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Facilitating development through participatory approaches

Facilitating development through participatory approaches

Focused efforts by Bajaj Foundation resulted in bringing overall prosperity to the community by achieving socio-economic and environment development in Wardha and Sikar districts

Published on March 2, 2021 at 4:06 am

Updated on March 22, 2021 at 06:54 am

A stretch of Yashoda river rejuvenated in Wardha, Maharashtra.

Bajaj family has constituted Kamalnayan Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation (Bajaj Foundation) towards fulfilling social responsibility and gratitude through continuous efforts for the cause of Socio-Economic development of the Society. The vision of Bajaj Foundation is, “Integrated development of the society through participatory approaches that set benchmarks and standards for others to emulate for sustainable development”. To fulfil the vision, Bajaj Foundation has initiated a number of development interventions in the villages of Wardha and Sikar districts. The major emphasis is on integrated water resource development and management, agriculture development, livestock development, women empowerment and training and capacity building through participatory approaches.

Bajaj Foundation works through a livelihood approach to empower the rural community to take charge of their own development in a participatory manner by developing and managing natural resources. The developmental interventions focus on enhancing the income generated from agriculture which is the principal source of livelihood. Bajaj Foundation also promotes alternate agro-based livelihood opportunities such as dairy farming, natural farming, horticulture and promotion of biogas which not only provide additional steady income but allow the rural community to get enhanced quality of life.

The programmes have expanded over 1,208 villages benefiting 3,53,817 families and strengthening the livelihood of 15,86,005 rural people. The partners who have joined Bajaj Foundation in the venture are the governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan, National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) and Tata Trusts.

668 km of rivers and streams have been rejuvenated in Wardha district benefitting 22,825 families, covering 1,50,519-acre farming land in 253 villages.

Under water resources development, the revival of 235 rivers/streams over a length of 658 km in Wardha district through widening and deepening has benefitted 1,50,519 acres of farming land of 22,825 farmers in 253 villages. The collaborative efforts of Bajaj Foundation, Government of Maharashtra and Tata Trusts have resulted in the rejuvenation of the Yashoda Reiver Basin which almost lost its existence because of high siltation caused over the years. The direct benefit from an intervention is an increased area under cultivation and therefore, an increased income to the farmers. Similarly, along with the revival of rivers/streams, construction of 107 check dams, 32 percolation tanks, 3,258 farm ponds, recharging of existing 2,854 wells through rainwater, promotion of 1,515 group lifting irrigation systems and 272 group wells along with soil and water conservation measures such as Nala plugging, construction of 2,991 Bori bandhs, construction of 2,225 Gabion structures, 1,267 acres of farm bunding and contour bunding, 4,998 drips and sprinkler irrigation systems were promoted along with less water-intensive and short-duration cash crops. 1000 ha of land in Lakshmangarh taluka of Sikar district is covered under the watershed development project. To resolve the problem of the scarcity of water, 709 families from 209 villages in Sikar were supported to establish a roof rainwater harvesting system at the household level. With these need-based integrated efforts, a total of 2,73,875 acres of farming land owned by 70,067 farmers have been benefitted in 919 villages.

A total of 56,654 women have been united in 4,421 Self-Help Groups and the task of increasing their efficiency has been underway in various ways. Through an interest-free revolving fund, a total of 8,379 families have been supported for the rearing of indigenous breed of cows and 6,302 families were supported to initiate rural enterprises to strengthen the livelihood of the needy poor families. Keeping in view the Government of India’s mission for creating a digital India, Bajaj Foundation has linked 1,150 SHGs to E-Shakti portal in collaboration with NABARD, a project of digitization of all Self-Help Group (SHG) in the country. Digital empowerment will help in bringing SHGs on a common web-based e-platform by making bookkeeping easy for low literacy clients. This will help in promoting the national agenda of ‘Financial Inclusion’ and pave the way for the credibility of SHG data which can later be used by Credit Bureaus to reduce the issues related to multiple financing by banks.

More than 73,407 farmers of Wardha and Sikar were guided to adopt natural farming and improved their farming income. 11,000 farmers have benefitted under Better Cotton Initiatives and 17,339 families adopted horticulture, a WADI project model in one acre of land each. The agricultural fields in Sikar had become undulating as a result of the pilling of sand due to erosion caused by high-speed winds. The land levelling demonstration by the Bajaj Foundation over 982 acres of land of 482 farmers in 57 villages brought land again under cultivation. With these integrated efforts, the average income per acre has increased from Rs. 15,000 to Rs 45,000-60,000 and in many exceptional cases farmers’ income has increased up to Rs. 1.5 to 2.6 lakh per acre per annum.

Community-based rainwater harvesting structures are constructed at common drainage line of the village catchment area found useful in increasing the groundwater table. A common water harvesting structure at village Ramsinghpura, Sikar.

