Sumanti Sen is an English Literature graduate who believes "there's just one kind of folks. Folks.".
Maharashtra’s Latur district had been hitting the headlines for some years because of the severe droughts that engulfed the region and put the livelihood of several farmers at risk. While most farmers sat helplessly, farmer Mahadev Gomare dared to think out of the box.
Since 2013, Gomare’s continuous effort to make several parts of Latur water-resilient and to ensure that they are self-sufficient at meeting their water demands have borne fruit.
This people’s movement led by Gomare, as well as their awareness drives, gradually culminated into a much larger movement called Jal Jagruti Abhyaan, which now has multiple stakeholders.
Nearly 3,000 houses and bungalows 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.
Since 2013, Gomare and his team have taken to rift valley and water shedding projects in Latur. 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.
The team, led by Gomare, has worked to revive water bodies which have been dead for several years, by deepening and widening the riverbeds. Awareness campaigns and community empowerment workshops have been held by them to make people realize how crucial it is to harvest water. People have come 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, who is the Art of Living Projects Director, Maharashtra.
With Gomare’s initiative, hundreds of small farmers in Latur have moved to natural farming, afforestation, agroforestry and river rejuvenation and in 2016, Latur became a major food grains market. Seven rivers and tributaries are being rejuvenated. Despite less rainfall, Latur has 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.
The Logical Indian appreciates Mahadev Gomare for his resolute effort.
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