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close this bookCase Studies of People's Participation in Watershed Management in Asia (PWMTA, 1996)
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View the documentAbbreviations
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View the documentForeword
Open this folder and view contentsA case study of people's participation in Begnastal and Rupatal (BTRT) watershed management in Nepal
Open this folder and view contentsA case study of successful watershed management in Wuhua County, Guangdong Province, China
Open this folder and view contentsA successful case of participatory watershed management at Ralegan Siddhi Village in district Ahmadnagar, Maharastra, India*


PWMTA-WMTUH-FARM Field Document No. 4

Case Studies of People's Participation in Watershed Management in Asia

Part I: Nepal, China and India

Edited by

Prem N. Sharma and Mohan P. Wagley

Kathmandu, Nepal, January, 1996

UNDP/FAO/Netherlands, RAS/93/063 - GCP/RAS/161/NET

Watershed Management in Tropics and Upper Himalayas (WMTUH)/Farmer centred Agriculture Resource Management (FARM) Program Participatory Watershed Management Training in Asia (PWMTA)


The Participatory Watershed Management Training in Asia (PWMTA) Program (GCP/RAS/161/NET, FAO/Netherlands) is designed for human resource development in participatory watershed management. It will contribute to sustainable use and management of forest, soil, water and other natural resources by enhancing skills and national capabilities to plan, implement, evaluate and monitor participatory watershed rehabilitation programs. This will be achieved by regional training. workshops, seminars and national and regional watershed management networking. The PWMTA is closely linked and complimentary to the FARM program.

Many of the Asian countries are seriously investing in WM today. However, few are providing training in holistic approach to participatory watershed management. PWMTA is to assist the member countries in filling this gap.


(ASIAN WATershed MAnagement NETwork)

This is a regional network for people's participation in watershed management founded in Nov. 1994 by the national coordinators of the RAS/93/063, WMTUH/FARM program. It is now sponsored by the PWMTA, GCP/RAS/161/NET program of the FAO/Netherlands along with the RAS/93/062, FARM program of the UNDP/FAO into which the RAS/93/063 has merged. Its member countries are the participating countries in the FARM program and the PWMTA program. The network is to facilitate: farmers' organizations for watershed management at small watershed, village, district and national level, exchange of experiences at farmers, extensionists, as well as technical, professional. educator and policy maker level, exchange of information among the member countries, and strengthen a movement of GO/NGO/PO/FOs for sustainable natural resources management of the fragile watersheds in the Asian region: It also publishes a quarterly ASIAN WATMANET newsletter.

The designations employed and the presentation of the materials in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the FAO (UN), UNDP or the Netherlands concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitations of its frontiers or boundaries.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not imply any opinion what so ever in the part of the FAO (UN), UNDP or the Netherlands.

First Edition: January, 1996
Second Edition: July, 1996
Third Edition: July, 1997

Participatory Watershed Management Training in Asia (PWMTA) Program, GCP/RAS/161/NET - RAS/93/062, FAO (UN), P.O. Box 25, Kathmandu, Nepal

Office address:
Dept. of Soil Conservation, Babarmahal, MFSC/HMG, Kathmandu, Nepal

For copies write to:
Dr. Prem N. Sharma, FAO (UN), P.O. Box 25, Kathmandu, Nepal


Front cover photo: Community forestry in the BTRT watershed area, Nepal case study by Mr. Rabin Bogati, Department of Soil Conservation, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Back cover photo: PRA in FARM demonstration watershed at Khanigaon village, Nuwakot, Nepal, by Mr. I. B. Malla, District Soil Conservation Officer, Rasuwa, Nepal.





Asian Non Government Organization Coalition


Above Mean Sea Level


Agency of Voluntary Agencies For Rural development


Begnas Tal (lake) and Rupa Tal (lake)


Total Carbon or Organic Matter


Catchment Conservation Committee


Community Development Board


Community Development Conservation Committee


Conservation Farmer


Chief Technical Advisor


District Development Committee


Development Region


Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN


Farmers' Organizations


Forest Users' Group Committee




House holds


His Majesty's Government of Nepal




Government Organization


Interest Group




kilo meters


Kilo Watt


milli equivalent


milli gram


milli meters


1 ha = 15 mu


Mega Watt




National Focal Point


Non-Government Organization






Panchayat (village) Conservation Committee


People Centred sustainable Development, ANGOC/FAO/UNDP


People's Organizations


People's Participation


Participatory Upland Conservation and Development inter-regional project


Resource Conservation and Utilization Project


Renmimbe, Chinese Currency


Rapid Rural Appraisal


Soil Conservation and Watershed Management


Participatory Community Problem Analysis


Participatory Rural Appraisal


Asia Regional




Users' Group


Users' Group Committee


United Nations Development Program


United National Industrial Development Organization


US Currency


Village Development Committee


Watershed Management



Local terms


A local term for elder brother in south and western India


Movement in Hindi/Nepalese language


Upland rainfed area


Flat low lands




Untouchables a lower caste in India


Village resting places along trails


Grazing lands in India



Gram Sabha

Village assembly in India


A name given by Gandhi to lower and deprived castes in India


Guards in Nepal

Juthe Pokhari

Kitchen waste water collection ponds


Marginal Grazing Lands


Lowland irrigated areas


A place to keep stray animals


Open shallow dug well

Mahila Mandals

Women's groups

Pucca house

Stone or brick masonry house


0.05 ha area


Traditional money lenders in Indian villages


Voluntary labor in India


Equivalent of a county in India


Hamlet consisting of no. of villages with in a VDC, in Nepal

Approximate exchange rates in July 1995


1 US$ = NRs. 50


1 US$ = Yuan 8.6 RMB


1 US$ = Rs. 31.25


This field document is a part of a series of publications of the Participatory Watershed Management Training in Asia (PWMTA) Program of the Netherlands/FAO (UN), GCP/RAS/161/NET and the Farmer-Centred Agriculture Resource Management Program of the UNDP/FAO, RAS/93/062. The earlier WMTUH sub-program, RAS/93/063 fully merged into the retuned FARM program, RAS/93/062, in April, 1996. At the very onset of the watershed management thrust area (earlier called sub-program RAS/93/063) of the FARM program, it was realized that by now some successful cases of people's participation in watershed management have started emerging in Asia. Hence, in Nov. 1994, the focal points of this area agreed to try to locate such cases in their respective countries. The UNDP/FAO, RAS/93/063 commissioned these studies in the beginning of 1995. Three of the studies i.e. for Nepal, China and India (sponsored by the PCSD/FARM, RAS/93/067 and included here with their permission) are presented here. The case studies from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam have been published as Part II of this series (Field Document No. 5). The authors have analysed them in their national contexts. The three case studies presented in this publication are distinctly different. In the case study from Nepal, the government agency has been assisted by an international organization in its funding and execution. The China case is a fully national effort, hence is a complete reflection of national policies and programs mainly after the reforms were instituted in 1982. The India case is a case of Gandhian approach to watershed management by a village level farmers' organization led by a highly dedicated and motivated local leader. Thus, the three case studies cover a very broad spectrum of approaches to people's participation ranging from international assistance to government (Nepal), national efforts (China) to completely farmer driven local efforts by Gandhian approach (India). In Oct., 1996, a regional workshop of the PWMTA, GCP/RAS/161/NET, was held to analyse all these case studies. The outcome of this analysis has been published in June, 1997 as Field Document No. 7, "Participatory Processes for Integrated Watershed Management".

I thank the authors of these studies for their efforts. It is hoped that soon the design of the national WM programs will emphasise on the mechanisms of people's participation such as highlighted by these case studies. In selecting the cases as well as in conducting these studies, the national watershed management focal points of Nepal and China assisted the authors for which they are highly appreciated. Special thanks are to the PCSD/FARM, RAS/93/067, and Dr. B. Mishra for permitting their India study to be reproduced here. The third edition of this document is being printed to meet the contineously growing demand as the 1,500 copies of first edition as well as 1,000 copies of the second edition exhausted by June, 1997. Your comments on this edition are welcome.

July, 1997

Prem N. Sharma

Regional Coordinator/Chief Technical Advisor & Senior Natural Resources Management Advisor (WM) PWMTA-FARM, FAO (UN), Kathmandu, Nepal


Rabin Bogati*

[* Under Secretary, Soil Conservation and Watershed Management, Department of Soil Conservation, P. 0. Box 4719, Kathmandu.]


The Begnas Tal (lake) and Rupa Tal (BTRT) watershed area is located at about 10 km east of Pokhara in Western Nepal which is about 200 km west of Kathmandu. The watershed covers an area of 173 km2 of two main lakes Begnas and Rupa and three other minor lakes. There are seven Village Development Committees (VDC) in the BTRT. About 31,000 people inhabit in the BTRT area.

For the last ten years, the BTRT Project has been concentrating its efforts on watershed management using participatory approaches. Hence, it is thought to be the best area for studying participatory approaches in watershed management in Nepal. In the BTRT Project area, participatory approach is mandatory for all activities at all stages, today. Local people are actively involved in planning, implementing, follow-up, and maintaining community watershed resources. The role of watershed management technicians is relegated to that of technical facilitators.

Communities are organized in order to ensure peoples' participation. Community Development Conservation Committees (CDCC), instead of users' groups, are the organizational unit. A CDCC serves a community as a natural socio-ecological unit. It is not defined by a VDC or a VDC hamlet (called ward in Nepal) boundary. Each household in the community is represented in the CDCC. At the project's initiation, a CDCC analyzes its problems using a participatory community approach and then presents its conservation needs to the project office. As of the end of 1994 there were 100 CDCCs in operation in the BTRT area.

The BTRT Project's push for agricultural diversification has minimized the risk of crop failure and enabled farmers to earn income throughout the year. Nowadays, an average farmer grows about six kinds of fruits, five types of fodder and local grasses, as well as cultivates cereal crops.

The project has handed over the responsibility for managing natural forests near villages to the local users. This is resulting into denser forests. Women's CDCCs are especially keen on managing forests. The use of traditional farm management technology is common and farmers manage their land very well. Terrace slopes are within the prescribed limits and in general in good condition.

The Project identified the need for quality agricultural inputs and support services needed for utilizing marginal lands. Many groups of farmers are involved in the marginal land improvement agro-forestry program initiated with the help of the project. Farmers are not only ready to pay for fruit saplings, but they also convince their neighbours to participate in the program so that there will be a larger group fund.

Local women are very active in forest management and conservation farming activities and are fully involved in the decision making process. The major factors facilitating women's participation in CDCC proceedings were: a clear prospect of benefit sharing, support from their families and the small size of the group area served.

Many conservation farmers have adopted improved agricultural practices and share these experiences with their neighbours. They have setup demonstrations on their farms and have converted many followers, who are monitored by the conservation farmers themselves. In this way improved farming practices were spread throughout the area. Homestead agro-forestry plots were established and kitchen gardens introduced to great economic benefit. The sale of coffee, pineapples, oranges, cardamom, broom grass, and other varieties of fruits and vegetables is generating cash income for the farmers.

A Community Development Board, which operates at the village level, was formed to foster communication between the CDCCs and the VDCs. All ward members of a VDC and the chairmen of the CDCCs in a VDC are the members of the board. Technical staff in the VDC serve as advisors and facilitators of farmers' groups/organization.

In sum, an overall impression about the factors that contributed to the success of people's participation (PP) in the BTRT watershed management are outlined as follows:

- Clear and transparent decision making procedures by project management.

- Clear and simple guidelines, and flexible operational procedures to facilitate PP in watershed management.

- Well defined programs, budgets, plans, implementation procedures and benefit sharing mechanisms.

- Integration of a wide range of diversified watershed management activities and guarantee of benefits.

- Strong motivation among project staff.


Nepal is a small mountainous country covering an area of 14.74 million ha. It is drained by four major river systems, namely: Mahakali, Karnali, Gandaki and Koshi, and about 6000 other medium-sized and small rivers join these systems. The country's average elevation varies from 60 m in the south to 8848 m AMSL in the North. Nepal is divided into five different physiographical zones: Terai, Siwaliks, Middle Mountain, High Mountain and High Himal.

Nepalese economy is based mainly on agriculture. In fact, more than 80% of the total population depends on farming for sustenance. The Nepalese have strived hard in order to overcome the harsh physiographic environment and raise crops successfully. The terrace systems found on steep slopes is one of the outstanding examples of battling the severe impediments to farming.

The population of Nepal today is about 20 million, and the annual rate of growth is about 2.7%. In order to meet the increasing demands of the growing population for food, fodder, timber, and fuelwood, marginal lands are being cultivated. Consequently, much forest and shrub lands have been degraded.

Farms in the hills and mountains are classified as upland (bari) and lowland (khet). Upland farms are rainfed and planted with crops like maize, mustard, wheat, millet and buck-wheat. Lowland areas are usually irrigated and planted with rice and mustard.

Nepal is divided into five development regions: Eastern Development Region (DR), Central DR, Western DR, Mid-Western DR and Far-Western DR.

The Western Development Region (WDR) exhibits the typical Nepalese farming system of traditional style terraces on hill slopes and cultivated marginal lands, on which both annual and perennial crops are grown. One-fifth of the total population resides in this region.

Study site selection

To arrest watershed degradation in the Western Development Region, His Majesty's Government of Nepal has been implementing many watershed management projects over the last two decades. Some of these projects are: Phewatal Watershed Management Project, Resource Conservation and Utilization Project (Upper Kaligandaki and Daraundi Watersheds), Tinau Watershed Project, Begnas Tal (lake) Rupa Tal (BTRT) Watershed Management Project, Upper Andhi Khola Watershed Management Project, and Participatory Upland Conservation and Development Project. These projects pioneered watershed management by developing technical packages based on different models. In fact, considerable variation in the concepts of implementation, the organizational structures and the degree of people's participation are found among the projects.

