Carrying Forward Adaptive Strategies

In the post-drought spell of 1999-2002/03, specific efforts were made both by the community-based institutions and the local NGO (VIKSAT ) to take forward people's adaptive strategies.

• Convinced by the performance of the water-harvesting structures built by VIKSAT in 2001, an increasing number of village institutions are drawing government schemes for construction of check dams and farm ponds under Sardar Jal Sanchay Yojana and Sujalam Sufalam schemes, respectively. They now recognize that in semiarid and arid zones, enhancing water storage is imperative and, if possible, within the subsurface to avoid the high evaporation losses. For example, in Satlasana, more than 100 check dams have been constructed during the last 4 years. The Augmentation of Groundwater Resource through Artificial Recharge (AGRAR)16 study established that the tanks and check dams, in that order, are the most efficient structures in the given hydrogeological conditions to enhance groundwater recharge and stabilize agricultural yields, and would help reduce vulnerability to rainfall uncertainties (Mudrakartha et al., 2005). In Mehsana and Sabarkantha, water-harvesting structures are still less in vogue.

• Initially supported by NABARD, women in Satlasana and Bhiloda have started forming into SHGs 3-4 years ago. Taking bigger strides, they have recently federated at the taluka level to carry forward the process to the large number of villages in the talukas. Significantly, in Satlasana, the State Bank of India (SBI) was so impressed with the functioning of the SHGs that it extended loans to these villages previously considered non-creditworthy (Fig. 12.5). Over the last year, these groups have taken loans to the extent of $90,000 with 100% repayment. Interestingly, some groups have also taken loans for the purpose of constructing check dams, which they repaid once the installment from the government scheme was available. This new initiative and noteworthy performance of the Satlasana groups has encouraged the bank to make the check dam construction a bankable scheme, which is a significant policy change.

• Looking at the Satlasana experience, the same bank (SBI) has extended financial support to Bhiloda and Bhuj villages also. Thus, all the three study areas now have access to funds on repayment basis. This also signifies a marked change in the mindset of the people, from expectations of charity or doles to self-reliance with dignity.

• Linkage with banks and access to funds allow people to earn back their lost assets such as livestock and jewellery and strengthen agriculture. More importantly, they only need to pay 8-11% rate of interest per annum (as against 36-60% charged by money lenders). In other words, people are now better equipped to face any future drought thanks to the access to bank loans, which was absent during the 1999-2002 spell.

• Analysis of bank loan utilization indicated that almost 70% of the loan was for agriculture and animal husbandry, while 10% was for releasing land mortgaged during the drought period. This interesting paradigm shift is clear evidence that women's participation in family livelihood has gone up, adding

Fig. 12.5. Loan from State Bank of India and purposes.

Fig. 12.5. Loan from State Bank of India and purposes.

Education

Social events

Micro-enterprise

Agriculture implements

Food grain and house

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repairing

E3

Folder purchase

Land releasing

Livestock

a new dimension to livelihood management. It has also initiated a direction towards women empowerment evident from their decision-making role at family and village levels. Historically, men used to take 7-12 years to release the mortgaged land or to repay loans taken from moneylenders. Women could hasten livelihood restoration because of their intrinsic risk-taking ability and vision (Mudrakartha and Madhusoodhanan, 2005; Mudrakartha, 2006).

• In addition to banks, many families have taken loans from the revolving fund of the local NGO (VIKSAT) for purposes such as releasing pawned jewellery, setting up small businesses, purchasing food grains and fodder (Fig. 12.6). This fund, operated by a committee comprising representatives of the people's institutions, local leaders and the NGO as per certain norms, catered to those needs that are not covered by the bank, have high interest rate or entail cumbersome procedures. Almost 62% of the fund was used for purchase of seeds and agricultural inputs, while 17% was used for purchase of livestock as it could easily feed into the existing dairy business (Mudrakartha, 2006). Farm-based micro-enterprises such as amla products, processed condiments, spices and chilies, as well as non-farm-based enterprise such as handicrafts, bakery, kirana shops, flour mill, washing powder preparation and cloth products are slowly picking up. Transactions to the tune of $85,000 are made till date, which indicates vision, commitment and financial management skills of the women's groups and the federations.

• Concepts of seed village and fodder security have been introduced, as a part of which select farmers from within a village were given good-quality improved seeds for multiplication. Beginning with one village in 2003, in 2005/06 almost 200 farmers across eight villages are raising seeds that would meet the requirements of approximately 10-12 villages. Similar procedures are being adopted for fodder, but generally as part of the integrated agriculture approach.

Fig. 12.6. Loan from VIKSAT revolving fund and purposes

| | Micro-enterprise 0. Folder purchase | Raw material for spices Grain storage

Fig. 12.6. Loan from VIKSAT revolving fund and purposes

• In the context of institutions, the community-based institutions are more or less in place. Post drought, specific efforts were made to link up with concerned government departments of agriculture, research, extension, seeds, horticulture, livestock and water resources in order to benefit from their technical knowledge as well as draw projects and schemes, including demonstration experiments.

• The federations are taking up a bigger role in terms of sourcing agricultural inputs and fodder in bulk and trading, in the process, providing a decent saving for the farmer as well as improving the federation's financial position. Women's groups and women's federations are making progress in terms of rendering loans accessible to more number of members who are investing in agriculture as well as in livestock purchase. The milk production is linked with the local diary, increasing cash availability (Fig. 12.7).

• Migration resource centres are planned to help migrating families make informed choices so that vulnerability is reduced. In addition to making use of information technology (IT), these centres will be operated by educated members from the villagers themselves. However, the NGOs will help manage and train on the technical part. As part of the activities, information on the menu of adaptive strategies in vogue will be disseminated. This strategy is relevant due to the fact that the understanding of, and response to, drought events is not uniform among villages and within villages.

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