Art of Living Project on water harvesting

Posted on: Monday, December 16, 2013

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Due to the initiatives of these volunteers, Kapsi village can now withstand two years of no rainfall, has doubled its agricultural yields and is 90 % alcohol-free.

Life has changed completely for Dadasaheb Khatar, a farmer who lives in Kapsi village on the dusty two-lane Phalton-Satara highway. His days of waiting areover. He no longer looks out for the tankers from Phalton that used to bring them 12,000 litres of water every two days for his cows, his family and his fields. He now gets water from one of the many check dams built in his village by volunteers of Vyakti Vikas Kendra India (VVKI), worldwide known as Art of Living Foundation. Kapsi is one of 1200 villages in Maharashtra that is transforming on many fronts due to the tremendous efforts put in by VVKI volunteers. With a population of approximately 1,700 people and no industrial activity even in nearby villages, drought conditions from 2000 to 2003 had put the village back by almost 20 years.Till Dr Madhav Pol, an Art of Living teacher decided to take charge. Most of the villagers were addicted to alcohol. Taking inspiration from the 5H programme (Health, Hygiene, Housing, Harmony in Diversity and Human Values) designed by His Holiness Poojya Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, he, along with the sarpanch and a few villagers, decided to tackle the problem at its roots.

They started conducting Navchetana Shibirs – a five-day stress-elimination workshop offered by VVKI for rural folk that helps in getting rid of addiction. “Today,90 per cent have given up alcohol,” vouches Khatar.

Simultaneously, VVKI teachers and volunteers started building check dams to collect rainwater for future use in order to tackle the severe water problems of the villagers.

“Today there are 28 check dams – 17 gabian structures and 11 underground structures – to collect rainwater. As a result we can withstand two years of no rainfall,” says a proud Dr Pol. “Three cement bandaras (permanent structures that collect water) have also been built to further consolidate its water position.”

Khatar’s happiness is evident. “What could be better? Today there is water, water everywhere. All the fields are well-watered because of the underground structures. The water tables have risen and when we think of our previous situation, it’s unthinkable. What could be better than having enough water for a farmer,” he asks simply.

Built from the seed money donated by Vyakti Vikas Kendra India and the initiative of its volunteers, the dams have resulted in raising the water table so high that all the wells are full.

The sarpanch of Kapsi, Deepak Kadam, too is grateful for the long-term relief provided by these projects taken up by VVKI. “During the drought period if we had approached the government they would have built roads to provide employment which is not a solution to our problems. But these projects have addressed our very needs.” Kapsi has already won an award at the taluka level and is attracting hordes of visitors.

With the help of the state government, VVKI volunteers and villagers have implemented Continuous Contour Trench method of rainwater harvesting on 400 acres of land. Along with this the volunteers have been holding seminars on chemical free farming (CFF) to educate the farmers on how to get better yields through natural means and zero-investment. Four such seminars have been held in the last two years that were attended by 1200 farmers, 600 farmers, 700 farmers and then 2,000 farmers each. The last in the presence of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar when he visited the village this year. As a result of these seminars, 30 per cent of these farmers have adopted CFF and the village has almost doubled its agricultural yield this year.

Next on the cards, says Dr Pol is “a massive tree plantation drive to plant over 1,00,000 trees on 400 acres of land”.

Toilets and Smokeless Chullahs

The volunteers also identified the need for toilets and smokeless chullahs. There were no toilets in Kapsi. The women in this village were so used to answering nature’s call at night that a toilet next to their house called for a complete orientation. Curbing natural toilet needs was affecting the health of these women. The volunteers had to first change their mindset to build the toilets. After the first five toilets were built, the rest just followed. Kapsi now boasts of 100 toilets! Each toilet has its own septic tank, which after 10 years will yield manure.

Firewood was also the only medium of cooking as a result of which homes were filled with fumes that led to respiratory and otherproblems especially in women. VVKI provided 100 smokeless chullahs to villagers in Kapsi that not only reduced respiratory problems but also saved firewood by over 60%. The chullahs are designed in such a way that two cooking operations can be carried out simultaneously – saving time and energy.

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