The BTRT Project has focused its effort on watershed management using the participatory approach. Since the BTRT's participatory approach has been found note worthy in different reports as a best example of participatory soil conservation and watershed management in Nepal, it was chosen for this case study.

Objectives of the study

The objectives of this study are:

- to study and analyze in detail one of the best cases of people's participation in watershed management in Nepal.

- to assess individual farmer's and groups of farmers' efforts in and contributions to watershed management.

- to develop and recommend suitable policy guidelines for people's participation in watershed management.

- to make this case study available to FARM-member countries interested in watershed management in the tropics and the upper Himalayas.


The BTRT watershed area is located at about 10 Km east of Pokhara, in the Kaski District of the Western Development Region. In 1985, the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management initiated a watershed management project in the BTRT watershed area with the cooperation of CARE International. The project aims at improving the lives of the approximately 31,000 people inhabiting in the project area. It covers an area of 173 Km2, including the two major lakes Begnastal and Rupatal and three other minor lakes namely: Khaste, Dipang and Maidi. There are seven Village Development Committees (VDC) in the watershed area, namely: Rakhi, Kalika, Majthana, Begnas, Rupakot, Lekhnath and Hanspur. Two motorable roads link the watershed area to the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway and several foot trails are well established inside the watershed.

The watershed has steep north and south facing slopes of 40°-65° and 35°-400, respectively. The topography determines the demographic distribution. The majority of the population is concentrated on the south-facing slopes suitable for agriculture. North facing slopes are often covered by forests. The watershed altitude varies from 600 m to 1120 m AMSL (K.C. et al, 1987).


The climate is sub-tropical and humid, and is marked by monsoon rainfall. The pre-monsoon period is generally hot and dry, and sometimes there are hailstorms. The average annual rainfall is about 3,580 mm and it occurs mainly from May to September. The mean peak temperature in July and August is 35.5°C but falls to just 13.2°C in January (K.C. et al, 1987).


Vegetation and crop cultivation are largely determined by the climate. Forests are predominantly sub-tropical and wet, although some patches of temperate forests exist at higher altitudes. The predominant species of sub-tropical wet forests are Castanopsis indica, and Schima wallichii, and other species include Engelhardtia spicata, Syzygium cumini, Myrica esculenta and Rhus javanica. Temperate forest species include Quercus glauca, Euraya accuminate, Prunus cerasoides and various species of Rhododendron.

Land use

About 50 % of the land is under cultivation with slightly more cultivation on bari land (rainfed) man on khet land (irrigated). Most terraces are on the south-facing slopes. In fact, terraces on the north-facing slopes are found only at the base of a sloping area. Khet lands are located on low lying areas around lakes and rivers. The cropping patterns are greatly affected by slope, altitude, and irrigation. The main crops are rice, maize, millet, and wheat, but seasonal vegetables are also grown. Fodder trees and grasses are usually maintained at the edges of bari land (K.C. et al, 87).


Raising livestock is an important economic activity in the watershed area. In spite of the time involved in collecting fodder and looking after the livestock and other social costs, raising livestock is profitable. Livestock is also the main source of manure for improving soil fertility and of draft power for ploughing. The availability of forest and water resources encourage the farmers to raise livestock.

Socio-economic conditions

The watershed inhabitants are of many ethnic groups and castes and practice Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Due to economic, social and ecological pressures, the local people are forced to leave their villages for short and long-term employment. The lower castes often work as seasonally paid labours. A socio-economic study carried out in 1990 indicated that about 2% of the population were landless, and that 60% of the farmers own less than one hectare of land. Only an average of 3.8% own above 1 ha of cultivated land (Poudel, 1985).

The average literacy rate for men and women is estimated at 46% (men 65%, women 28%), a figure higher than the national average of 29% (Poudel, 1985).


In the past, people's participation was usually conceived of in terms of the percentage they contributed to a project's total cost and their contribution was generally in the form of voluntary labor. But, since the local people cannot contribute cash, their contribution is most significant in activities that require a lot of unskilled labor.

During the Sixth Plan (1980-85), the spirit of community participation was first incorporated in the process of planning and implementation at the district level by focusing users' committees. However, due to lack of understanding of mechanisms of people's participation among the members, the user's committees did could not mature. Also, in the absence of legal framework for people's participation in the past, influential persons tried to get all the benefits of a project's activities in the name of community participation.

Some of the issues and experiences of people's participation in watershed management in the past, are as follows (Shakya and Bogati, 1991):

- Watershed management focused on public lands and activities like conservation plantation and gully control were popular. Work was carried out in the field either by directly hiring local laborers or by operating through a contractor. The beneficiaries were hardly involved.

- Mass education materials were published and disseminated, but extension services were focused on privileged and well-off people.

- Users' committees were seldom formed. Participation was limited to political leaders and local elites, and users meetings were organised only to satisfy the formalities.

- Few activities such as water source protection, water supply and hill irrigation channel improvement did receive contributions from the people in terms of their labor. However, these activities were nominal and unsustainable.

- Activities accomplished by peoples' participation did not adequately represent women, underprivileged castes and ethnic communities.

Participation means taking part in a process with a view to determine or at least influence the outcome of the process. In watershed management tasks, it is vital that local farmers, users and beneficiaries play an active role. Their participation should start from the initial stage of problem identification and continue into the subsequent stages of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Different models of people's participation which are commonly practised in watershed management projects in Nepal are:

No participation model

In this model, information about programs, budgets and project evaluation is given only to the members of the Nepalese parliament.

Information sharing model

In this, the project shares information with the district level political unit and discusses project evaluation.

Political participation model

Here, the project field staff share information with the village level political unit and elicit input about identifying, planning, monitoring and evaluating activities.

Users' participation model

Here, the resource users form groups and put pressure on village and district level political units to identify, plan, implement, and maintain project activities. Projects negotiate with the users' groups through field staff.

Individual participation model

In this model, the individual farmer is considered in planning and implementing farm-level conservation packages on private land. Projects negotiate with individual farmers, who in turn strengthen the users' groups.

Review of people's participation in watershed management in the western development region

For the first time, in 1979, the Phewatal Watershed Project established a Panchyat (Village) Conservation Committee (PCC) to address the issues of people's participation.

In 1978, the Tinau Watershed Project developed a watershed management plan which aimed at providing opportunities for attracting people's participation. This project documented that the integrated conservation approach can only succeed if the people in the target area participate in planning, implementing and evaluating project activities.

Similarly, the Resource Conservation and Utilization Project (RCUP) in 1980 observed that an integrated program results in meaningful output only when the beneficiaries participate in planning and implementation of project activities. For this reason, the RCUP established a Catchment Conservation Committee (CCC) similar to the PCCs in the Phewatal watershed area. The CCCs, however, could not be effective because the area they served was too large to coordinate.

The BTRT Watershed Management (WM) Project which was initiated in 1985 with the support of me Dutch Government through CARE International in Nepal, adopted the users' group approach by capitalizing the Decentralization Act to form users' group committees. This project has been considered as one of the most successful projects in ensuring people's participation. A sister project of the BTRT has also been initiated in the Upper Andhi Khola watershed of Syangja in 1992 with a similar approach to people's participation. By now, the Upper Andhi Khola WM Project has become well known for applying the Participatory Community Problem Analysis (PCPA) approach to map village resources and plan grassroots level activities.

HMG/N started a District Soil Conservation Program in the Parbat and Tanahun districts in 1990. Although it institutionalized the subsidy policy, the mechanism for ensuring people's participation was left open to accommodate various approaches.

The Inter-Regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development (PUCD) in Bhusunde Khola watershed area in Gorkha District has been operational since 1992, with the assistance of the Italian Government and the FAO. In seeking participation of the local people during the assessment and the planning phases, the PUCD has taken a unique step in the participatory approach. It focused on the socio-economic aspects of the participating community by incorporating gender analyses and participatory assessments from the very initial stages.


For this case study, the author reviewed relevant reports and documents. Discussions and meetings with project personnel and field implementors in Bhusunde and Phewatal watershed areas and in Palpa and Syangja were held. A Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) was conducted in several villages of the Begnastal Rupatal (BTRT) watershed area to gather information on different aspects of people's participation in watershed management.

The RRA was organized in the following manner:

- informal interviews were conducted with farmers, conservation groups, members of users' groups and CDCCs;

- information gathering from professional project field staff and local leaders;

- issues related to watershed management were discussed with former project managers and other concerned individuals;

- reports, studies, and plans related to the BTRT watershed Project were reviewed;

- information triangulation was done by interviewing farmers on randomly chosen sites; and

- village level meetings were conducted for gathering information in groups.


The approach to people's participation in watershed management in Nepal, has been evolving since 1974. Its evolution can be divided into four stages. In each stage people's participation has been described in terms of a five-part project cycle: watershed resources assessment; project activity planning; implementation, maintenance, followed-up on and benefit sharing; and extension efforts.

First stage (1974-80)

Maps and aerial photos were used to assess land and forest resources. Applications for terrace improvement were collected from individual farmers and these works implemented within project quotas. The project subsidized eighty percent of the cost of terrace improvement, which made it popular. Other activities were planned for public lands. All activities were implemented by hiring contractors or local laborers and the projects themselves repaired and maintained the activities implemented by them. Messages to conserve natural resources were displayed in public places.

Second stage (1981-85)

The spirit of decentralization was practised by inviting village leaders to assess their needs and to plan activities. Some key villagers were also involved in implementation. All these projects tried to convince people that conservation activities will yield benefits in the future.

Terrace improvement subsidies were reduced to 70 % so that more farmers could participate in this program. Users' developed benefit-sharing mechanisms, conservation education and extension programs reached more people. Following the ratification of the Soil Conservation and Watershed Management (SCWM) Act, catchment conservation committees were established in a few districts in order to coordinate the watershed management activities within each district.

Third stage (1986-90)

Bio-physical characteristics were used for resources assessment. In line with the decentralization policy, VDCs and DDCs were made to involve in planning the activities.

The effectiveness of SCWM activities in small watersheds was noted. Subsidies for terrace improvement were further reduced to 50%. The User-developed works were repaired and maintained by the users themselves with the support of the projects.

The decentralization Act 1982 authorized formation of users' groups for all rural development activities. They used this act to obtain land use titles of community lands. With this, natural as well as planted forests were handed over to the communities to convert the Government managed forests into user-managed community forests.

Fourth stage (1991-94)

RRA/PRA surveys as well as bio-physical characteristics were used to assess farmers needs. Sub-watershed planning was institutionalized and on-farm conservation packages were developed. Up to 60% of the total resources were channelled to priority sub-watersheds and most activities were implemented through users. In fact, users took lead roles in repairing and maintaining activities and in benefit sharing.

Conservation related extension was focused on increasing community awareness. Guidelines for people's participation were produced and establishment of users' groups to run SCWM activities was made mandatory. The policy for subsidizing activities was institutionalized.

A summary of evolution of the people's participation approach in soil conservation and watershed management in terms of the project cycle is presented in Table 1.


The BTRT project, which was initiated in 1985, completed its first phase in 1989 and its second phase in 1994. Currently the project is running on a three-year, no-cost extension basis. Community participation and subsidies are vital to the Project. The following pages discuss the project's efforts in both phases to help community organizations manage their community and private lands.

First phase (1985-89)

(i) On public lands

Resource assessment

Land use, laud system and topographical maps, and aerial photographs were used to assess the bio-physical condition of the area. Project staff visited villages to observe and to conduct village meetings. A questionnaire for soliciting the demands of village panchayats was developed.

Activity planning

First, the Panchyat Conservation Committee (PCC) prepared a list of all the SCWM activities needed and ranked the top three in order of priority and forwarded the list to the project office. Secondly, the project's mid-level technicians, together with the concerned users and the PCC members, carried out a feasibility survey and prepared a list of technically and economically feasible activities. Then the PCC, with the assistance of the project, finalized the activities and forwarded them to the District Panchayat for concurrence. Finally, the project sent the plan to the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, HMG/N, for final approval.


The Decentralization Act has provided the legal basis for implementing project activities at the ward level. First, a users' group committee (UGC) was formed within each ward and presided over by the ward chairman. Secondly, project technicians and UGC members made detailed cost estimates and suggested how costs would be shared. Thirdly, the project and the UGC agreed upon implementation plan. Finally, the users implemented the activities. The project transported locally unavailable materials up to the road head, and users transported them to the sites. After the work was completed, the project paid its share to UGC as agreed in implementation plan (normally the cost of skilled labor). The local users contributed unskilled labor.

Maintenance, follow-up, and benefit sharing

Depending on the activities, different plans for maintenance and follow-up were developed. Conservation plantations were maintained by project-hired guards (heralu). Users themselves repaired and maintained water supply systems and dug wells (Kuwa). The project assisted the users in repairing conservation measures designed to control landslides and gullies. Users developed a benefit-sharing mechanism for collecting grass, branches, leaves and twigs from plantation areas by collecting a nominal charge for using them. The collected levy was used for social welfare works such as improving village resting places (chautara) along trails, foot trails, and schools.

