Maharashtra’s Latur district was in the headlines as it faced severe droughts putting the livelihood of several farmers at full risk. While most farmers were left clueless, farmer Mahadev Gomare came at the need of an hour with a masterplan!
Jal Jagruti Abhyaan, an initiative led by Gomare
Since 2013, Gomare’s constant effort to make several parts of Latur water-resilient and to make sure that they are self-sufficient at meeting their water demands have produced successful results.
This people’s movement chaired by Gomare, including their awareness drives slowly resulted into a much larger movement called Jal Jagruti Abhyaan, which now has multiple stakeholders.
Roughly 3,000 houses and bungalows located in Latur city were approached by Gomare since 2013 to undertake water harvesting.
“It was not easy in the beginning. The people of the first three or four villages we approached initially were not ready to cooperate with us to undertake the initiative. They would complain saying it was not their job to take such a huge responsibility on their shoulders, it was the government’s job,” said Mahadev Gomare in conversation with The Logical Indian.
“It took me some time to convince them that this would not be so difficult if all of us are in this together. The droughts made our lives so difficult that it was important that we did our part to make things easier for all of us,” he added.
Gomare’s techniques to harvest water
Since 2013, Gomare and his active team have taken to rift valley as well as water shedding projects in Latur. Moreover, they have also taken to agroforestry and social forestry, and other methods to manage the groundwater table, including growing crops with less water consumption, compartment bunding and using recharge wells and inductions wells.
“Keeping aside the initial difficulties, we have had a lot of help from people. Lots of people have made the work their own and have worked their best to assist us. The work we do can be done without spending a lot of money. It also keeps our biodiversity alive. From just a few villages, we have worked in 100 villages by now. It is a great achievement for us,” Gomare said.
In a bid to restore water bodies which have been dry for several years, the team chaired by Gomare, deepened and widened the riverbeds. Awareness campaigns and community empowerment workshops have also been held by them to make people realize and understand how important it is to harvest water. People also stepped forward to support the movement and have contributed Rs 15 crore.
“We farmers rely on our farms and crops for a living. How crucial water is to a farm is unexplainable. Our initiative is letting farmers work at a low input cost and yet yield a lot. Although for varied reasons, there have been several farmer suicides across the country.
Failing to yield crops is a major reason because no crops equal to no living. No suicides have taken place in the farms I have worked in during these years,” said Gomare, Art of Living Projects Director in Maharashtra.
With Gomare’s initiative, over hundreds of small farmers in Latur moved to natural farming, afforestation (planting trees), agroforestry and river rejuvenation and in 2016, Latur transformed into a major food grains market. 7 rivers and tributaries are being rejuvenated and despite less rainfall, Latur remained self-sufficient.
“We often lament about our difficulties and leave them to other people to be solved. If we can do it ourselves, we must make the effort,” Gomare said.
(With inputs from Logical Indian)