The regular group meetings organised at the village level inculcated the habit of sharing and consultation among the community to find out a solution to the existing agriculture problem. The groups are now federated into 18 Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) managed by more than 5,000 farmers. This ultimately has led to the development of trust among themselves and holding hands together for enjoying more benefits. Agro businesses established by these FPOs have been leading to a win-win situation for the farmers and consumers.

With the promotion of biogas, women have now easy access to low-cost energy at the turn of a knob. Also, women’s health-related issues too got resolved as biogas brought them smoke-free kitchens. A total of 5,378 biogas plants have been installed in 360 villages. The impact shows that there is immense potential in biogas for both to become completely self-reliant for cooking fuel and also reducing the negative effect on climate change.

Design for Change is a programme designed to allow children to express their own ideas for the creation of a better world and put them into action. Students are encouraged to explore and resolve the existing problems. The efforts were successfully resulted in the involvement of 300 schools, completed 294 projects and shared on YouTube, inspiring 11,000 children, their teachers and parents to celebrate the fact that the change is possible and that they can lead that change.

Economic and environmental impact 

To bring landless families into the fold, they were supported for establishing enterprises for sustaining livelihood. Rearing of indigenous cow breed made cow dung and urine available which is prerequisite for the adoption of natural farming as well as made quality milk available for family consumption. On the other hand, the establishment of service enterprises such as flour mill, dal mill, vegetable outlets, grocery shops, etc. reduced the drudgery of the villagers for arranging daily requirements from nearby towns.

The establishment of these enterprises has increased monthly earning by Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 14,000 for each of the families. This has arrested the migration of the families in search of employment. Earlier, employment was available for six months only in the village. Now they are generating livelihood throughout the year living in the same home villages. The formation of farmers’ group and SHGs resulted in increased savings and the development of bank credit linkages. It reduced the drudgery of men and women because of which they could spare more time for household chores and the development of their children. The prosperity was reflected in the renovation of houses from Kaccha to Paccha constructions and the purchase of TVs, vehicles, refrigerators and advance farming implements. The educational status of the children has improved with a reduction in drudgery and increased transportation facility due to the purchase of personal vehicles by the families.

The food security of 54,000 families had been achieved through the increased availability of vegetables, fruits and grains. This has resulted in reducing malnutrition among the children as nutritious food is available at the doorstep and affordable prices. The health checkup camps created awareness about personal health and hygiene, ultimately leading to cleanliness at the village level. The women could access proper medical care as they came to know about their health problems like anaemia, sickle cell, diabetes, blood pressure, etc. Proper medical care improved the overall health status of the community.

Manishtai Kirnapure of Pipri village has set a flour mill with the support of Bajaj Foundation. Under its women empowerment programme, the Foundation supports income generation activities at village level. More than 3,000 women have been supported in Wardha district.

Social impact 

The major changes observed were that the villagers came together for the implementation of various group-based activities aimed at social welfare and community development and village-level institutions began to work independently. This trust-building, change in attitude and behaviour among the community has been developed with Bajaj Foundation’s interventions. The energetic surrounding inspired youth and farmers who themselves got organised into SHGs as they understood the importance of small savings. SHG members are utilising their savings for improving their livelihoods. The farmers have come forward for collective purchasing of farm inputs through Farmers Producer Organizations.

The villagers have initiated thinking on processing, packaging and marketing of agri-commodities to elevate profits. They are now well aware of government schemes and drawing benefits with effective interaction with the government officials. The efforts enlightened the community and inspired them to stand beside each other in socio-economic needs, thus reducing the pressure on the minds of farmers resulting in arresting the farmers’ suicides in the village.

 Thus the focused efforts resulted in bringing overall prosperity to the community by achieving socio-economic development. The participatory efforts of holistic development are on. Looking at the hope, confidence and courage of people, it seems that these efforts would keep going till Wardha and Sikar become socio-economic and ecologically developed districts.

Mr Haribhai Mori, President CSR, Bajaj Foundation, says, “To translate the Atma-Nirbhar Bharat vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister at the grassroots level, Bajaj Foundation has taken up an initiative towards Atma-Nirbhar Kisan and Atma-Nirbhar Gaon under which our farming families are gradually becoming self-reliant and attaining food security. Forty-four thousand families and their one lakh acres of land has come under the fold of benefits of indigenous cow and local resources-based natural farming programme. Many of these farmers’ incomes have already doubled and they have become ‘Lakhpati’ farmers. The need of the hour is to share and spread these inspiring stories across the agricultural community by establishing national level networks. Organising ‘Kisan Pathshalas’ and exposure visits to these farmers would be more fruitful where the farmers from all parts of the country can directly interact with them and explore the benefits.”

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