Table 1: Summary of evolution of people's participation approach in four stages



Resource Assessment

Activity Planning


Maintenance, Follow-up and Benefit Sharing

Extension Efforts


· Land use, land system
· Aerial photos, topo map
· Human and animal populations
· Applications for terrace improvement submitted

· On public lands (resource assessment)
· Plans for erosion prone areas
· Applications for terrace improvement selected

· Contractors
· Local labourers
· 80% subsidy for terrace improvement

· Maintenance by projects
· Local people share benefits but mechanism unclear

· Soil and water conservation slogans in public places
· Conservation films
· Technical package for terrace improvement


· Maps and photos
· Secondary data (pressure on land and forests)
· Decentralization (village leaders)
· Information on land ownership
· Terrace improvement

· On public land (resource assessment)
· Plans made for land having less complecated land ownership
· Terrace improvement within quotas

· Contractors
· Local labourers
· Subsidy terrace improvement reduced to 70%
· Key villagers

· Maintenance by projects
· Users' committee developed mechanism for sharing benefits

· Conservation messages
· Coordination mechanism
· Posters, calendars, pamphlets etc.
· Extension services initiated


· Bo-physical data
· Same as second stage

· Decentralized planning: VDCs select DDCs finalize plan
· Small watersheds

· Contractors
· Local labourers
· Users
· 50% subsidy for terrace improvement

· Maintenance by projects
· Maintenance by users
· Benefit sharing mechanism defineded

· UGs authorized and institutionalized
· Forests banded-over and managed by UGs


· Bio-physical data
· RRA/PRA to collect socio-economic data
· Linked with willingness to participate
· On-farm conservation package

· VDC, DDC plan activities and select sites
· Sub-watershed planning institutionalized
· 60% of resources to priority sub-watersheds

· Users
· Contractors and local labourers
· Subsidy policy institutionalized

· Users had lead role in maintenance, follow-up and benefit sharing
· Project assisted

· Focus on community awareness, income generation, skill development
· People involved in planning, implementation, monitoring & evaluation
· UGs made mandatory
· Extension service institutionalized

Speciality of BTRT WM approach

Unique efforts in planning, implementing and follow-up on of SCWM activities in the BTRT area included:

- While other SCWM projects implemented terrace improvement as an isolated activity, the BTRT tried to change human behaviour. The BTRT used the private farm as its unit for planning watershed management activities and used an integrated approach.

- Training in masonry, gabion box weaving, and plumbing was provided in order to create local skilled labor. Personal contact and training proved to be the most effective tools for community organization.

- Demonstration on private farms, rather than public land, were developed.

- The BTRT initiated a network of motivators to serve as contacts among the project, the community, and the individual farmers.

(ii) On private lands

To develop and carry out conservation practices on farm land, the project focused on individual farmers. It emphasized on integrating soil and water conservation activities for increased agricultural productivity.

In the first phase, the project operated in four VDCs. In each VDC, a field station was established and a total of four mid-level technicians (two agricultural and two forest rangers), were assigned to the stations. Professionals in the project office frequently visited the field. To strengthen the field stations and to encourage women's participation, four local women were hired as motivators. They were given appropriate training and assigned to site offices.

Each village Panchayat was asked to list 25 innovative men and women farmers and project staff verified their choices. The 100 innovative farmers were trained as local extension agents, in improved agricultural practices. The training lasted three days and were held in the Agricultural Training Centres in Kairenitar, Pokhara, and Lumle. The idea behind the training was that the farmers adopt improved agricultural practices and subsequently pass on these practices to their neighbours.

Project staff monitored the innovative farmers to see if they changed their farming practices. Since many of them did not introduce any new practices, only twelve, three in each VDC, were selected to be conservation farmers (CF). Among them, three were women. According to their interest, the CFs received specific training in areas such as beekeeping, animal health, citrus farming, seed management, and poultry farming. In addition, demonstration sites were set up on the farms of CFs in such a way that neighbouring farmers and passers by could easily see the activities.

Loans were given to the CFs for acquiring locally unavailable agricultural inputs such as seeds and seedlings for demonstration on their farms. Each CF was then asked to find ten follower farmers to whom he/she would distribute the inputs at one's own cost, thereby paid the loan back in kind. Under the supervision of the CFs, each follower farmer in turn gave the inputs to other farmers. Thus, improved farming practices rapidly multiplied in the area.

The project made the villagers aware of conservation problems using motivators, field-based staff, field visits, informal interaction and meetings. The project also helped the villagers identify the SCWM needs through which the project could help them. In addition, the villagers were informed about the criteria for selecting activities and the project's subsidy policy. Finally, project staff helped villagers prioritize their needs and to make formal requests to the project for assistance through PCCs and VDCs, respectively.

The project, then provided tentative annual targets and budgets to the PCC of each village according to their need and equity. In turn, each PCC sent a list of activities and their priorities to the project. Then, the project formed a multi-disciplinary team to visit the field for observing the needs identified by the PCC. During the field visit technical feasibility was added as a criterion for selection and additional information was collected for the final selection.

Second phase (1990-94)

SCWM activities are broadly grouped as engineering, forestry and agriculture activities. People within the watershed are also considered as human resources. Communities are organized to encourage people's participation in SCWM activities.

The movement for democracy in the beginning of 1990 resulted in the restoration of the multiparty system. Village and district level political bodies (Panchyats) were dismantled and the Decentralization Act became ineffective. During this period the BTRT Project worked out a model of community organization suitable for analysing problems and planning, implementing, maintaining and following-up on project activities.

Problem analyses

Since a village community shares common natural resources and since community participation is effective in managing these resources, and for solving common soil erosion problems; the concept of community development was fostered in each village. Project staff formed a Community Development Committee, which later was named as Community Development Conservation Committee (CDCC), in every village.

The project, with the help of CDCC members, surveyed and analyzed the problems of the community. In particular, a multi-disciplinary team utilized Rapid Rural Appraisal/Participatory Rural Appraisal (RRA/PRA) for problem analysis. A list of activities was prepared and a plan for cost sharing was suggested. Community commitment was also assessed during discussions.

Activity planning

The project prioritized the activities in accordance with the resources available to it and depending on the seriousness of the problems. The concerned CDCC was informed of the activities and their implementation schedule. The project also requested the CDCC to form UGs to implement the selected activities. Once the CDCC formed a UG and forwarded a list of its members to the project office through the VDCs, the UG with the help of project technicians prepared detailed cost estimates and terms of implementation. The Chairmen and Secretaries of the UGs signed agreements with me project.

All the villagers within a community are members of the CDCC and the UG is the executive body of the CDCC. Depending upon the size of the village, a UG has 7-11 members. Significant difference between the UGs of the first phase and the second phase is that the leaders in the first phase UGs were local politicians and not the users.


The project provided material support and the cost of skilled labor. On the other hand, the community was responsible for mobilizing resources such as sand, stone, and unskilled labor. Forestry activities were implemented by users themselves, although the project provided seedlings. For some agricultural activities on private lands users had to buy seedlings, although the project subsidized transportation and provided training. In the second phase, the project gradually reduced its subsidy.

The project regularly monitored and supervised construction to ensure quality in implementation. It was experienced that the sincere and active participants were happy to receive whatever money they got and to share it equally among themselves (Subba 1991). Once the project staff discussed as to why the participation of local people could not be limited to physical labor only, the people began to maintain completed works by utilizing a community fund generated by the CDCC.

Involvement of women, occupational castes and other minority groups

In order to ensure participation of all sections of the community and that they benefit from the project, the project aimed to increase the involvement of women, occupational castes, and minorities groups in sustainable management of human and natural resources of the area.

Since the main drive behind forming committees, was the villagers' need of forest products and since collecting fodder and fuelwood is largely women's tasks, local women were very active in forest management and therefore they were fully involved in the decision making process. The major factors facilitating women's participation in the committees were: clear prospect of benefit sharing, support from family leaders, and the small size of the community. Because women were encouraged to be active members, their participation in CDCCs was excellent, and in fact they formed 27 exclusive women's groups with a total of 750 members.

The project also aimed to increase the involvement of occupational castes such as blacksmiths, tailors, shoe makers, and other minority groups of the community.

The involvement of these occupational caste in the project activities was also encouraging. There are now eight exclusive CDCCs of occupational castes and one CDCC is exclusively Islamic.

The high incidence of women's participation in SCWM activities was a result of the following facts:

- village women trust the seven project-hired female motivators (one in each VDC), who in turn were dedicated to their work.

- project extension officer was a women and most villagers support her strongly.

- male population was away to India for casual work and women had to assume leadership roles.

- men were not against leadership of women.

- project extension services highly motivated local women.

- project activities such as drinking water and irrigation systems, and forest management were popular among women users.

- training provided by the project helped village women.

During 1990-94, about 300 women were trained in different fields such as forest management (66 women), citrus management, improved cooking stoves, beekeeping, and CDCC management (150 women). In addition, 200 women attended literacy classes.

Management of forests

The dependency of the people on forests for fodder, fuelwood and timber is well established. It has several socio-economic and cultural implications. Indigenous forest management practices generally ensure the protection of forests by controlling and/or restricting access to a forest and its products.

Indeed, in areas where the community organization is strong (homogenous communities), various traditional systems for controlling the extraction of forest products are in use. For example, some wards pay for forest guards. However, in the areas where more than one ward share a forest and strong united leadership is lacking, the community managed forests are not well protected.

Since people's participation is vital for the protection of the forest resources, various users' groups and conservation committees were formed for managing planted and natural forests. These groups are solely responsible for implementing forest management, conservation and utilization activities.

The BTRT Project initially did not focus on management of the natural forests, although it encouraged afforestation of common grazing lands and degraded lands. However, since the local people were reluctant to convert grazing land into forests because of the scarcity of land for grazing, the project reoriented its strategy to focus on the management of existing natural forests by handing over their management responsibility to me community or to users' groups.

Once the local people recognized that new plantations would not fulfil the demand for forest products until they reach maturity, they started managing existing natural forests as well.

Women CDCCs are very keen on managing the forests and have created a fund for protecting the forests. Each family contribute five rupees per month to the fund. In some cases, project-supported watchmen have been terminated and the money allocated for watchmen is deposited in the fund. The women's groups in Kalimati and Adhikari-Tole in Begnas VDC are strong and efficient at watching and patrolling the community forests and plantation areas.

Community forests

The project has mobilized the people to built stone walls along the perimeter of plantation areas.

The project has also trained nursery and plantation watchmen and users. It has identified the primary users of plantations and natural forests, and shifted the responsibility for protecting these forests to them. The project follows the following steps in handing over the responsibility for managing forests to the users:

- identifying forest users through field visits and with the assistance of local people and motivators,

- forming forest users' group committee (FUGC),

- identifying forests that are often used by the community,

- demarcating the forest area with sketches and description of forest resources,

- helping FUGCs to establish forest nurseries, and

- providing support for the preparation of operational plans.

In 1991, the first community forest was handed over to the community of Ward No. 1 Begnas VDC in Kaski District. The area of the forest is about 16.5 ha and 207 users manage and share its benefits. Since then, the BTRT Project has made remarkable progress in handing over planted and natural forests to the community. It helped forest users prepare operational plans for managing the forests and in many cases, users have already started collecting and sharing the benefits. In addition, people's awareness of the need to conserve natural forests has gradually increased.

Specifically, 28 operational plans covering a total area of 1,042 ha of natural forest and 36 operational plans for managing 320 ha of plantations have been prepared by local communities with the help of the project. It is believed that about 5,425 users are benefited from these forests.

Based on the area planted by each community, the project had provided financial support ranging from NRs. 500-1,000 (exchange rate: US$ 1 = NRs. 50 in Jan. 1995) for other community development activities. With this support the communities have initiated cardamom plantation in me community forests.

Management of private and community lands

Innovative agricultural practices

There is at least one innovative conservation farmers in each ward in the BTRT area. The improved farming practices they have adopted include:

- relay cropping of peas and maize, and inter-cropping of winter maize, peas and mung beans in finger millet,

- institutionalization of conservation extension farmers and demonstration farms,

- agro-forestry on homestead plots in the form of fruit, fodder, and legume crops,

- kitchen gardens and vegetables such as cow peas, beans, brinjal, okra, pepper, cauliflower, cabbage and radish,

- thirty farmers produce garlic and onions on a large-scale,

- fodder trees and grasses such as ficus, broom grass, nepier, and bamboos, are planted on terrace risers and on marginal lands (kharbari),

- planting coffee on terrace risers and marginal lands is increasingly popular. Banana, fodder and fruit trees are planted to shade the coffee plants,

- cardamom with other fruit and fodder trees, is planted on the terrace risers and marginal lands, and in natural forests,

- pear, peach and low chilling varieties of apple trees are planted in the high hills,

- some farmers have enough water to manage a fishpond,

- bio-gas plants are installed on some farms and the gas is used for cooking and for lighting their houses,

-mixed cropping, i.e. mixing maize with cow peas and soybeans, or potato with peas and radish, is practised on most farms,

- diversion channels are constructed to protect farms against overland flood erosion,

- it is now possible to grow more than one crop on bari and khet lands because of controlled grazing and stall feeding,

- fruit trees including pineapple, banana, guava, peaches, oranges and other citrus etc, are planted on terrace risers,

- Juthe Pokhari (kitchen waste water collection ponds) have been introduced in the corners of front yards of houses. The water collected is used for vegetables.

Management practices on individual farms

The layout of farms in the BTRT area is traditional. Crops such as vegetables that need intensive care are planted around the houses. Fruit trees are grown on south-facing slopes and are inter-cropped with pineapples. Fodder and fuel-wood are planted on farm boundaries. Shade-loving rhizomes and tuber crops are found behind the houses or on north facing slopes.

