wisdom for modern day prosperity
At Balada village, sloping terrain caused
fertile top soil to be washed away resulting
in impoverishment and poor returns. ACF
decided to try the ancient ‘Khadine’
system which enables water to be harvested
along the slopes and then re-used to saturate
the table land to grow crops.
ACF got buy-in from all the farmers and
even got them to garner a 25% contribution
to defray the cost of the project: The
project was kick started with ACF providing
technical inputs and the balance funds.
In a short duration, the khadine bunding
was completed. Water being wasted over
a 100 Ha. area was collected in a space
of 10 Ha. The impact of the project was
clearly visible after the monsoon. 90%
of the total area recorded an increase
in productivity. Farmers were able to
harvest a rabi crop which they earlier
had to forgo due to water shortage. Farmers
who cultivated mustard in place of bajra
or millet also benefited tremendously.
The financial returns from mustard were
much better than those from bajra. Farmers
received Rs.1.5 lakh for 50 quintals of
mustard as against Rs.75, 000/= for 150
quintals of bajra. The moisture table
of the soil also improved and this benefited
crops in the downstream fields as well.
Making a thousand ‘flowers’
Vegetable cultivation was being promoted
in the villages of Jaitaran by ACF to
help farmers earn a supplementary income
and for this, a pilot was carried out
with select farmers. The results of the
pilot were very encouraging. The easy
availability of markets at Bilada, Jodhpur
was an additional advantage.
Based on the pilot, a group of 17 farmers
from village Banjakudi approached ACF
for assistance with starting a similar
ACF offered the farmers technical support
in terms of water and soil testing. Based
on the test results, ACF suggested the
cultivation of cauliflower in the area.
Farmers cultivated an area of 9.08 Ha.
with the vegetable and shared half the
cost of the cultivation with ACF. Technical
support and motivation was provided by
experts from the Agricultural Department.
Interactions were also facilitated with
other progressive farmers who had undertaken
such initiatives. Farm demonstrations
on fertilizers and insecticides were also
arranged. In a short span of 120 days
the cauliflower was ready for market.
It was sold at a profit of over Rs.3.78
These villages are now all set to make
a proverbial thousand flowers bloom!
Lifting the veil of traditional
In Rajasthan, family traditions are very
strong and women are forced to stay indoors-
veiled and powerless. Sukhari Devi was
the Sarpanch of Balada village. But she
was illiterate, so her husband wielded
her political powers on her behalf. It
was a classic case of a woman in a position
of power being powerless on the ground.
The VHFs of the village observed that
though Sukhari had little power she had
the potential to become a leader if she
was properly groomed and supported.
Going beyond the call of duty, the VHFs
took on the task of grooming and motivating
Sukhari. They began by taking her with
them to Jaitaran to participate in a women’s
empowerment programme. The trip opened
her eyes to a whole new world; one that
fascinated and excited her. She was invited
to attend the VHF meetings and follow
their discussions. A keen learner, she
took a first step forward by learning
to sign her name. Gradually she moved
from the VHF meetings to the Panchayat
meetings. The Sarpanch who would never
attend the meetings, was now not only
in attendance - she was also in command!
While people in the village including
her husband took time to adjust to the
new Sukhari Devi, Sukhari took to her
role like a fish to water. She now represents
true empowerment and iconic appeal for
other women in the area.
|Beyond the call of duty
Twenty one year old Sita Gurjar was a woman of many facets. In addition to being a housewife and caring for her family, she had taken on the additional responsibility of working as a Swasthya Didi in her village.
Young and enthusiastic, Sita underwent the training organised by ACF to equip her to function as a Swasthya Didi. She learnt about primary health care and also learnt that her role demanded more than just providing primary medical aid and referral services to the residents of her village. Good health was the right of every human being and that was what she was to attain that for her village.
The women in her locality did not have access to clean drinking water. They walked 3 kms to collect water. The journey was exhausting and took away a large part of their day. Sita knew access to potable water was closely linked to good health and while the panchayat members did not realize the importance of drinking water, she did. A little diffident and unsure of herself, Sita gathered courage and approached the village panchayat. She raised the issue of the lack of a water source in Sevariya village. The panchayat members, unused to such initiatives from women in their village, had several questions to ask her and she answered each of those with conviction and confidence. The discussion with the panchayat members convinced them that the need for developing a permanent source of drinking water for the village was a pressing one that had to be addressed immediately. Impressed with Sita’s enterprising nature, they promised her that they would undertake the construction of a water tank and resolved that the tank would be constructed with the participation of the villagers and would be completed within 7 days.
