings would not be enough to pay those. Now she earns 1500 Rs per month from sewing and sells the cloth at the rate of 40 Rs per piece instead of 50Rs which is the market price. “I can stitch three dresses in two days”, she says proudly.

Chainni acquired a cow with the 4000 Rs which she loaned, and nowadays she produces 5-6 litres of milk per day and makes ghee and butter milk out of it. Her family can consume products such as milk, curd and butter more regularly which improves their diet. But because she produces more than her family consumes, she can also sell part of the milk. She puts up for sale about 4kg of ghee per month at the rate of 250 Rs per kilo. With the profit she makes, she partly uses it for loan repayments as well as for the SHG’s monthly fee. “We are planning to take another loan after full repayment of the first one”, Chainni reveals with a spark in her eye.

Ray of light for Manoj

 Suffering with congenital cataract, Manoj had grown up in a world of darkness and dependence. Despite the poor economic condition, his father Bhera Ram tried his level best to restore the vision of his son approaching a number of traditional healers and doctors. Manoj and his family lives in a remote part of Jaisalmer district. At a screening camp, the GRAVIS hospital ophthalmic team diagnosed that Manoj’s blindness could be treated, although the chances of vision restoration are only 50%. After some hesitation, the family agreed for the surgery. Manoj was operated for both eyes and his vision was restored completely. Manoj can now see well and has new pans for life. It is a new, bright life now for Manoj.

A true inspiration

Striving to make a living through his small plot in the Pokran town of Jaisalmer, Jamaldin was always thrilled at the arrival of a new baby in the family. 13 years ago, his 3 year old son Sikander suffered from small pox, after which his eyesight began to diminish slowly. Being poor and uneducated, Jamaldin took him to an exorcist instead of a doctor, and as a result his only son lost his vision completely. Jamaldin felt his dreams and future security are shattered.

The family began to neglect the child, and Sikander became mentally and physically dependent on others. He lost his receptiveness to his surroundings and could not mature mentally. As if life hadn’t dealt him enough hardship, at 8 years old Sikander lost his parents. Life worsened for him.

The people in the local community held varied opinions about the child; some said he should pray to God to do expiation for his bad deeds, some said to leave things as they were as God was only fulfilling his will. Others thought this boy to be a bad omen and did not want to be around him.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Or at least in this case, Sikander was shown a way. Sight Savers International and GRAVIS helped him with their Community Eye Care project.

 A social worker took Sikander to GRAVIS hospital where his eyes were examined, only to find that the blindness was permanent and irreversible. He was then referred to the educational rehabilitation program of GRAVIS. After tireless months of hard work, Sikander started making progress previously thought unattainable. He has mastered brail, but particularly enjoys his vocational education where he is learning to make chairs, doormats, and baskets with the help of trained teachers. Teaching staff describe Sikander, now 16 years old, as one of their most hardworking students who encourages his peers to achieve independence. If his parents were alive, the success of their son would no doubt make them proud.

The people in the community, who once thought this orphaned child would never be able to support himself, are swallowing their words. Sikander is now certain about his life ahead. A true inspiration indeed.

Taanka making life easier

 In village Andasar of Jodhpur District, a Muslim couple, Josab Khan and his wife Hafijo, lives with their family. They have 8 members in their family. The couple is now quite aged and fragile and cannot support the family physically. Their sons are busy in livelihood activities and in ensuring food and water for the family. The family is deprived of a water storage facility. The nearest water source is about 5 kilometres. The family has been living with very little water for many years. Both Josab and Hafijo have been helpless with their poor condition.

The new POC project of GRAVIS in the area is helping elderly with the construction of taanka. The couple was fortunate to be selected by the VDC for a taanka. Their new taanka with the project support is now constructed and awaits the monsoon showers in July. The 20,000-liters capacity tank, full of water, will provide great relief to both Josab and Hafijo and to their family.