Farmers manage their land very well. Terrace slopes are in good condition and their slopes are within the prescribed limits.

An estimated 0.2 ha of farm land is needed to meet an individual's food requirements in hill areas. However, nearly 65% of the families in the BTRT area cultivate < 1 ha of land to support an average family size of 7-9 members (where as 1.2 ha of land is required to support this size of family). This data suggests that the farmers in the BTRT area are required to make a struggle for survival. To tell the story of the farmers' ingenuity in struggle for survival, three cases are illustrated below:

Bishnu Thapa's farm

The farming practices typical of the BTRT area are epitomized by the practices of Bishnu Thapa, a farmer in Hanspur VDC (Chhetri 1988).

Before the project intervened, Bishnu cultivated 0.95 ha of land to support his seven family members (40% of his land is khet and 60% is bari). He had a small fruit tree orchard on his bari land and additionally he grew maize inter-cropped with cow peas, followed by relay cropping of finger millet on these lands. On his khet land, he grew vegetables and paddy.

Bishnu is concerned with soil fertility, seed production, storage quality and adaptability of his farming practices. The land he bought eight years ago was infertile and denuded. Agricultural production was hardly enough to meet his requirements. Spending all his savings, he bought six buffaloes and started improving his farm by adding 4-5 tons of manure. He also used polyethylene pipes to irrigate his field. In the winter, he manured the farm by keeping his animals on a piece of fallow land for 2-3 months. Within two years, he observed improvements in soil fertility and crop production. Chemical fertilizer was used only when the farm yard manure was inadequate, especially for growing paddy and potato.

Bishnu maintained diversity on his farm by planting citrus, guava, pineapple, banana, mangos, fodder, and fuelwood trees. He also raised fish in paddy fields. Most of the crops he grew were local varieties because of their good taste and quality, and resistance to pests and disease. Bishnu had bad experiences with high-yielding varieties of seed, especially with maize and potato seeds.

For seven years, the BTRT Project and other agencies encouraged and supported Bishnu. Her is still working hard to sustain his family. He has only 0.85 ha of land (0.1 ha was lost to a landslide), and his family size with the addition of a daughter has increased to eight.

Bishnu and his family work hard to maintain soil fertility. Four buffaloes provide milk, draft power and manure, and in the winter they stay in fallow fields to provide manure in-situ. In turns, Bishnu feeds his buffaloes fodder from farm trees and crop residues. Crops that require high nitrogen content such as wheat and potato, are treated with chemical fertilizers.

The fodder, fuelwood and fruit trees on the bari land are several years old and will soon reap many benefits. On khet land, in addition to growing paddy and maize, Bishnu grows wheat, garlic, onion and peas. Because onion, garlic, and peas store well, Bishnu gets a good return from their cultivation.

On the edge of khet land, he has introduced mustard and cardamom and this year he has planted potatoes on one ropani (0.05 ha) land. Since, Bishnu's farm is near a forest, he gets plenty of fodder and water for irrigation. However, since monkeys like peas, peas must be grown close to his house and be closely and constantly guarded.

Over the seven years of collaboration with different agencies, Bishnu also learned the benefits of rotating crops and cultivating legumes. He has successfully cultivated high value cash crops and earned a net income of about NRs 2,900 by cultivating vegetables on 0.05 ha. The food requirements of Bishnu's family are met by conservation farming and by selling cash crops.

For these reasons, his farm has become a resource centre, as it is located along the main walking trail to Hansapur. Innovative farming practices are closely observed by farmers passing by the trail. A few other farmers have also introduced peas and garlic into their farming systems.

Chhabilal Bhurtel's farm

Chhabilal Bhurtel, aged 46 years, a conservation farmer at Bhurtelgoan, Majthana VDC, has about 0.5 ha of bari land farm in the village (gaon) and 0.25 ha of khet land in besi (flat low land). Ten years ago Chhabilal cultivated maize, finger millet, orange and banana trees on bari land and rice, wheat, potato and mustard on khet land. Agricultural production was enough to sustain his family of five members.

Over the past years Chhabilal has increased the intensity of his farming. Since his family size increased to ten, he had to try many innovations. He brought his own drinking water system from a source nearby and the project trained him in fruit cultivation and animal health. He has introduced coffee, broom grass, pineapple, guava, lime, cardamom, ginger, and vegetables such as peas, beans, yams, garlic, and onions, on his farm. He also cultivates rice variety Radha-6 in shady places.

Though he used indigenous methods of propagation, the banana trees were damaged by stem borer. In 1960's, his father advised him to substitute the diseased banana trees for yam plants and since then he has increased cultivation of yams. He built a small dry stone wall along the edge of a riser and filled the land with soil and animal manure. Now, he cultivates and harvests 10-15 Kg of yams every day for 100 days, starting in January.

Chhabilal has 75 orange trees, 369 banana trees, and 20-25 coffee plants. The banana trees yield 1 or 2 bunches every day all year round. Although, the oranges are damaged by hailstones, he still sells a significant amount. His coffee plants are too young to produce for the market, but he prepares instant coffee dust for home consumption. Before crop diversification, his annual earning was only about NRs. 7,000. However, by last year, his annual earning increased to NRs. 47,500. He sold NRs 4,000 of oranges, NRs. 2,000 of coffee, NRs. 4,000 of broom grass, NRs. 36,000 of banana, and NRs. 1,500 of pineapples. In addition, he sold two litres of milk every day. With this income, Chhabilal was able to afford to marry his two daughters and has impressed his neighbours to adopt some of his innovations.

In the near future Chhabilal wants to cultivate improved varieties of pepper and sweet potatoes. He also wants to receive training in beekeeping before he adopts this practice too.

Surya Prasad Adhikari's farm

Surya Prasad Adhikari is a leading farmer in Begnas VDC. Ten years ago, he had only 3 ropanis (0.15 ha) of bari land in Dandathar gaon (village) and another small piece of land near the Begnas lake. Surya had a wife and two children. He brought coffee plants from Gulmi and planted them under the shade of chilaune (Schima wallichii) trees. He cultivated maize, finger millet, fruit, and vegetables such as radish, potato, and cauliflower on the terraces. The chilaune provided protection against hailstones, and leaves as organic manure.

In 1985, Surya sold the land near the lake and purchased 8 ropanis (0.4 ha) of degraded community land in Deurali Danda near Dondathar gaon for NRs. 8,000. Water is very scarce in this area. He planted Koiralo (Bauhinia sp.), orange, and banana trees, pineapple and coffee plants, and nepier, sunhemp, and broom grasses. Initially, he applied the bones of dead animal as fertilizer. Later, he used hair mulching. He wanted to develop the area as a mixed tree orchard with zero tillage.

In 1985-86, the BTRT Project identified Surya as a conservation farmer and provided him training. Today he grows many species of fruit trees including orange, litchi, sweet orange, mango, mandrill, guava, jackfruit, banana, papaya, and coffee, and fodder trees such as chilaune (Schima wallichii), tuni (Cedrela toona), Melia sp., Koiralo (Bauhimia sps.), sunhemp (Crotalana juncea). Surya earns annually about NRs. 10,000 from selling oranges, NRs. 5,000 from coffee, NRs. 5,000 from pineapple and NRs. 5,000 from selling other fruits. His farm is an example of permaculture whose experiences he shares with other farmers and NGO's.

Surya was the first farmer in Begnas to cultivate coffee. He established a Coffee Association in 7 VDCs of the BTRT area to promote coffee cultivation, train farmers in coffee cultivation and to develop market facilities. Last year he invited the Coffee Company Ltd. of Butwal to the BTRT area. Surya and other farmers sold coffee to the company for NRs. 24/Kg.

In 1994, Surya bought 3 ropanis (0.15 ha) of land adjacent to his house for NRs 42,000. He is currently cultivating legumes such as beans, masyam (pulses) and vegetables. He now wants to develop a multi-story agro-forestry system. Though water is scarce, Surya aims to increase his yields on this land without applying chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Management of marginal lands

The increasing population pressure has compelled farmers to cultivate even the most fragile marginal lands even though this has caused heavy soil losses. The project has identified quality agricultural inputs and technical support services for those farmers who cultivate marginal land. All improved farming practices are implemented through a group of farmers. In fact, a prerequisite for receiving BTRT services and input is that farmers form a CDCC. Farmers were ready not only to pay for the fruit saplings themselves, but convince their neighbours to participate in the program so that there would be a large group fund.

The project has introduced agro-forestry to utilize marginal and erosion-prone land more efficiently. Fruit and fodder trees and cash and legume crops are the major species planted in agro-forestry plots.

A group of 5-15 farmers are involved in the agro-forestry program. The size of land on an average is about one ha. About 2,900 households in BTRT area are involved in marginal land agro-forestry program and cultivated a total of 44 ha. In the Syangkhudi sub-watershed area there are three major agro-forestry plots. The agro-forestry plot in Ardha is very popular and is much appreciated by visitors. Seeing that the 9,000 fruit trees have started to bear fruit and that other cash crops are also very productive, other villagers have replicated the agro-forestry activities.

A case history of Hariprasad Banstola and his community

In 1992, Hariprasad Banstola attended a week-long training course on conservation farming practices on low productive marginal lands. Encouraged by the BTRT Project, he motivated eight other farmers to adopt the marginal laud agro-forestry program. At the end of June 1992, the group started the program on 3 ha of marginal lands. The project provided seedlings at subsidized rates and assisted in establishing an irrigation system.

Hariprasad has one ha of marginal land on which he used to produce about 70 Kg of millet. After getting a bank loan of NRs. 11,000 to start his agro-forestry project, he planted an additional 769 fruit trees and 524 fodder trees. The major fruit trees are banana (40 Nos.), coffee (54), orange (84), and pineapple (150). The banana and pineapple started bearing fruit within 17 months. He also grew other seasonal crops and planted broom grass along risers.

Last year Hariprasad sold NRs. 2,400 of bananas. This year, by selling bananas, pineapples, and vegetables e.g. radish and cauliflower he earned about NRs 7,000. The sale of bananas accounted for NRs. 5,000. Since his income is increasing every year. Hariprasad is confident that he can pay back the bank loan in the next two years. He also hopes that he will be able to buy four milking buffalos within the next four years.

Water resource management

Although the Kaski district receives a large amount of rain during the rainy season, it dries up immediately. To conserve water, farmers constructed 35 reservoirs near the village. The water harvesting ponds were generally constructed on community land by the community with project support, although some were constructed privately for either religious purpose or private use. The water thus collected is used for watering livestock and for house construction tasks.

Spring water is also collected in water pits known as kuwa (shallow wells). The project has improved 50 water supply systems and renovated 67 kuwas.

In many cases foot trails are used as seasonal irrigation channels to irrigate higher terraces. The project has installed and improved about 55 (command area of 510 ha with 2010 house holds) such irrigation systems. Waste water from farms which is diverted to foot trails for disposal, scours trails and results in inconvenience to walkers and development of gullies. Assisting the local people in controlling these gullies and landslides, the project treated 35 (with 1520 house holds) gullies and landslides and controlled 12 torrents.

With the project support, farmers paved several trails in the BTRT area using indigenous techniques in order to reduce erosion. About 40 km of foot trails were improved.

Community development and organization

The BTRT project's strategy to ensure people's participation is based on community development, which is the process of encouraging local people to apply their initiative and energy to increase production and develop sustainable watershed management practices. The objective of community development is to help people find ways to organize self-help programs, and to provide techniques for ensuring cooperative action in developing and carrying out the programs.

By 1990, there were many overlapping users' groups in the BTRT area that the coordination of activities was becoming cumbersome and inefficient. Moreover, the local political bodies i.e. the village panchyats, were abolished in April 1990 while VDC representatives did not assume office till May 1992. During this transitional period, BTRT project introduced the concept of a community as a natural socio-ecological unit not defined by a village panchayat or ward boundary. A CDCC (Community Development Conservation Committee) was created for each natural community unit. The CDCC approach sensibilized people to their multiple needs and to their community's ability to meet them, and take responsibility for the same.

Each CDCC comprises of a single homogenous village and represents all households of that village. A ward may have one or more CDCCs depending on the number of separate villages in the ward. By April 1994, the BTRT Project had formed 100 CDDCs in order to link the project and the local users. The CDCCs are mainly responsible for identifying activities, forming users' group committees and resolving conflicts. They are the village counterparts of the project.

The CDCCs in Rakhi and Hansapur VDCs have drafted constitutions for their committees. The CDCCs in the village Deumadi Kalika, and Bastologoan in Majthana VDC are in the process of registering themselves with the District Administration Office. Handikhola CDCC is registered as an NGO after assessing its institutional capabilities.

The project has targeted homogenous and heterogeneous groups, women, teachers, local leaders, farmers, occupational castes and minority groups. This is done through field demonstrations, meetings, study tours and informal contacts. This is aimed at creating awareness about the problems of soil erosion, about conservation, environment-friendly development, and about the importance of every body's involvement. This focus is reflected in the composition of CDCCs. Among the 100 CDCCs formed, there are 27 women CDCCs, and nine CDCCs belong to occupational caste and minority groups. In Lekhnath VDC, there are only four CDCCs, out of which three are women CDCCs.

Every member of a community contributes NRs. 1-10/month to the CDCC fund. The money is deposited in the CDCC's own account at the Agricultural Development Bank.

