Innovation as Approach and Strategy

Effective irrigation system plays a major role in poverty reduction. The improved management of irrigated water is imperative to poverty alleviation, biodiversity preservation and sustainable development (Shah Tushar et al, 2003). Although women engaged in irrigated, agro-based activities is very high, participation in the construction and maintenance of Water Harvesting Structures (WHS) by women is almost negligible in India. Failure to recognize gender issues affects agricultural productivity of irrigated crops. The lack of independent access to and control of land and water by women threatens household food security (Upadhayay Bhavan, 2003).

In Gujarat, the agricultural and domestic uses of water have a substantial impact on the condition of women. Unfortunately, the role and potential of women in agriculture is often under-valued or not recognized at all. Analyses of roles and work in agricultural operations throughout the State reveals that women’s share of work is between 50% and 65% as compared to males. In other words, the women have a strong stake in both, agricultural and domestic use of water. Since women in Gujarat spend considerable time behind fetching water, this has a direct impact on their health (Shing et al 2002). As water harvesting structures are beneficial for agricultural and domestic uses, it implies that women’s participation in management of water harvesting structures will ensure a two-fold service system. For example, it can ensure a better water management for domestic consumption along with irrigated water (Patel A S, 2002).

A study by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Ahmedabad in the drought-prone areas of Santalpur and Banaskantha districts of Gujarat, found that women had to do with meager water supplies for cooking, drinking, washing and irrigation. Moreover, women were not involved in the decision-making process while deciding the requirement for water structure construction, etc. The study also indicated that women’s opinion is not considered before selecting the drilling sites for the installation of hand pumps.

Each Bhugnroo is erected with a standard protocol where it is jointly own by five ultra poor women members of the society. Thus Bhungroo ownership is not individual it is group ownership. Secondly each member of the group is women- thus role of men controlling irrigation water has been curtailed down strategically. Thirdly each women member for each of the Bhungroo ownership group is coming from ultra poor and/or other vulnerability factors viz widow, backward caste, deserted, highly indebted and mother of handicap son etc. Thus for them, farm based livelihood is the only dignified option compared to meager income producing daily labour work. Our program is bestowing irrigation water rights to all women members, who are part of Bhungroo ownership group. Without irrigation the agriculture land is of no value. Thus irrigation water right to the women is actually enabling them to have land right and most importantly all the male members have to listen to these Bhungroo women group members if they like to have water for their land. This has heralded into a process of emancipation of these women from stereotype social tepidness, created by oppressive society. The women earned their dignity through controlling water. The widow members were able to reclaim their husband’s land from their in laws be wielding the power of irrigation water. This process was also put in our SOP and government revenue department was roped in to transfer the land rights to these BHUNGROO women. One of the components in the land right registration certificate being irrigation water right, the land ownership registration got validated by other 4 women members of the Bhungroo group which is also tenable in the revenue land records documentary proof.

The selection of 5 women beneficiaries for each Bhungroo is clearly defined within SOP and it follows following process

Chart

The result of this selection process:

  1. The ultra poor women small holders (who fair at the lowest rung in the poverty ladder) gets selected
  2. Whole selection process is initiated and completed at local level without any external interferences
  3. Whole selection process is managed by women members only
  4. Whole selection process is independent of any corruption/nepotism
  5. Whole selection process dwells upon social capital and human capital
  6. Whole selection process is peer trust centric

The Impact of this selection process:

  1. It entrusts social cohesiveness
  2. It enables ultra poor women farmers to grain trust and confidence through peer support
  3. It creates a societal belongingness feeling for those women who were earlier treated as worthless and deserted
  4. It enunciates an winning theory of “success brings success(es)” among those women who were perennially treated as failed people
  5. It improves confidence among both direct beneficiaries as well as indirect beneficiaries
  6. The women members gradually exemplify their confidence in dealing challenges in all walks of their life viz
    • within their immediate family,
    • within their extended families
    • within their village social activities
    • within their economic activities
    • within their local developmental issues
    • within shaping lives of their children and last but not the least
    • in dealing with slow and inefficient government and
    • in dealing with fast and exploitative private machineries

What these women small holders have achieved (which is visible/can be quantified)

  1. Got their land on their name
  2. Got their outstanding loan settled
  3. Got their home constructed (from shanty kuchha houses all the women are now having pucca house)
  4. Created productive assets viz animal heads
  5. Got their family programs celebrated
  6. Reverse migration of the male members in the village
  7. Zero Crop lands got transformed into two crop land in each year
  8. Created pressure groups on Government for Irrigation cooperative
  9. Better rate of agri input through collective bargaining
  10. Better rate of agri output through collective sale process
  11. Accessing government services viz agri extension and soil health cards
  12. Creating pressure groups on government in provision of drinking water and sanitation facilities at village level
  13. Creating pressure groups on government in provision of education facilities at village level
  14. Encouraging children to schooling