Sita went home smiling after the meeting. This was her first independent interaction with the panchayat and it was a success. Now will a little follow up and collaboration with the panchayat, all the women in her village would have access to drinking water at their convenience.
Simple Means to Solve Water Problems
Dalpat Singh and Narayan Purohit were
farmers in Rajasthan who are constantly
plagued with water problems. The unavailability
of water had a detrimental effect on daily
agricultural practices and impacted its
productivity as well. This particular
problem was limited not only to Dalpat
and Narayan, but it extended to numerous
other farmers in the
areas as well.
Rajasthan has a few seasonal rivers that
provide water to the villagers. Water
from these rivers and the wells is used
for irrigation purposes and for household
consumption. Over the years these rivers
have steadily become silted. Resultantly
they have become narrow, are unable to
carry optimal quantities of water and
have horizontal run-offs. Another consequence
of this narrowing of rivers is that the
amount of water that percolated into the
ground also reduces thus reducing the
ground water level. These problems are
especially severe in dessert areas.
A technically sound and cost effective
method was applied to deal with this problem.
Instead of building structure on the surface
of the earth, we chose to build structures
deep inside the river bed. A deep vertical
cut about 10-15 feet was made at an appropriate
point at the river bed. At some distance,
another such cut was made. A thick polythene
sheet was tied across this cut to make
vertical cavities. The silt that was removed
from the river was filled in these cavities.
Thus two ‘walls’ were made
under the surface of the flowing river.
These structures called dykes had direct
implications of the water levels. The
dykes directed water to flow horizontally
across the land. This spread of water
increased the water table. Farmers discovered
that the level of water in their wells
went up. In Rajastan wells are often dug
very deep because the water table is very
low. The dykes brought a change in this
situation. In the case of Dalpat Singh
and Narayan Purohit, who are farmers by
tradition, the water table rose to a staggering
25 ft. after the dyke construction. Not
only did the water level increase, the
farmers had water for a longer period
of time during the year. They were able
to grow a wider range of crops like mustard,
wheat, jeera, onion, brinjal, tomatoes
etc. Needless to say both Dalpat and Narayan
are overjoyed with this development.
Teachers to Teach and Students to Learn
In a school in Mundwa, Rajasthan, Rajeev
studied extremely hard for his half yearly
exams. When the results came, he had failed
miserably, along with 80% of his classmates.
Ambuja Cement Foundation conducted a survey
to check the quality of education in Mundwa,
and found it wasn’t actually the student’s
fault. There were no teachers to teach them!
ACF realized that poor teaching staff
was hampering these students’s education.
The quality of education in schools was
quite bad and so the students were faring
badly in major subjects like Science,
English and Mathematics. To tackle this
problem ACF established the ‘Ambuja
Learning Centre’ on 1st August,
The Center takes care of Science, English
and Mathematics, and a part-time lecturer
coaches Class XII students. Three senior
teachers have been posted for class X and
run the learning centre. 181 students are
now at the center and are doing pretty well.
Rajeev and his classmates all have shown
major improvement in the results.
|Grassroot innovation: transforming lives
Promoting vegetable cultivation was a profitable venture, ACF faced a dilemma. On one hand there was a scope of increasing farmers’ incomes through vegetable cultivation, on the other there were practical problems arising out of the product being perishable. Vegetables needed to be sold soon after harvest no matter what the price. There was no way that the farmers could store and preserve their vegetables. The farmers made frequent trips to the local market on alternate days and sometimes stayed overnight at the market till all their stock was sold.
There has to be a solution to make vegetables cultivation more profitable and convenient.
With a resolve to solve this problem and after several discussions with technical persons and researchers, Team Ambuja designed a low cost model of a “fridge” that provided short term storage. The technology allowed farmers to store their harvest for 4-5 days without any loss in quality. The “fridge” was easy to construct and used local materials and cost a little under Rs.5,000.
“Not just vegetables, my fridge stores milk, butter and paneer too” beamed Chain Singh, one of the many farmers relying on this technology.
Prem Sukh from Kharda village in Rajasthan grew traditional crops such as Bajra on his 28 bigha using agricultural practices employed by his fore fathers. The returns he received from his land were not encouraging and in time they became so low that Prem began worrying. He had family responsibilities and the low income from farming wasn’t sufficient to meet his family’s needs. Financial worried consumed him……….till he attended an agriculture training by ACF in his village.At the training Prem Sukh got to learn that vegetable cultivation through drip irrigation was an effective way to diversify and increase incomes. He followed up the training programme with an exposure visit, again organised by ACF.
