Sustainable change and transformation needs taking a holistic approach that encompasses addressing different overlapping social problems. The core pillars of Raah foundation’s sustainable development approach include the following:
Water is the elixir of life. Water also underpins all social problems. Water is a luxury in the tribal areas despite being one of the highest rainfall areas of Maharashtra (about 3000mm) as water flows away due to absence of adequate water conservation structures. This is also one of the catchment areas for Mumbai as Middle Vaitarnais located. In Mokhada and every drop of water from here is transported for Mumbai use leaving even the tribal hamlets located near Middle Vaitarna thirsty. Post monsoon, water starts drying up and by March very few water bodies are left with water forcing the women to spend hours walking in search of water. Watershortage impacts agriculture directly and farmers have to migrate to work on construction sites. Lack of adequate water availability adversely impacts health – skin, orthopaedic diseases are rampant. Making year round water available hence is the most important and first pillar of development and transformation.
Water is primarily required for drinking water, washing, bathing, farming and for cattle. Check Dams are constructed primarily for two reasons –collecting large quantities of rain water that percolates and improves the ground water table which recharges the aquifers and improves water availability in wells and also for non-drinking purposes (bathing, washing, farming and for cattle). Open Wells are constructed primarily for drinking water and bore wells for both drinking water and for farming. Bore Wells are dug deep into earth’s surface to extract ground water. Although as an organization Raah Foundation is against bore wells as it is known to deplete ground water table, however there are several situations such as high density of population in a hamlet – an open well cannot be constructed and bore well remains the only option.
In the past 5 years Raah Foundation has constructed over 6 new check dams and has renovated over 40 old dilapidated check dams. The total water conserved through is over 300 million liters that has made 45 hamlets across 38 villages water positive and secure.
A valley, swale or a channel through which water flows at high speed are identified and a wall of height between 7 feet to 12 feet depending on the size of the valley. This wall stops the water flow and creates a reservoir conserving water often through the year. Stored water percolates improving the ground water table which then finds its way in the nearby open wells making them perennial.
Challenges: Finding an appropriate location is the biggest challenge faced while building a new dam. Often the suitable location land belongs to a villager who is unwilling to part with it.
Renovating an existing Dam
Even though dams are made of cement and concrete, they wear and tear over the years. Water at high velocity hits the dam walls damaging them slowly. Damaged walls cause leakages causing the water to flow away making the dam dry faster than usual making the dam useless. Rain water also brings with it soil that get deposited in the gully bed reducing the overall capacity of the reservoir. Repairing or renovating the dilapidated dam involves adding layer of concrete to strengthen the dam walls, removing. Leakagesand at times increasing the height of the dam, removing the silt (soil deposits) and thereby increasing the reservoir capacity. Often renovating an existing dam is as good as building a new dam and costs almost the same. The biggest advantage of renovating a dam over building a new dam is that an ideal location is already found which saves a lot of time and effort.
Jawhar, Mokhada being part of Sahyadri range is extremely rocky and digging the earth for constructing a well actually involves blasting of rocks. Ideal size of open wells is 18 x 30 feet i.e. diameter 18 feet and 30 feet depth. This requires a place to be identified a little outside the settlement as rocks can fly some distance during blasting. The area also needs to be cordoned off. The rocks are then cleared and wall and platform are built around the well. Raah Foundation also often takes over old wells for deepening. Old wells built by government are usually 10 feet deep which does not allow much storage. Also usually with depleted water table the natural streams are way below 10 feet and the well solely depends on the rain water which typically dries within a month after monsoon and for most part of the year well is without water causing enormous hardships to the communities . Deeper well not only stores more rain water but importantly becomes a perennial source of water as natural water streams pass through it filling it up even after the rains have stopped.
Raah Foundation usually is against bore well construction and takes up the project only in situations where need is critical and no other option is feasible. However we do not. Dig deeper than 500 feet. Stop the work even if we do not hit water. However a period of time check dams have improved the ground water table not only improving the success rate of bore wells but importantly water is often found even at 100 feet.
