- Bhawani Shankar Kusum, Gram Bharati Samiti, Distt. Jaipur, Rajasthan, RIOD-INDIA
Gandhivan is a 25 ha. wast land which was allotted to Gram Bharati Samiti (Society for Rural Development) by the Government of Rajasthan in 1991. The area is a very backward one in the district. At that time, the land was totally barren. There was no source of drinking water in the area. The natural resources in the area had declined. The pasture lands of villages had been encroached, forests had been chopped down. Due to the decline of the environment, the cottage and small village industries of the 30 villages in the area had vanished which further deteriorated the economy of the people in the area. But today, after 8 years of hard work, the land has been converted to an orchard-cum- forest having more than 50,000 plants producing fruit, fodder and fuel. Gandhivan was not merely a project for development of the wasteland but to improve the level of the quality of life of the community of the area. The project consisted of the following activities :
(i) Augmentation of the water resources: The level of groundwater in the area was very low. There were numerous deep gullies on the project land not allowing the collection of rainwater. The project activities consisted of plugging the gullies and building a check dam. This enhanced the water level. A bore well was dug up and a submersible pump was fitted in it. Mud trenches were built to irrigate the plants. With these activities, the rainwater was successfully harvested for the use of flora and fauna of the local area, including cattle from surrounding villages.
(ii) Raising nursery plants : A nursery of a variety of species of fruit, fodder and fuel were raised in nurseries.
(iii) Plantation : In the first phase, 50,000 saplings of different species were planted. Saplings were planted on all the dunes and gullies, without changing the landscape of the area.
An important aspect of the project was that most of the activities were done by local rural women and socially deprived sections (physically handicapped and leprosy patients) of the society who had been rehabilitated there. The issues of concern were discussed with the villagers through ‘Gram Sabhas’. The disappearance of the local forests and traditional knowledge of the local communities, encroachment of the common pasture land, and decline of animal husbandry were matters of shared concern.
The project successfully revitalised the traditional knowledge in the field of mosaic plantation, protection of some medicinal plant species and renewing the vigour of plants by the use of organic manure. In addition, organic substitutes of pesticides were prepared with herbs, ashes and leaves of ‘neem’. The survival rate of plants was very good with the application of these natural pesticides. It was agreed in the meeting of the villagers that no tree from the project area would be cut down for use as fuel.
With the interventions of water harvesting and the use of simple traditional practices, the survival rate of plants was high (in the range of 70-80 per cent) and the growth of plants was good. The yield of fruits was very high. Soil erosion was checked as a result of regrowth of vegetation and sand dunes were stabilised. The level of groundwater was raised by 3-5 metres. Gram Bharati Samiti believes that the ‘Gandhivan’ project is a successful example of people’s participation in community development.