Integrated Watershed Development: A Success Story from Bundelkhand
Bundelkhand is a cultural and agro-ecological region which includes several districts of southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh. The name is derived from the Bundela Kings who reigned here and the region has a rich historical legacy. The Hindu God Rama is said to have spent a part of his exile here. Medieval rulers built world-renowned monuments like the temples in Khajuraho which attract millions of tourists every year. The legendary freedom fighter Rani Laxmibai also hailed from this area.
Today this largely agrarian region is facing enormous problems of crushing poverty and lawlessness. According to the Sarma Committee (Sarma, 1997), all districts of Bundelkhand except Jhansi rank among the 100 most backward districts of India. The falling quantity and increasingly erratic nature of rainfall over the past decade has exacerbated these problems. Driven by issues of marginal landholdings and falling productivity, 50-70% of households in these districts have at least 1 member migrating to towns annually or permanently (ABSSS, 2002). Other sociological and developmental issues include a feudal overhang, high illiteracy, low status of women, etc.
Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Seva Sansthan has been active in the region since its inception in 1978 (ABSSS). A 2 pronged approach incorporating non-violent struggle and livelihood development has been followed to bring about the uplift of the poorest of the poor. ABSSS has worked to free bonded labourers, ensure redistribution of land, educate the tribals and other backward sections, enhance incomes, etc.
In association with Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT) and PRADAN, the NGO embarked on 2 watershed development projects in Chitrakoot and Banda districts in 2007 with an emphasis on aiding small and marginal farmers. This success story is the documentation of the projects.