In addition to the membership fees, some CDCCs have installed kinehouse (a place to keep stray animals), collect fines from livestock owners whose livestock damage the crops/plants of other villagers. Other sources of income are subsidies from the project, donations from visitors and money generated by mobilizing internal resources. The active CDCCs are highly organized and conduct regular meetings, keeps good records, and raise funds on their own. As of December 1994, the 100 CDCCs represented 3,630 households in the BTRT area and had a total savings of NRs. 648,926. There are as many as 27 CDCCs in Hanspur, but only 4 CDCCs are in Lekhnath VDC. The four CDCCs have more man NRs. 30,000 in savings. In fact, the Mohariya Gurung Goan CDCC has NRs. 41,139 in its account.

Community development board

With increased emphasis on the involvement of the communities in identifying, selecting and implementing project activities, the need for a coordinating body at the village level became apparent. Since CDCCs were not recognized by other Government agencies, or by village and district level political bodies, their role and scope were unclear.

The CDCCs ended up formulating and submitting requests directly to the BTRT Project without consulting VDCs. In addition, users not being able to analyze the overall situation, ignored the activities of other development agencies. As a result, the dependence of CDCCs on the BTRT Project increased. To combat these difficulties, the project conceptualized a mechanism for linking CDCCs with VDCs and with other development agencies.

Local elections for VDCs and DDCs were held in 1992. In order to foster interaction between VDCs and CDCCs, the project conducted a workshop for VDC and CDCC representatives in March 1993. Its main objective was to define the relationship between CDCCs and VDCs. The workshop recommended that a Community Development Board (CDB) be formed at the VDC level to encourage cooperation between CDCCs, which are bodies concerned with development, and VDCs which are elected bodies of local Government. The Chairman, Vice-chairman and secretary of a VDC are the ex-officio chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of the CDB of a VDC. All ward members of the VDC and the chairmen of all the CDCCs in that VDC are the members of the board. The project technical staff in the VDC are advisors to the board.

Local club

In Begnas VDC, Surya Prasad Adhikari and others have registered a local club for development and conservation as a NGO. Surya, a conservation farmer who practices permaculture, is the Chairman. The project handed over a nursery to the club, which produces coffee, citrus and fodder tree seedlings for sale to other farmers.

The club, which has a fund of NRs 24,000 by January 1995, engages in activities such as the improved cook stoves construction, toilets, and improving sanitation, and drinking water systems. The club has also purchased a buffalo bull for breeding.

To improve land use, the club has been cultivating cardamom plants in natural as well as planted forests. Last year the net income from the sale of cardamom was NRs. 3,000. The club now plans to lease the community forests above the school from the FUG for 20 years. The club wants to cultivate coffee and practice sericulture in the forest without altering or disturbing the management options prescribed in the community forestry operational plan.

Changes and improvements in land use

The BTRT project addressed the problems of decreased land productivity, soil erosion, watershed degradation, and lack of resource conservation and it protected infrastructures by (a) conservation farming, (b) agro-forestry, (c) conservation engineering, (d) forest development and management, and (e) community organization, conservation training and extension.

Last ten years of project activity showed significant changes and improvements in land use in the project area. The project has: i) conserved about 870 ha of private land by terracing, mixed cropping, and relay cropping; ii) managed and protected about 1,050 ha of degraded and community forests; iii) developed about 320 ha of degraded community land and handed it over to users as community forests; iv) rehabilitated about 450 ha of different land types using various biological and engineering soil erosion treatment measures.

Economic benefits

Farmers who diversified or participated in the project's marginal land agro-forestry programs are now accruing economic benefits. The cultivation of coffee, pineapple, orange, cardamom, broom grass, and other fruits and vegetable crops generates income for farmers. Instead of keeping their land fallow, some farmers now practice agro-forestry. Table 2 demonstrates the profit so earned. The net saving of the CDCCs, in the BTRT area is about NRs 650,000, as shown in Table 3.

Changes in land productivity

The first phase of the project was aimed at testing conservation technology, selecting conservation farmers and developing farmers institutions. The second phase of the project was devised to enhance the productivity of watershed lands.

The intervention of the project has resulted in increased average yields of agricultural crops. The farmers' estimate of these changes have been given in Table 4.

The productivity of marginal grazing lands (Kharbari) on which agro-forestry systems are practised has increased significantly. These lands were earlier used for grazing and collecting thatch materials. Now they are used to grow fruit trees, coffee plants and grasses. Similarly, the degraded community grazing lands have become good sources of forest products. The estimates of the yields of fodder, fuelwood, and timber from community land are presented in Table 5.

Users' involvement in watershed management

The BTRT project demanded for local beneficiary or users' involvement as a prerequisite to initiating any activity. Over the years, the project identified several conservation farmers and users' groups who participated in the project activities. The approximate numbers of households or users involved in various project activities are presented in table 6.

Access to credit

The farmers in the BTRT area have access to credit from the Agricultural Development Bank at an interest rate of 18%. The credit is limited to agricultural programs and a farmer must put up a minimum of 0.1 ha of land as collateral. Since institutional credit facilities are not available for non-agricultural programs, and local money lenders charge very high interest rates and ask for assets as collateral, CDCC funds were created. Farmers who are in need of emergency loans can borrow between NRs. 100 to 1,000 at an interest rate of 2% per month from a CDCC fund. No asset has to be put up as collateral, but the debit must be cleared within two mouths.

Innovations by neighbouring farmers

The contribution of conservation farmers to their neighbouring farmers is significant. Many innovations yet simple agricultural practices were adopted by other farmers following demonstrations and field observations. In fact, 2,387 farmers improved cropping systems, 2,865 farmers started agro-forestry, 5,482 farmers initiated homestead gardening and more than 4,000 households (hh) planted fuel/fodder/fruit plants in their private farms. Five private nurseries of coffee, oranges and some vegetable seedlings, were also established.

Problems and constraints

Constraints to the model of people's participation practised by the BTRT project include a lack of a well-defined role for the CDCCs, in particular the misunderstanding of that role by women members. Other needs are strengthening capability, synchronizing development and agricultural work schedule and better maintenance of works.

SCWM activities demand a lot of labor. Farmers whose lives depend on earning a daily wage cannot easily afford to provide this. During field visits, it was noted that women sell wood and cereal grains in order to raise the CDCC membership fee in the hope that they will be able to borrow from the CDCC fund if they need to. According to the Chairperson of a CDCC in Begnas VDC such women members are not willing to spend the hard-earned fund on social welfare or rural development activities. In fact, she claims that these women members would never have joined the CDCC, if they knew its social obligations.

Since the guidelines for people's participation in SCWM were developed very late, the CDCC's role in the overall development of village is not clearly defined. The project staff feel that participation is needed, but in the field most of them still think that obtaining certain percentage of cash-in-kind (labor time) from the local people, is participation.

CDCCs need to strengthen their capabilities. Specially, the members need to be educated about community organization, the legal status of CDCCs, the role of CDCCs in development and their connections with other development agencies in the district.

SCWM activities are selected in consultation with local people in order to set realistic targets which match the needs of the villagers. At present the crop calendar is not fully followed. So, people are often forced to participate in development activities at the cost of their agricultural activities. Since the project has also learned that SCWM are best implemented during slack agricultural periods, SCWM activities should take place only in non-peak seasons and the crop calendar should be considered in preparing the SCWM annual work schedule.

Many small ponds have been dug by villagers for water harvesting from slopes. These ponds are mainly serve as water-holes for the animals and need regular cleaning of sediments. The villagers have requested the project to help them repair these ponds, but more works still need to be done.


To manage watershed resources effectively and sustainably, the participation of watershed inhabitants is a must. Unfortunately, people's participation being a social phenomenon, it takes a long time to evolve, while watershed degradation is a natural process which occurs at a much faster rate. In order to reduce this discrepancy and to encourage people's participation in the development and management of watershed resources, a project's intervention was necessary. This study underlined the factors that are important for successful watershed management.

Table 2: Income from marginal land agro-forestry programs

Name of agro-forestry farmer and VDC

Area of Agro-forestry (Ha)

Income (In 1000 NRs.)

From traditional system

From agro-forestry

1. Hariprasad Banstola, Majthana




2. Rishiram Banstola, Majthana




3. Chhabilal Bhurtel, Majthana




4. Surya P. Adhikari, Begnas




Source: Wagley, 1994

Table 3: Net savings of CDCCs in BTRT area

Village Development Committee

No. of CDCCs

No. of households

Savings (NRs.)

1. Begnas




2. Hanspur




3. Kalika




4. Lekhnath




5. Majthana




6. Rakhi




7. Rupakot








Source: BTRT WM Project 1995 -

Table 4: Farmers' estimates of crop yield increases due to project intervention


Yield before project intervention (tons/ha)

Yield after project intervention (tons/ha)

Valley Bottom

Irrigated upland

Rainfed upland

Valley Bottom

Irrigated upland

Rainfed upland





























Source: Wagley (1994)

Table 5: Estimates of biomass increases during project period

Forest type

No. of trees/ha

Biomass per hectare

Fodder (ton)

Fuelwood (ton)

Timber (Cu.m.)

Natural forests





Plantation forests





Source: BTRT WM Project, 1995.

Table 6: Estimates of households participating in the project


Number of households (HH) or users' group members (UG)

Phase I (1985-89)

Phase II (1990-94)

1. Multiple cropping

791 hh

1596 hh

2. Green manuring

116 hh

253 hh

3. Private fodder/fuelwood plantation

1979 hh

2355 hh

4. Private fruit plantation

1442 hh

1950 hh

5. Conservation plantation

40 UG

96 UG

6. Other conservation activities

113 UG

203 UG

7. Homestead gardening (Total 5482 hh in 10 years)

8. Agro-forestry (Total 2865 hh in 10 years)

Source: BTRT WM Project, 1995

Community organization is the process by which a community identifies its problems and takes the initiative to solve those problems and thereby improves its living standards by identifying and mobilizing the resources available to it. Peoples' participation is local villagers taking part in development programs which mobilize local skills and resources.


Soil conservation and watershed management programs place high priority on farmers. Hence, the national policy should be to implement those soil conservation activities which generate quick income. In activities such as gully control and landslide treatment, at least 10% of the people should participate. However, the actual level of participation in conservation works can vary from 10% to 50%.

According to the present policy in Nepal, the formation of users' groups is a prerequisite to planning, designing and implementing SCWM activities. People's participation must be ensured beginning from the planning stage to the implementation and monitoring stages.

The national soil conservation policy also strives to increase productivity through conservation farming and development activities. In addition, rehabilitation of critical lands in a watershed should be a key aim. The adoption of more effective and integrated community-owned natural resource development activities is another important focus.

The national subsidy and incentive policies include providing locally unavailable materials to the community for soil conservation practices and subsidizing 50% of the labour costs on development activities on private lands.

Finally, the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management has been paying more attention to conservation education and extension program. It trains local farmers and their users' groups on appropriate land use management at farmers field level.

Unit of watershed management

A sub-watershed (SW) of 10-15 km2 is the planning and management unit for soil conservation and watershed management. However, for farming systems, an individual farm is me implementation unit and the farm household is the implementing agency.

Each individual farm is free to select management practices serving its needs and the project should supports any conservation friendly activities. Finally, conservation activities such as landslide and gully control, and community water management systems are planned and managed at the community level.

Users and their organizations

Watershed inhabitants are an important watershed resource. They should be the main decision makers in any activity involving their resources.

All inhabitants within a SW are watershed resource users but based on farming systems approach, a household is recognized as the unit for planning and management. A representative from each household becomes a member of the users' group (UG). Within a single UG, there may be several interest groups (IG). The members of each IG could form a group for a particular activity. It could be foot-trail improvement, on-farm conservation, water management system improvement, or community forestry development, according to the interest of the farmers. The sum total of the IGs makes up the UG. A UG may form an executive body or a Users' Group Committee (UGC), as and when needed.

Initially, every watershed management project should establish UGs. With this, both the project and the local people gain experience in community organization. Later, the Community Development and Conservation Committee (CDCC), an autonomous community organization, may be introduced as in the case of the BTRT project.

Gender equality

Project field workers must approach women and minority groups frequently, to identify their problems so that they can be highlighted in meetings. For work with women, locally hired women motivators are most suitable. In order to create awareness among women and to build up their capabilities, appropriate training and study tours should be arranged.

Exclusive interest groups of women or minorities should be formed for income generating activities. Women usually can spare time from their regular work whenever a prospect for additional income exists. Once women and minorities are able to generate additional income, their participation in other SCWM activities will automatically increase.

Indigenous technology

The indigenous technology for conserving and managing watershed resources should be critically evaluated before any external technology is imposed. The project should promote traditional system of resource management e.g. indigenous forest management systems. To facilitate maintenance, to reduce costs and to minimize dependency of the users, technology that requires a minimum of external materials and technical assistance should be promoted.

Watershed resource assessment

The selection of SCWM activities on the basis of people's requests and technical feasibility should be phased out. Instead, all watershed resource users should be involved in identifying problems. In community meetings, the users evaluate and prioritize their needs with the guidance of project staff. The users then identify interested groups of users and form UGs. The UGs in turn select, prioritize and implement activities. In tins way, users commit themselves to project activities.

Development of local capabilities

Users should help survey and make estimates of material and labor needed for each SCWM activity. The key users, chosen by UGs to serve as links to the project, must receive appropriate training.

In addition, the institutional capability of local UGs and CDCC must be strengthened. To promote a feeling of responsibility and ownership of project activities, users must be involved right from conception of a project and continue to participate in its implementation. Active users groups should be provided training in awareness building.

