NAME: Mansa Ram
LOCATION: Chalawan, Darlaghat, Himachal Pradesh
OCCUPATION: Retired Subedar Major in the Indian Army
Mansa Ram is 75 and supposed to be retired – living the relaxed and quiet life. But as an avid agriculturalist, water conservationist and the President of the Village Development Committee, Mansa is busier than ever! A retired Subedar Major of the 14 Dogra Regiment, Mansa retired from service in 1997 and has spent the last 25 years transforming his farm and village - and it all started with water. With a multitude of water issues in the area, Mansa has been a driving force behind the Village Watershed Development Committee and has transformed the water situation on his own property – advocating interventions to other farmers in the area.
• WATER – With limited water and infrastructure, Mansa was initially forced to carry bucket loads of water to his farm to water plants. He constructed a small percolation pond near his farm for irrigation, and laid micro irrigation in his orchard with support from ACF. Going one step further, he installed an RRWHS and as a result he has converted 7 bigha of land from wasteland into productive horticulture land. He has also made it possible to access the government’s lift irrigation drinking water scheme and install irrigation systems in two villages.
• ROADS – With no road into the village, he took up the cause - lobbying the panchayat, and even the Chief Minister for help. He donated his own land so that a road could be made, and when the road finally came, so much development happened in the community that today everyone has ‘pukka’ houses.
• VILLAGE DEVELOPMENT – As an army officer with a lot of discipline, he saw how ad hoc and laid-back everything was in his village. He catalyzed the formation of the Village Development Committee to identify problems and prioritise works, and became an advocate for projects to the Government. With the local Panchayat very far away, his efforts resulted in a sub panchayat office being built just half a km away. He has also acted as a catalyst in forming a Women’s Group and a Community Centre in his village.
• SOLAR FENCING – Mansa’s property, along with other farms in the area, was vulnerable to wild animal attacks, and so much lay dormant as a result. Monkeys, wild boars, deers, peacocks and other birds often attack, destroying crops and infrastructure. To solve the problem, Mansa installed solar electric fencing to keep animals off the land. With 4.5 bigha of land now protected, Mansa planted an orchard of 250 apple saplings.
Mansa Ram feels happy and relaxed that he has achieved so many things. He spends his Sundays in the field with his grandchildren, but whenever Monday comes around, he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. “Till my body allows me, I’ll continue farming and juggling my social work,” he said. “It’s what helps keep me going in life!”