|People's Participation in Managing Common Pool Natural Resources : Lessons of Success in India (IRMA, 1992, 26 p.)|
Sukhomajri is another well-known model (Chopra et al., 1988) of micro-watershed development in India. Sukhomajri is a small village of about 538 people, mostly Gujars, in the lower ranges of the Shivaliks in Haryana. A profile of the village is given in Table 1. Roughly half of the total land in the village is owned privately by individual farmers and the other half is common property land. The major portion of the catchment is owned by the Forest Department. The Sukhomajri project was launched in 1979. It focused on harvesting and recycling of rain-water. Sukhomajri now has three rainfed reservoirs. All the rain-water that falls on one side of the village is collected and stored in these reservoirs and is used for both irrigation and drinking purposes. In Sukhomajri, a total area of 4,085 ha was treated at a total cost of Rs.78.32 lakh, at an average cost of Rs. 1,917 per ha. About 61 % of the total cost was accounted for by skilled and unskilled labour.
A Water Users' Society was set up in 1982 to manage the reservoirs and ensure equal distribution of irrigation water and forest produce among the villagers and thereby to enlist their participation in the project. Initially, a young management professional was hired by the Ford Foundation to help organise the villagers and put the Society on sound footing. Another consultant was hired for working with the women of Sukhomajri, listening to their problems, and urging them to take an active role in conserving the watershed. After a series of talks with the villagers, and after much discussion all around, a system of distribution of reservoir water was established in which every member was to be given equal share regardless of the land owned. The landless also had a right to the water and could sell their share to others. The right to membership of the Society and to the water was contingent on the observance of stall-feeding. All these factors led to greater participation of villagers in the project than in the exclusively government-sponsored watershed development projects (Table 2).
The project was financially viable with a benefit-cost ratio of 2.06 at the 12% discount rate and an internal rate of return of about 19% (Chopra et al., 1988). The project resulted in a significant increase in crop and milk yield rates and production, reduction in the number of cows and goats, increase in the number of buffaloes, increased availability of water, and higher incomes. Funds for implementing the project came from the Haryana State Government (Forest Department), Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Ford Foundation. Technical guidance was provided by the staff of the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Research Centre, Chandigarh.
The Sukhomajri experience (Anonymous, 1984, p.4-5) shows that exhortations for participation and co-operation do not work, especially if they are aimed at people who live on the margin of subsistence. The poor cannot stop grazing their animals in highly degraded and over-grazed common pool lands for the sake of their conservation when their lives depend on the animals. Only with increased productivity of crops and greater milk yields resulting from supplemental irrigation made possible by the reservoirs constructed under the project and assurance of equal share for every village household in the reservoir water were the villagers ready to invest in soil and water conservation measures and to participate in the programme whole-heartedly. It was also observed that land, water, and forest resources are better managed and incomes are sustained at a high level when people are also involved in decision making about the strategy of rural development.