Sharing information and coordinating activities

Once a UG or CDCC is firmly established, it should form a Community Development Board (CDB) to link the UG or CDCC to the Village Development Committee (VDC). The Board is responsible for coordinating all the development activities within the VDC.

Community organizations such as UGs or CDCCs should not limit themselves to watershed management issues. Their needs are far greater. Each organization should develop its capability to exercise its rights and to capitalize on opportunities to make use of the goods and services available to it.


Training sessions that develop leadership attitudes, knowledge and skills of local users should be organized.

- Short orientation sessions for local people should precede the start of project activities.

- Courses in leadership, group dynamics and mass mobilization should be conducted for local leaders so that they can provide support to the local users' groups.

- Study tours to other successful programs should be organized for local leaders, group members, and leading farmers in order to boost their enthusiasm and knowledge.

- Local users should receive technical training in the maintenance of project-developed facilities and infrastructures and skill training for income generating activities.

Other recommendations

- To encourage people's participation project activities should be scheduled in accordance with the local crop calendar.

- Benefit sharing among members of a users' group should be guaranteed.

- Activities which solve the farmers' most pressing problems such as on-farm conservation, water management systems, and income generation activities should be encouraged.

- SCWM should he a package plan which contains a sequence of measures geared to address the priority problems identified by farmers,

- Mid-level technicians in the field should he oriented in project goals from time to time, trained regularly, and he involved in the field-level decision making process. A mechanism for receiving their feedback regularly should he developed.

- Experts should make regular and frequent field visits to observe and to discuss community organization and community development. It is equally important for field-based staff to visit farmers' houses regularly.


The author acknowledges and appreciates the valuable advice and suggestions given by Dr. P.N. Sharma. Regional Coordinator and Chief Technical Advisor, FAO/UNDP, RAS/93/063, WMTUH/FARM Program. Special thanks are to Mr. Mohan P. Wagley for his encouragement and support throughout the duration of study and in preparing this report. Sincere gratitude is also expressed to Mr. Bhawani P. Kharel former Project Manager of BTRT Project for his assistance and valuable contribution and to the CARE, Nepal, which funded the BTRT project. Finally, the author wishes to thank the BTRT watershed area farmers and BTRT Project staff without whose help this study would have never been conducted.


1. Bogati R. and B.P. Kharel. 1994. Guidelines and Procedures for Watershed Management Users' Group Establishment. Bagmati Watershed Project/Nepal Foresters' Assoc.

2. HMG/CARE. 1988. BTRT-Second Midterm Evaluation. Begnastal Rupatal Watershed Management Project.

3. BTRT. 1992. The Mid-term evaluation of Begnastal Rupatal Watershed Management Project, Final report.

4. BTRT Project Staff-Project Implementation Reports. 1990-1994, CARE Nepal.

5. Chhetri, Purna B. 1988. Bishnu's and Kheti's Sustainable Farm in Nepal. ILEIA Vol. 4, No. l, The Netherlands.

6. K.C., Krishna, Krishna P. Poudel, Kamal Dhungel, Lok B. Thapa. 1987. A Study of Farming Practices in BTRT Watershed Management Project Area. Kaski.

7. Poudel, Durga Prasad. 1985. Socio-economic Baseline Study of Begnastal Rupatal Watershed Area. CARE Nepal.

8. Shakya, K.M. and R. Bogati. 1991. Critical Analysis of Watershed Management: Problems and lessons learned. Proceeding of the National Seminar on SCWM. DSCWM.

9. Sharma, K.N. 1992. Report on Ways and Means of Effective People's Participation in SCWM Program. Watershed Management Project. UNDP/FAO.

10. Subba, Nalini. 1991. Participatory Role/Mechanism in Watershed Management, Proceeding of the National Seminar on Soil Conservation and Watershed Management: Challenges and opportunities. DSCWM.

11. Upadhaya, Gopal P. and Gopal R. Poudel, 1993. Report on Conservation Farming. Watershed Management Project.

12. Wagley. M.P. 1994. A Case study on Socio-economic Impact of Begnastal Rupatal Watershed Management Project, Pokhara, Nepal.


Wu Deyi*

[* Professor and Senior Engineer, International Training and Research and Training Centre on Erosion and Sedimentation (ITRCES), Beijing. China.]


Wuhua county is located at the mid-eastern part of Guangdong Province, China. The county has serious erosion and watershed degradation problem. Population density is 280/km2, and the average arable land per capita is only 0.1 ha. Soil and water erosion in the county is responsible for weak geo-morphology, poor soils and vegetation, hydrological problems, irrational land-use and many socio-economic problems.

Although the soil and water conservation work in the province began in 1949, this sector received high priority only since 1982. Accordingly, the provincial Government passed many related resolutions to effectively execute soil and water conservation program in Wuhua county.

Comprehensive management system of small watersheds (5-40 km) has been very popular in Wuhua county. At present, the county has 62 small watersheds under the comprehensive management system. Planning and selection of these watersheds were carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of technicians, NGOs, village leaders and farmers. Under this system, local county Government and farmers provide financial support, where as Provincial Government provides necessary materials, tools and equipments to implement the program at a small watershed level. People's participation in land management is through various contractual arrangement such as Family Contract System, Collective or Group Contract System, Sub-lease Contract System, Professional Contract System and Specialized Contract System. Because of these systems of people's participation, soil and water conservation works in China have been carried-out successfully. These systems have significantly improved the rural economy and standard of living of farmers of Wuhua county. This is achieved by soil and water conservation techniques which give quick economic benefits.

The concept of small watershed based development is practised successfully in Wupi river watershed of Wuhua county. The overall plan for the management of a small watershed emphasizes on comprehensive erosion control measures including measures for hill slope and gully stabilization. regulating river system and rearranging farm lands. Principles of soil erosion control have been further developed by combining soil erosion control measures with the optimum utilization of biological measures. Under these principles, short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives have been formulated. Short-term objective is to upgrade agricultural production, medium-term objective is to increase fruit production and long-term objective is to develop forestry and eventually to combine ecological and economic benefits. The focus on economic benefits is based on the fact that the people would participate activity in soil erosion control works only if it results into quick economic benefits to them.


Wuhua county is located at the mid-eastern part of Guangdong Province, China. The county has serious erosion and watershed degradation problems. Population density is 280/km2, and the average arable land per capita is only 0.1 ha. Soil and water erosion in the county is responsible for weak geo-morphology, poor soils and vegetation, hydrological problems. irrational land-use and many socio-economic problems.

Purpose of the study

The study was undertaken with the following objectives:

- To study elements of successful watershed management e.g. level of people's participation, gender equity, conservation of natural resources, distribution of benefits, farmer based research, rural organization etc.

- To summarize the experiences of Wuhua County in watershed management, its constraints and lessons learned and make the same available to other Asian countries.

Justification for study site selection

Wuhua county of Guangdong Province was selected for this case study as it represents the host experiences of peoples' participation in watershed management in Sub-tropical region of China. Wuhua county has serious erosion problems, the types of erosion and its nature represent the vast hilly areas in sub-tropical region of South China. Hence, the successful experience need to he studied so that it can he replicated into other parts of South China which covers about nine provinces.

Wuhua county has large population but relatively little land. Hence, soil erosion and water loss control and their rational exploitation are strenuous and arduous. Abundant experience in erosion control. use of natural resources and impetus to people's participation have been gained in the county since 1985.

Research works on: different types of erosion. reforestation, agro-forestry, pastoral management, soil and water conservation, land use management, stream source and shore protection, fruit tree and horticultural management, natural forest regeneration management, community forestry, reserve forest and protected area management, income generating practices, watershed resources policies and people's participation have been conducted.

After the Ministry of Water Resources and Guangdong Provincial Government executed the afforestation strategy in Guangdong, more favorable conditions were created for soil and water conservation works. At the same time, the Provincial People's Congress executed the soil and water conservation program and enacted policies in nine river basins of Guangdong province. Since then, the People's Congress and the Provincial Government, together with the farmers' groups and the numerous cadres including universities, research institutes, State Land Regulation Bureau of Agriculture, Institute of Botany. Institute of Geography and Academia Sinica, have made great efforts at strengthening the technical cooperation in soil and water conservation. The Commission for Integrated Survey of Natural Resources, the Chinese Academy of Science and State Planning Committee have also been involved in the conservation tasks.

Appropriate management and use of degraded watersheds have obviously resulted in ecological, economical and social benefits to the farmers. Since 1980, the officers, the engineers and the farmers have been able to combine all kinds of soil and water conservation works and transform the unproductive lands into highly productive farmlands, which in turn, developed the small watershed economy. Soil and water conservation stations have made full use of local resources, developed plant-culture, aqua-culture. poultry and produced high class commodities at suitable scales. These efforts have brought about promising results and opened up a new prospect for activating the economy.

The demonstration area selected by Guangdong province has received more than 20 awards from the Central, Provincial and County Governments for their outstanding works. It is for these reasons that the county was selected for this study,


RRA method was used for which the following steps were required:

- Data collection from engineers, professors,

researchers in field experimental stations,
universities and research institutes.

- Selection of a successful watershed management

project from various on-going projects in the
country and review of the mechanisms used for
promoting, testing and demonstrating farmers'

- Information collection through group meetings with

GO, NGO and PO of the watershed area.

- Visits and survey of the households.

- Analysing the data and writing the findings in

Chinese and English languages.

Environmental and socio-economic conditions

In Wuhua county, there are 30 communes and 400 districts with a total population of more than one million. The population density in the county is 280/km2. There are 950.000 people from peasant families in rural areas and among them 400,200 are laborers engaged in farm work. Paddy is the principal crop, which is followed by sweet potato. Cash crops include sugar cane, peanut, soybean, tobacco, tea, orange, litchi. shaddock, plum etc. The per capita cultivated area is only 0,61 mu (0.04 ha).

Factors affecting suit erosion are climatic, topographical, geological and social. These include torrential rainfall of long durations, weakly developed rock joints, poorly formed soil structure, barren mountain chains with steep slopes, irrational land use resulting into over exploitation of sloping lands and deforestation, etc.


Wuhua county (115°18'-116°02' E, 23°23'-24° 12' N) is located at the upper reaches of Hanjiang river. The county is spread over a length and width of 71.59 km from east to west and 87.99 km from north to south, respectively. Its total area is 322,610 ha. There are 33,200 ha of cultivated land among which paddy fields occupy 25.900 ha, and the rest is rainfed farmland. The landform of the county is complex with various slope ranges and steep terrains. Mountain slopes with the percentage of the total area are shown in Table 1.

There are 13 mountains in the west of the county with elevations of > 1,000 in AMSL, among which Qimuzhang Mountain is the highest. Its peak is 1318 in AMSL. Small basins lie along the mountains. The eastern part of Wuhua county has gentle undulated hills. Wuhua and Qingjiang rivers are the main rivers in the county which create an alluvial plain in the lower reaches of the two rivers.


Guangdong province is in the south-eastern region of China, and Wuhua is located at the mid-eastern pan of the province. The Tropic of Cancer (2.5°) passes over the province. At low latitudes, solar radiation is high. Annual solar radiation totals 4.3952.2 MW/m2. The mean annual air temperature is 21.2° C, with the annual maximum and minimum average of 38 and -1.8° C, respectively. The summer is long and winter is short. The winter begins when the 5-day mean temperature falls below 10° C.

Wuhua county is situated at the sub-tropics and northern edge of the tropical areas in China bordering the South China Sea. Influenced by the oceanic climate and typhoonic rainstorms, it receives an average annual rainfall of 1,525 mm with high intensity. This is the main cause of soil erosion. The major landform types are mountains and hills. Thin layers of purple and red soils are formed in the weathered granite crust and purple sandy shale. If the vegetation is damaged and the land is irrationally over exploited, soil erosion easily occurs. Some soil erosion is also artificially caused by the destruction of forests and grasses in the sleep slopes, mining, rock quarries, for building roads and houses, and for other infra-structural constructions. In recent years, with the growth of population and continuously accelerating economic development in the region, real estates have been developed on a large scale. This is damaging erstwhile vegetation and landform and large quantities of silt and excavated stones are dumped into rivers and reservoirs. All these activities have accelerated the process of soil erosion in the county.

Guangdong province faces the South China Sea and possesses a 4,300 km long coast line. Wuhua is only about 200 km from the coast and is clearly influenced by maritime conditions. In spring and early summer, the cold air mass from the north is weakened considerably when it reaches Wuhua as it meets the warm moist maritime air mass. The first rainy period ends when the sub-tropical ridge shifts northward, it is immediately followed by typhoon season. The entire rainy season lasts from April to September. During the winter, the north air dominates, and this period is characterized by low temperature, dry air, and sunny days.

Table 1: Mountain slopes and their area in % of the total area of the county

Mountain slopes

Percentage of the total area

0° - 5 °


6° - 10°


11° - 15°


16° - 25°


26° - 35°


> 35°



Although Guangdong is one of the high rainfall areas of China, its spatial distribution is uneven because of the disposition of the land and the sea, the orientation of the mountain chains, and the topography. Wuhua is situated between the heavy rainfall zone of Qingyuan (annual precipitation of 2,216 mm) and the low rainfall zone of Loding (annual precipitation of 1,343 mm). Based on 1966-1986 precipitation records, average annual rainfall was 1525.5 mm. The highest and the lowest annual rainfall was 2587 mm and 909 mm which was recorded in 1981 and 1977, respectively. The highest and lowest one-hour rainfall on record were 65 mm and 31.8 mm, respectively. Although, the historical peak value occurred in September, May has the highest average one-hour maximum rainfall followed by July and August.