Impact of water availability
Over the past 5 years, Raah Foundation through different structures has conserved over 300 million liters of water which has drastically improved the ground water table making 45 hamlets completely water positive thereby transforming tribal lives sustainably. Impact of year round water availability is tremendous as tribals have stopped migrating and are leading a healthy and happy life in their own villages.
Dams, wells etc. are often located outside the hamlets and women still have to walk up and down the hill with pots of water on their heads. Pipeline provides the last mile connectivity and brings water to the doorsteps. Palaspada in Mokhada is one such hamlet located near the perennial Wagh Dam. Farmers here are large landholders and still could not take more than one crop and had to migrate. Women had to spend 3 – 4 hours each day walking through the stones and rocks to fetch water. Raah Foundation crowdsourced money to build a pipeline from the dam through the different hamlets Outlets are provided at all the hamlets on the way with hamlets taking turns to use water judiciously. A solar pump has been provided to pump water from the dam to the hamlets. Tribal villagers also take turns to guard and take care of the solar panels. The impact of this project is large and has changed several lives completely.
Partnering for water projects
Over the years we have gathered expertise and thorough understanding of water management and making villages water positive through a combination of solutions. Our work needs to be scaled up as India is on the verge of a severe water crisis that needs immediate measures. If you are passionate about water and supporting initiatives that makes life of poor, vulnerable communities better and easier, partner with us.
Write to us at email@example.com for more information.
"The farmer is poor because his resources are not managed and utilised properly”.
- Mahatma Gandhi
India is primarily an agrarian economy with majority of the rural families having a land. Most of our tribal farmers too are land holders and due to lack of year round water they are forced to migrate to work on construction sites after taking a paddy crop for self-consumption.Once program Malhar became successful and year round water availability became a reality, multiple crops through the year became possible providing the tribal farmer with a sustainable agri based livelihoods without having to migrate.Program Krishi works closely with the farmer to decide a suitable cropping pattern, helps in procuring high grade seeds and saplings, provides advice of pesticide/ fertilizer usage, supports in creating market linkages for the produce and importantly conducts financial literacy program to ensure that the income earned multiplies through proper savings and investment options. Our agriculturist is himself a tribal farmer and has a thorough understanding of soil, local crops etc.
We also run a farming school (“Krishi Shala”) at Jawhar for farmers in general under which we regularly conduct lectures and talks on important and relevant topics such as :
- Farming – an economically rewarding and sustainable activity
- Nuances of floriculture
- Growing fruits
- Organic farming
- All about soil and soil testing
- Forming farmer cooperatives
- Government schemes for farmers and how to avail them?
- Financial Literacy for farmers
- Marketing and Sales
The Moringa Experiment: In 2018, Raah Foundation chose 100 women from 10 Self Help Groups to start Moringa cultivation on half an acre of land. While land will belong to one of the women from the groups, all women will be responsible for taking care of moringa saplings provided by Raah Foundation. Drip irrigation was also provided along with the saplings. After six months when the saplings grow and sticks are ready to be plucked, Raah Foundation also provides market linkages. The income is then shared in pre decided proportion by the women. Women have also been instructed to consume part of the production as moringa is known to have innumerable health benefits.
Women are the critical drivers of change and transformation. Program Urja enables, supports women to start micro businesses and earn a decent income from their homes and thereby confidently change the course of their life. After a market scan the type of opportunity is identified and woman is thoroughly trained to pursue the opportunity as well as provided with part capital to start the business. Over 300 women from Jawhar and Mokhada have started businesses such as starting a grocery shop,dryfish selling, tailoring shop, fashion jewellery shop or a floor mill and are earning between Rs. 2500/- to Rs. 5000/- per month from their homes while taking care of their daily household chores. Rs. 10,000/- per woman is enough to change her life completely as this opportunity not only provides her with an income but importantly enhances her self-esteem that in turn supports her zest for turning her dreams into reality.