Brimming with new ideas for his farm, he undertook a small survey of the market on his own merit. His assessment indicated that growing brinjals would be a good bet for him. Prem Singh grew the vegetable in 1.50 bighas of his land and used another 1.50 bighas for growing horticulture plantation like pomegranate, lemon and papaya. He installed a drip irrigation system to water the plants. On the remaining land he continued to grow traditional crops.
Prem was wonderstruck by the returns he got from his new crop. Brinjal cultivation gave him 20 times the profit of traditional crops! In 7 months’ time Prem’s net earnings stood at almost Rs.1 lakh. This extraordinary profitability was way beyond Prem’s imagination. Not only did her earn more, by using micro irrigation he also saved water in his water starved village.
A little risk taking and hard work had worked together beautifully to give Prem Singh the combined benefit of success and financial independence. He is today an inspiration to other farmers.
Jayanta Ram, a resident of Lambiya village,
Rajasthan, left his village to seek employment
in Bangalore city. Life was looking up
for Jayanta; he liked his job and was
earning well. But an unfortunate event
turned his life around. When his roommate
was ill for a long time and met his untimely
end, Jayanta was deeply upset. He later
found out that his roommate was silently
suffering from AIDS. This incident shook
him up tremendously.
After spending about five years in Bangalore,
Jayanta felt that his body was growing
weaker by the day. He found similarities
in his illness pattern and that of his
deceased friend’s. He felt returning
to his village may help restore his health.
When his health didn’t improve even
after moving to his village, he consulted
a doctor. The doctor diagnosed him with
HT-B but when treatment had no effect
on him whatsoever, he was asked to get
himself tested for HIV. The results of
the test changed the course of Jayanta’s
life forever. He was found to be HIV positive.
On the insistence of his doctor and the
ACF team, he was encouraged to get his
wife tested as well. She too was found
to be HIV positive. This discovery shattered
the couple. They were at a loss and didn’t
know what to do. ACF realised the crucial
nature of intervention in this case and
provided them with counselling services.
To make them financially independent,
ACF assisted them in opening a small grocery
store to meet their financial needs. A
water storage tank and a toilet facility
were constructed for them. The health
status of the couple has shown considerable
With their health in good shape and their
financial needs taken care of, life is
looking up once again for Jayanta
and his wife.
Power Empowered Madanlal’s Life
In Roopasar, Rajasthan, dhanis
(hamlets) are on the periphery of village
Inana. The inhabitants are cut off from
basic facilities that the other village
hubs have. Madanlal Jat, a farmer, lives
in one such dhani, along with his
family of eight.
No electricity reached them and this
caused major problems for the women, who
couldn’t work and the children who
couldn’t study after sundown. The
Government had made promises that seemed
The area had abundant sunlight, so ACF
decided to try using solar panels to generate
electricity. Madanlal agreed to make a
one-time investment that ACF suggested.
But even after getting a government subsidy,
he was still falling short of
Today Madanlal is able to operate two tube
lights, a fan, or a black and white television,
all through his solar panel.
Rs. 10,000. ACF decided to cover 25% of
His living standards have improved and his
family is elated. 50 more farmers are keen
to install the system in their dhanis, inspired
by Madanlal ’s story.
Taste of Solar Success
Can you even imagine a life without electricity?
We take it for granted, but for one village
it wasn’t even a dream that might
one day come true.
A small dhani (hamlet) in Mundwa district
in Rajasthan was dependant entirely on
the sun for light. After dark, they use
lanterns. There is no electricity, and
of course, no TV.
16 year old Nirma, a class XI student
in the village, was quite the clever child.
She had been studying about solar energy
at school, and was keen that her father
give it a try. Not only would it provide
their hut with light and help Nirma study
late nights, but it would also be cost
effective in the long run.
Unfortunately her father, Harmanram,
did not have enough money to install the
solar panels needed to tap solar energy,
although he was quite enthusiastic about
it. So he approached the Ambuja Cement
Foundation, who provided one third of
the investment needed to set up the solar
After the installation of the solar panels,
a lot has changed for the family. They
are able to fire up two tube lights, a
fan and even a black and white television.
Nirma is able to study for longer, and
her family’s changed lifestyle is
motivating others to also invest in alternate
sources of energy.
Nirma is thrilled with the changes electricity
has bought to her life. Each time a light
bulb is switched on in Nirma ’s house,
an equally bright smile lights up her face!