Types of soil erosion

In Wuhua county, there are two types of soil erosion: water erosion and gravitational erosion. Water erosion is surface erosion which include sheet erosion and rill erosion. Gravitational erosions include landslides, debris flows and slope collapses. Slope collapses have several patterns: arc-shaped, strip-shaped, ladle-shaped and fan or compound shaped. Some irrational activities have also aggravated various forms of soil and water loss. Anthropogenic erosion includes various forms of soil erosion and water loss, caused by human activities such as mining, stone quarrying, road building, steep slope reclamation etc. Serious problems of soil erosion in Wuhua have long been recorded in the official history of the county. Since 19th century, the practices of burning and culling of branches and roots of trees for lime and fuelwood, have continued. These practices have greatly aggravated hill slope erosion during the rainy season. Loss of prime farmlands have resulted from erosion. Since 1930's, serious problems of gully erosion and slope collapse have been recorded. Soil erosion aerial survey of 1983 showed that 875.83 km2 of the county was seriously affected by erosion. Of this area. 644.08 km2 was affected by surface erosion and 159.38 km2 by gully erosion. Slope collapses were observed in 19,719 locations, covering an area of 72.37 km2. The rates of gully erosion and slope collapses were in the order of 48.000 and 85.000 ton/km2, respectively. Different types of erosion and the area covered by them, is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Different types of erosion and affected area

Erosion types

Surface erosion

gully erosion

slope erosion








Area covered (Km2)











Some important features of soil erosion

- According to remote sensing survey in 1986, the area covered by erosion in Wuhua county was 875.83 km2 (about 1/10 of the total erosion area in Guangdong province). It is spread over 62 watersheds covering 30 communes.

- The proportion of severely eroded areas is high with 231.03 km2 of gully and slope collapsed areas amounting to 26.3% of the total eroded area in the region.

- There are two reasons for the formation of slope collapse. One of them is the erosion caused by runoff in the valley, in which slope collapse is caused by gully head retrogressive erosion. The second is the erosion caused by streams in which erosion is developed from down reaches and progresses to upper reaches of the stream.

- Slope collapse and gully erosion occur in coarse grain granite bedrock areas. This is because the granite deep weathered areas, with a thick mantle of red and deep red soils, have a high water holding capacity and are easy to be dissolved, as they contains abundant sand. Once the water holding capacity of the soil is exceeded, landslide and slope collapse occur.

- Gully erosion and slope collapse are closely associated with the elevation and the orientation of slope faces.

- Topographic factors include the steepness of the slope and its direction. The slope collapse features are only found on about 50 % of the hilly lands having a slope range of 10-25 % and deep weathered granite bedrock with thick mantle of red and deep red soils. The orientation of 221 slope collapses in the Maxu River basin were analyzed and it was found that 56.1 % of the collapses were facing south, while only 1.8 % faced north. All other orientations had a frequency ranging from of 9-11 %. It is hypothesized that the high intensity of erosion in a drier south-facing slope was due to low density of vegetation cover.


Fifteen plant communities are found in the area. These are: Schefflera octophylla. Euodia lepta. and Lophatherum gracile:, Schima superba, Baeckea frutescens and Dicranopteris linearis; Lingnania chungii and Dicranopteris linearais: Acacia auriculieformis and Ottochloa nodosa: Pinus massoniana, Schima superba, Rhodomyrtus tomentosa and Eriachne pallescens; Pinus massoniana and Indolamus longiauritus; Pinus massoniana, Euodia lepta and Dicranopteris linearis: Pinus massoniana. and Dicranopteris linearis: Pinus massoniana, Baeckea frutescens and Eriachne pallescens, Cunninghamia lanceolata and Dicranopteris linearis; Baeckea frutescens, Lepironia articulara and Eleocharis atropururea. Baeckea frutescens, Lepironia articulata. and Eleocharis atropururea; Eragrostis perennans and Eriocaulon sexangulare; Lepironia articulata and Hydrilla vertibillata.

Specimens of these plant species are preserved in thelaboratory of the Department of Geography, South China Normal University


The existing vegetation is a result of a series of "reverse successions", where the climax vegetation was replaced by secondary growth, some time in the past. Much of this secondary vegetation has been replaced by the present range of species. Some remnants of the climax vegetation belonging to the monsoon broad-leaf evergreen types are also found. During the period of climax vegetation, the impact of raindrops on soil and detachments of soil particles by overland flow were minimum due to high canopy density and ground cover provided by the broad-leaf trees. The existing plant communities at present are inferior in providing dense canopy cover and protecting soil from raindrop erosion. Most of the existing tree species such as Schima superba, Pinus massoniana, Cunninghamia lanceolata, Pinus elliotescens, and the dominant xerophytic grass species are not adequate to provide complete ground cover. Hence the surface soil is easily eroded. When deep gullies and slope collapse features develop, the area becomes more favourable for the invasion of other hydrophilic plants like bracken fern. Thus. on shady slopes, bracken ferns are dominant. However, their fibrous roots have a strong binding effect and hence surface erosion is minimal. But, where the fern is frequently removed by people, his growth is retarded and the ground is not adequately covered, often resulting into surface erosion and slope collapse.

Soil types susceptible to erosion

Based on the erosion types and the degree of human interference, lateritic red earth is associated with slope collapse features. These soils are mostly located in the lower slopes of the basin where a deep weathering 55-70 m thick mantle exists.


Annual average surface runoff of Wuhua country is 1.468 billion m3. In high runoff years (p= 10 %). the discharge reaches to 2.055 billion m3. In a dry year, the value of discharge is about 939.5 million m3. Water originating from the upper part of the river basin (excluding 225.7 billion m3) amounts to about 103.3 million m3. Thus, the total discharge is about 1.571 billion m3. In terms of cultivated land, 89.520 m3 of water is available for each hectare of farmland. In each year. the runoff is concentrated in the monsoon season from April to September, during which 71.3% of the total annual discharge occurs. Runoff has a double maxima, peaking in both June and August. However, from September to March, low flow predominates.


Sediment transported by rivers is related to the erosive power of the running water and the nature of the underlying material. High sediment yield occurs mainly in areas underlying with weathered granite. The average river sediment concentration is 0.66 kg/m3 where the surface material is predominantly weathered granite. The maximum sediment concentration is measured at 22.2 kg/m3. The seasonal variation of sediment concentration shows high value (exceeding 0.6 kg/m3) in the high flow period, peaking in April and May, while low concentration of 0.015 to 0.3 kg/m3 occurs in the low flow season.

On the other hand, with the same discharge. the sediment concentration is higher in the earlier rather than the later parts of the high flow season. During the early part of the season, the sediment concentration peaks before runoff takes place. This is due to sediment storage during October-March period and sediment flushing by the first storm runoff. The peak sediment load occurs in August reaching 364,000 tonnes and the minimum load occurs in December and January (2.000 tonnes). The peak in August is the combined product of high sediment yield averaging 494 ton/km2/yr. Based on the data, the rates of erosion are calculated as follows; inter rill erosion 600 ton/km2/yr, rill erosion 11.823 ton/km2/yr. and gully erosion 113.733 ton/km2/yr.

Environmental damage

Although the area with soil erosion and water loss in Wuhua county is only 36 % of the total area. This area is widely distributed and the amount of soil loss ranges from 48,000-85,000 ton/km2/yr. Once the vegetation in the earth's surface is destroyed, the topsoil gets severely eroded and the earth surface turns into bare hills, mountains and barren ground. Silt discharged due to erosion will often silt up farmlands, chock lakes, reservoirs and canals clog up and raise river beds, block navigation passes, decrease the benefits of water conservancy facilities, and aggravate flood and waterlogging. All of these havocs seriously restrict the development of the economy and production in the county. In Guangdong province, soil erosion and water loss have not only caused runoff and soil erosion problems but also caused severe damage of soil fertility. It is estimated that more than 460,000 tones of organic matter is lost each year because of soil erosion and water loss. This is equivalent to 26,000 tones of N, 10,000 tones of Super P and 580,000 tones of P. In Wuhua, the rate of soil loss reaches to 6,488,900 ton/yr, of which the annual average rate is 7,409 ton/km2. In addition the siltation causes innumerable other damages to agricultural land, reservoirs and property.


Soil and water conservation works in China have been carried out successfully, since China started the policy of economic reform 10 years ago. Although the land ownership belongs to the state, the present Government policy is to award 20-50 years land use titles to farmers for land management for economic benefits. This has resulted in better standard of living of the farmers and an improved rural economy. Main reason for such a success is the implementation of such soil and water conservation work plans which result into short and long-term economic benefits to the farmers. In addition, all farmers use soil and water conservation techniques under different contract systems of land management. These contract system are the main vehicle for facilitating people's participation in watershed management.


In this system, the land development with appropriate soil and water conservation works is performed by the Government. The Soil and Water Conservation office of each community or village distributes land to each household. Some lands belong to farmers themselves and are non-taxable, while other lands are managed by farmers under contract with the Soil and Water Conservation Office. While the area of land distributed to each farmer varies, the whole area belongs to the entire farmers' community. Although each household is ordered by the state to cultivate certain key products such as grain and cotton, the household is free to select remaining crops on both their own land and on contracted land. Because China is a country with a large population with limited land resources, the average arable land per capita is only 0.1 ha. Farmers have adopted many farming systems such as multi-layer agriculture-forest-animal husbandry, and farming combined with home gardens in order to optimize output per unit area. In Wuhua, for example, the comprehensive family farm has a common land management pattern. It consists of multi-storied protective forest belts with Taxodium sp. trees in the upper storey, fruit trees like litchi and guava in the middle-storey and banana or palm trees in the lower layer, established around irrigated rice fields. These protective forests are lucrative. Farmers report that they earn $29 from just one step along the length of such a forest belt. In addition, fish ponds and animal husbandry are also included in family farm land management system. All the income from these activities belong to the farmers themselves. Therefore, the farmers have expressed great interests in establishing this kind of comprehensive family farm management system.

Collective or group contract system

This system is suitable for the use of waste lands. Since this system needs large investments, it is very difficult for an individual family to develop such lands. In this situation, several families join together to form a group and each group buys a share of the Government distributed waste lands. The land is managed with the collective effort, and economic benefits are distributed to each family according to a family's share of land. The actual situation varies in different areas.

Sub-Lease contract system

This system is suitable for the land in which the landlord is reluctant to manage his lands. In this case, the Government allows sub-leasing of the land to a farm family who is willing to manage it. A contract is made between the landlord and a tenant farmer and benefits are shared according to the contract.

Professional contract system

This system is suitable for developing a land-use system that needs special skills or techniques e.g. engineering methods for soil and water conservation. In this system, a commune invites tenders and a contractor with required funds having enough professional skills and interest in developing a suitable land-use system, is hired. This system is mostly used for developing waste mountainous lands.

Specialized contract system

This system is adopted inside collectives or communes or state-owned agriculture/forest farms or in upper reaches of watersheds of reservoirs.

Even after the economic reforms in China, collective, commune and state farms are still managed by collectives, communes or states. Farmers are provided with basic salary, free medical treatment and almost free housing. A farm is usually divided into different specialized groups according to the type of management and products required. The farm demands for certain production standards from each specialized group, therefore each group is provided with land and other basic investments as necessary. If the farmers meet these production quotas, they get their basic salaries only. But, if they surpass the quotas, they will get more allowances and a share of the extra income. The distribution of extra income varies from state farm to state farms. However, farmers receive 50-60 % as allowance and bonus and 20 % as funds for expanding production.

In Wuhua county, of the 6,600 households who have made contracts, 2,600 made family contracts, 2,100 made group or collective contracts, and 1,900 made professional contracts. All these contracts included soil and water conservation, maintenance and development of the land. Since these contracts ensure economic benefit to the farmers, they are often mobilized for land management and are encouraged to participate in the construction of engineering structures and forestry works. In fact, four professional teams of land managers were set up in each watershed for such activities. The first team is specialized in conservation which includes 10-15 professional engineers, technicians and experienced farmers. The team is responsible for constructing large engineering structures and projects and conducting forest engineering works in eroded areas.

The second team has professionals in controlling sloping land collapses. In area with slight collapse, control measures are usually implemented by households near the area. These households are also responsible for maintenance of structures and forest engineering works in their vicinity. After a slope collapse, economic forests and herbs are planted to develop the waste land and to get all the economic benefits possible from the area. For example, a farmer named Zhang Xiangan of Mianyang commune in the Mianyang river watershed made a contract with the Commune Government, in which he was responsible for using the measures to control the area with large scale slope collapse and to maintain the structures such as check dams, silt trap dams, paring slope collapse, etc. He built his house at the mouth of the collapsed area and planted more than 200 bamboo seedlings, 500 palm seedlings and other profitable fruit trees. His net income was 20,000 yuan/year (exchange rate, 1US$ = yuan 8.6 in Jan. 1995). He was very successful in converting the original waste area into an area with commodity production. Another example in Caotinggang watershed is the Dajiken Hedong Commune, which originally had a serious erosion problem but after implementing conservation works to control erosion, 67 households made contracts to maintain, manage and exploit the watershed. They planted orange, tangerine, palm, and shaddock trees. They earned 2,350,000 yuan RMB from the production of 430 tons of fruits in 1993. Each household earned 35,000 yuan RMB, two households earned 200,000 Yuan RMB, five households earned more than 100,000 Yuan RMB and 38 households earned more than 50,000 Yuan RMB, on an average. The third team is a commune forest protection team which takes a small watershed as a management unit in which rules and regulations are enacted for forest protection.