Raah Foundation works on malnourishment eradication in the tribal areas of Jawhar and Mokhada and aims at improving nutrition and health status by reducing rates of acute malnutrition in target communities with a focus on women, infants & young children and other at risk groups of population through an integrated, environmentally sustainable approach.
We organize capacity building workshops for the grass root level functionaries on various topics related to health and nutrition along with low cost recipe demonstration. This helps in refreshing the knowledge of the functionaries and they are better able to solve some of the nutritional problems, thus helping in improving the health and nutritional status of the community members. Nutrition education programs include household care practices including hygiene-sanitation, feeding practices and health-seeking behaviors through the promotion of positive behavior change. With continuous monitoring and regular health camps, efforts are in direction of eradicating sickle cell anemia in the future generation.
Warli Art is one of the oldest traditional art forms from Maharashtra. A tribal indigenous art form that uses geometric shapes to tell stories from their lives, warli art unfortunately has been on a decline as artisans were not able to commercialise this unique art form. Also geometrical shapes made them easy to screen print and copy leaving the original artisans behind. Raah Foundation works with the artisans to hone this intrinsic skill and provide market linkages to their niche bespoke handmade and hand painted products through its affiliate Raah Creative Designs. Over 25 artisans have been upskilled so far and many others work closely with the Warli Art Studio in Jawhar and are earning a decent income through their traditional art form.
Program Adikala was chosen by Harvard South Asia Institute and Tata Trust as one of the 50 rural livelihoods in the handicrafts sector and also gave a grant for starting the Warli Art studio. Warli Art studio located at Jawhar has become a fulcrum for all original artisans from Jawhar & Mokhada.
While dropout rate in Maharashtra is very low school infrastructure at many places is in shambles. Under Program Shiksha, Raah foundation adopts dilapidated school buildings and renovates them to create an ambience suitable for education and growth. Other projects include notebook, bag and shoes distribution. Supporting for building digital infrastructure etc.
Environment degradation and climate change has deeply affected all our lives and it is important for all organisations working for nation building to work on mitigation strategies. Deforestation is rampant in Jawhar & Mokhada as trees are cut to provide fuel for cooking. Once a thick jungle has now vanished affecting the tribal life in many ways as forest is considered an important treasure of the indigenous people.
Raah Foundation implements 3 programs under program shrushti:
- 1. #milliontrees campaign: Under this along with other stakeholders Raah Foundation has taken up the ambitious project of planting a million trees in Jawhar/ Mokhada in next 5 years. The key objective of the program is to reverse the deforestation and restore the original glory of Jawhar and Mokhada.
- 2. Innovative cooking chulha that uses 50% less firewood. This chulha also comes with a chimney that throws the smoke outside the tribal hut thereby completely eliminating the negative effects of smoke as woman does not have to inhale the smoke anymore. Raah Foundation is working on introducing this innovative cooking method in Jawhar and Mokhada.
- 3. Beach clean-ups in association with partner organisation Jay Foundation: Our water bodies, our oceans, our beaches have become infested with plastic and while limiting or completely stopping the use of plastic is the most sustainable solution, regular beach clean-ups to remove plastic waste and sending it for scientific recycling is also must. Raah Foundation has incubated Jay Foundation that undertakes weekly clean-ups across Dadar beach in Mumbai.
While working closely with the tribals, we have realized that there is a gap between villages and city and that is not only due to lack of facilities but due to lack of awareness. A way to bridge the gap is to have community approach and highlight the feeling of giving back to society. A trip/visit to these villages, helps the urban crowd understand the roots better, learn about different culture, tradition, beliefs and in turn connect to the tribal people and bond, share and even teach them new things, help them expand their vision and together join hands to strengthen and grow and lead a meaningful life. So we conduct one day/two day or customized tour packages to these villages for corporate/school students/individuals/families with different itineraries highlighting tribal way of life, their culture, customs, food etc. You can know more or plan a trip with us for very different rural experience, drop us a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org