Surodi Watershed Development Project:
Phase I | Phase II
Participatory Democracy in Surodi Village
Surodi is small village in Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra with a population of 700. Total land under agriculture in the village is around 700 hectares. The land distribution is an average of one hectare per person. The main occupation of the village is agriculture. Since last six years the villagers are planning to transform the village into a self sufficient village through watershed development and other activities.
Situation of the village before watershed development work: Surodi is 12 km away form the taluka headquarters and 55 km from the district headquarters. There was no good road connecting Taluka and District headquarters, so there was no state bus transportation. If somebody had to go to Taluka headquarters to buy daily essential things they had to either go by Bullock-cart or by bicycle. There was no Hospital, no Post office, nor any Bank, Telephones; the school was only up to 4th standard; so after fourth boys went to nearby village for higher education but most of the girls dropped out after fourth. The literacy rate in the village was less than 50%. Even in this computerized age only 10 boys were able to complete graduation and there was not a single graduate girl in the village. The main occupation of the village was and is farming which solely depended on the rain. The average rainfall in the village is 400mm per year and this rainwater flows out of the village because there was no infrastructure to catch this water in the village. In the monsoon people were engaged in agriculture and rest of year went to nearby village to work on daily wages. There were lots of private high interest loans against the farmers, so most of the income went to repay these private loans.
Present situation of the Village. In the year 2000 some young men of Surodi visited Ralegaon Siddhi, a famous ideal village in Maharashtra to study the village development activities there. They also met Anna Hazare. Some 35 years back Anna was inspired by Gandhiji's philosophy of Village Swaraj. Mahatma Gandhiji's idea of village Swaraj was that it should be a complete Republic, independent of its neighbors for its own vital needs; and yet interdependent for some others in which dependency becomes necessary. Thus, every village's first concern will be to grow its own food crops, and cotton for the clothing. It should have a reserve for its cattle, recreation and play ground for children and even adults. Then, if there is more land available it will be used as a cash crop. Ralegaon Siddhi is just 50 km from Surodi. We often visited this ideal village to understand Gram Swaraj concept, and started work at Surodi. The advantage of Surodi was that we have very fertile land but due to lack of water it was useless, so the first we started in Surodi was watershed development. For four successive years from 2001 to 2004 in summers we volunteered to build more than 20 cement and earth bunds and more than 200 farm bunds and loose boulders. Association for India's development (AID) (www.aidindia.org) has supported us for buying sand, cement and stone and Vidnyanvahini, a Pune based NGO, (http://www.vidnyanvahini.org) gave us technical support for surveying to build bunds. Surodi villager not only did voluntary work but collected more than one lack towards donation for village development. Past three successive years we got very good rains and experienced very positive results of watershed development. Now we have enough water to drink and even for agriculture.
Due to watershed development our land under irrigation increased from 10 hectare to 200 hectare. Now we grow more than sufficient grains and we are not dependent upon government ration shops for our grain requirements. Our milk production is increased from 50 liters to 800 liters. People do not need to go to nearby village on daily wages. In fact, sometimes they hire people from outside. All people in the village are busy in there farm. Last year we sold onion worth Rs 40,00,000 ( forty lacks) and sugarcane worth Rs 20,00,000 ( twenty lacks). People earn Rs.7000-8000 daily by selling milk. Now we have six tractors, 80 motorcycles and, two tempos and two JCB machines in the village and almost every house has a cell phone.
The financial position of village very secure, so people are spending more money on child education. All children in the village go to school. Past three successive years people have given more than Rs 20,000 (twenty thousand) to school for purchasing books and computer. Now we have very good harmony in the village. All people take part in the all festivals. Since last seven years there are no elections in the village. The Sarpanch and Chairman of the Village Co-operative society are elected unopposed. Also, there are no disputes in village. Villagers celebrate all festivals in village together. People have built two temples in the village.
In future we want to transform Surodi into Gandhiji's dream 'self sufficient village'.
September 24, 2007