Since the founding of the people's Republic of China in 1949, a extensive soil and water conservation works have been carried out in Guangdong Province. In the beginning, it was neglected in the Guangdong Province, as it was thought that the Province did not need it due to its favourable sub-tropical warm climate and plenty of rainfall. In 1982, after the 4th National Conference on Soil and Water Conservation, the Provincial Government explicitly pointed out that soil and water conservation measures are needed to ensure economic development of mountainous regions, river training and for appropriate use of the land resources. In 1984, the success of the experimental small watershed management at Wuhua, accelerated the progress of conservation works in Guangdong Province.

Strategic decisions of the provincial government

In 1985, the Provincial Government accepted three important proposals submitted by the Provincial People's Congress. They were:

- control and management of seriously eroded areas in the upper reaches of the Hanjiang River;

- prevention and control of soil and water losses in the upper reaches of the Beijing River;

- regulations for soil and water conservation in Guangdong Province.

The implementation of these three decisions played an important role in the natural resource conservation and economic development of the mountainous regions in Guangdong Province.

Strategies for implementing comprehensive management of small watersheds

Experience has shown that comprehensive management of small watershed (5-40 km2) facilitates mobilization of people, ensures implementation of a household responsibility system, provides a unit to coordinate conflicts. Meanwhile, a small watershed which is a natural integral unit consisting of mountains, water and farmlands, is favourable for overall planning and comprehensive management for rational utilization of water and land resources to increase production. Comprehensive small watershed management consists of overall planning and development of hilly lands, water resources, farmland, forest, road, agriculture and fisheries, simultaneously. It also facilitates combination of forest and grasses as vegetative measures along with other engineering measures to control surface and gully erosion and to protect soil and water resources for short as well as long term economic benefits to the farmers. In Wuhua, the first effort at comprehensive small watershed management started in 1980 at its experimental pilot watershed area. Later, this experience was used for extension. In 1984, a workshop was held in Wuhua county to exchange experiences in the comprehensive management of a small watersheds. This provided an impetus to push comprehensive management works into a new stage. At present, 62 small watersheds (875.83 km2) in Wuhua County are under comprehensive management system.


The small as well as large watershed planning works are done for long term (10-20 years) as well as short-terms (5 years) duration. In Wuhua, the small watershed planning is made to be compatible with the large watershed management of the Province.

The principles of planning

In the process of planning and management of soil, water and vegetation resources, practical measures to prevent the occurrence of soil erosion in new areas are imperative. Comprehensive planning, and land and water management is adapted to local Conditions. It is important to coordinate measures involving vegetative planting, engineering practices, conservation tillage and sheet and gully erosion control so as to secure the best integrated benefits of various conservation measures.

In the process of implementing soil conservation works, proper utilization and development of natural resources such as water, soil, plant, solar energy, etc. are taken into consideration, simultaneously.

Inter-linkages between ecological and economic benefits of soil conservation are considered. Soil conservation projects based on local natural resource base are selected for economic benefits through commodity production and for their ecological benefits.

Stipulation of planning scheme

The comprehensive planning scheme of a small watershed consists of: land-use planning, soil and water conservation planning, determination of eroded and controlled access areas, inputs, outputs and benefits.

The comprehensive control measures emphasize a combination of engineering measures, vegetative and tillage practices, and forest and grass planting. The efforts of the Wuhua County Government and its people for last 5-7 years (up to 1990) to improve the ecologogy, to increase the agriculture production, to promote economic development and to raise standard of living of its people, are found effective and highly commendable.


The new land use titling policy instituted in 1984, which permits people's participation in watershed management through five times of contractual arrangement (as explained earlier) between the state and the farmers, has brought significant improvement in natural resources and people's standard of living in Wuhua County. Some of the physical achievements by 1990, in Wuhua County, are highlighted here.

The total investments made are 35,582,000 Yuan and 18,418,000 labor days of work. Of the total investment for completion of vegetative and engineering measures, about 19,720,800 yuan (55%) was contributed by the Wuhua County Government, about 12,740,400 yuan (about 35%) was farmers' contribution and remaining 3,120,800 yuan (10 %) was bank loan on low interest.

Vegetative measures

Vegetative control measures include mixed planting of coniferous and broadleaf trees, combining arbour trees with bushes and grasses, grass-shrub vegetation, raising conservation forest, fuel woodlots and economic production forest by plantation and aerial sowing. They are used in bank slopes, collapsed hill slopes, bench terrace risers, and hill sides.

The areas above the middle mountain suffering from surface erosion are often planted with trees such as Pinus massoniana, Pinus elliotti, Taiwan acacia, Acacia confuss and Schima supperba. Similarly, plantation of shrubs like Tephrosia Candida, Rhodomyrtus tomentosa, Acacia mearnsii, Lespedeza bicolor, Dalbergia hupeana and Leucaena glauccu are propagated. Among grasses, Shrubby baeckea, Baeckea frutescena, Molasses grass, Melinis minutiflora, Chinese pennisetum and Pennisetum alopecuroides are popular.

The gully areas below the middle mountains are planted to arbors like Eucalyptus sp. with shrubs like Cajan pigeonpea, Cajanus cajan (L.), Salix myntillacea, Anderss sp., Largeleaf plemingra, White mulberry, and Lespedeza sp.. Among grasses, Milinis beauv, Thatch srewpine, Pandanus tectorius, Molasses grass, Tiger grass, Thysanolaena maxima (Roxb. Kuntze) are used on gullies along with bamboo species.

Up to 1990, the hill sides area planted by aerial sowing was 415 km2, conservation forest plantation was 218 km2, fuel woodlots was 166.5 km2, timber forest plantation was 35.6 km2 and area under economic forest and fruit trees gardens was 76.3 km2.

Engineering measures

In engineering measures, 15,180 Check dams, 803 silt-trap dams and 2,992 no. level ditches were built with the total excavated volume of rock and earth work estimated at 10,663,000 m3.

These measures are used to control slope collapses, to improve the steep slope topography, to retard flood and sediment, and to create conditions for the growth of plants. The works consist of intercepting ditches, check dams, debris basins, and construction of bench terraces. These structures are designed for safe runoff disposal produced by 24 hours torrential rainfall of 10 year frequency. The national level policy legislation of 1993 has set the directions for these works (Deyi, 1995).


Legislation for preventing soil and water erosion was introduced by me Wuhua County Government based on the National Law of Soil and Water Conservation issued by the State Council on June 30, 1982 (Deyi, 1995).


The Wuhua County administrative organization responsible for soil and water conservation through various contractual arrangements with farmers includes: Soil and Water Conservation Office under the leadership of Soil and Water Conservation Committee of Wuhua County and the Department of Soil and Water Conservation of the Ministry of Water Resources of China through its Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Water Conservancy and Hydroelectric Power. The county magistrate heads the Committee which consists of representatives of the Bureaus of Water Resources, Forest, Soil and Water Conservation Office, Agriculture, Financial, Public Security, Transportation, and the Judicial and Mining Committee.

Soil and Water Conservation Office of the county is set up in the Bureau of Water Resources of the county and is directly responsible for county's soil and water conservation which include survey of soil and water losses, watershed planning and annual work plan preparation, monitoring and evaluation of the construction works, educations about legislative aspects, water and soil conservation, preventing new soil loss, organizing scientific and research works, summarizing the experience and their extension. A Soil and Water Conservation Office is also set up in each of the communities. A community head also is the leader of the Community Soil and Water Conservation Office while the water management head serves as vice leader of the community office. Members of the community office are me representatives from Water Management Division, Forest Station, Agriculture Station, Public Security Division, Financial Division, Judicial and Mining Division and Department of Soil and Water Conservation. The Community Soil and Water Conservation Office is responsible for soil erosion survey, implementation of soil erosion control measures and the development of local resources. The grass root unit of the organization is a Village Soil and Water Conservation Group which consists of a village group leader and farmers specialized fields. This group is responsible for the farmers' organization in the village, the construction related to various soil and water conservation projects, the development of local resources and for implementing a household contract systems for maintenance of these measures.

Research support

The above efforts are supported by the Wuhua Soil and Water Conservation Experiment and Extension Station which was set up in 1952. By now, it employs 114 staff. They include, 20 senior engineers and technicians in agriculture, forestry, hydrology, pedology, economics, and biology. This station has given impetus to the development of soil and water conservation technology. It has also played important role in extension and popularization of conservation works for comprehensive control of soil and water erosion. In 1985, about 15,000 mu (1,000 ha) of land was converted into soil and water conservation experimental area. The area included 17 runoff and sediment observation fields, 13 study fields -and laboratories, 7 metrological stations, 2 cross sections at the main stem of river for observing runoff and sediment flow and three demonstration sites for erosion controls. In addition, a ten year plan for the conservation of soil and water, and the development of the local resources in Wuhua County was made. To meet the manpower requirement in soil and water conservation, more than 100 trainees were sent to North-west University, Nanshang Water Conservancy and Electric Power School for advanced studies. Many of these trainees have become the technical backbone of the soil and water conservation team in Guangdong Province. At the same time cooperation among related research institutes, universities and colleges has also been intensified. Serious efforts have been made in research on subjects such as soil and water conservation, trees and grass plantations, small watersheds management, fruit orchard management in eroded and arid regions, and soil amelioration.


To illustrate the remarkable economic, social and environmental benefits derived from comprehensive watershed management by long term land use titling contractual arrangements for farmers participation, the case of Wupi Small Watershed is described here.


The Wupi river watershed (23.23 Km2) is located at 115°38' E to 115°42' E and 24°02' N to 24° 07' N in the Wuhua County. The altitude of the watershed ranges from 100-300 m. There are three small reservoirs built on the upper reaches of the watershed. The submerged and command area of these three reservoirs occupy one third of the watershed area. Most valleys are U-shaped. The density of the water course system is 1.9 km/km2. The Wupi River is a third order tributary of the Hanjing River, which originates in Xingling county and empties into the Wuhua River of the Hangjing River Watershed.

The total area of the watershed is 23.23 km2 of which hilly lands occupy 18.7 km2. About 20 % of the lands are within 10-15° slope, 50 % are within 16-35° slope and 30% of the slopes are steeper than 36°. In general, the geomorphology of the watershed is denuded low hills.

The Wupi River small watershed is under the jurisdiction of the Huacheng Township of Wuhua county. There are 1,365 households with total population of 6,328 persons. By the end of 1987, the population density was 272 people/km2. The agricultural area was 3,750 mu equivalent to about 10% of the total area of the watershed. Cultivated farmland per capita was 0.6 mu. Forest area was about 8,600 mu and the total crop yield was 2035.9 tons. The main crop was rice.

In last 10 years of comprehensive management, vegetative coverage has increased from 10 to 82 %, the river channel has deepened by 1.7 m, the per capita timber stock has increased to 3.13 m3, and the per capita mean annual crop yield has increased from 249 to 840 kg. The farmers per capita income has increased from 24,826 yuan in 1985 to 60,756 yuan in 1993 (Wuhua soil and water conservation office report, 1993).

Some features of soil erosion in Wupi watershed

Soil erosion in the Wupi watershed incorporates both water and gravitational erosion. According to a field investigation in 1954, eroded areas covered 22,499 mu (80 % of the total area). Aerial photography survey of 1981 and the standard classification of soil erosion types indicated that the surface erosion accounted for 6,064 mu (21.4 % of the total eroded area), gully erosion accounted for 7,582 mu (26.8 % of the total eroded area) and slope collapses accounted for 8,853 mu (31.3 % of the total eroded area). The extensive slope collapse in the Wupi watershed exhibited the following features:

- The sites of slope collapses were accompanied by deep gullies. Most landslides were located at foot hills, on steep rocky spurs and on the lower part of hill slopes. The depth of the gullies ranged from 10 m to 100 m. Within an area of 4.2 km2 in Yuangkeng reservoir site, there were 1,653 slope collapses.

- The rate of soil erosion in the watershed was as high as 19,000 ton/km2/year.

- Coarse sediment particles were easily deposited in the river and in reservoirs. The annual average deposit of sediments in the Yuangkeng Reservoir amounted to 20,000 m3, rendering the reservoir into a debris basin.

- In the weathered granite zone, the top layers of the soil were completely eroded. The exposed parent materials of white and red sand were exposed to very high temperatures and characterized by very low soil moisture and nutrient contents. The average organic matter content was only 0.45 % at which no plant could grow well.

A brief history

In 1952, an experimental station was set up to demonstrate and extend conservation measures in the Wupi River watershed. Primarily, the station was established to conduct field studies on soil erosion, however, it was also developed into demonstration centre to educate local inhabitants, to summarize experiences and to improve technical capabilities. From 1952 to 1966, the following structural measures were carried out to control erosion:

check dams, debris basins, terraces, ponds, reservoirs, horizontal ditches, fish-scale pits, and planting trees, shrubs and grasses.

In 1952, priority was given to gully treatment without an overall plan. In 1955, guiding principle for the gully and slope treatment were developed. Although slope treatments received priority, they had to be comprehensive and suit local conditions. Financial support and technical aid were to be concentrated to meet the limited key objectives. These principles were re-oriented in 1974, and the concept of small watersheds, as a planning unit determined by the natural sub-division of river systems came into practice. In this concept, the overall plan was to concentrate on comprehensive soil and water conservation measures including hill slope and gully stabilization, regulation of river systems and rearrangement of farmlands. After 1980, the guidelines for soil erosion control were further developed combining soil erosion control measures with the optimum utilization of natural resources. The short-term objective was to up-grade agricultural production, the medium-term objective was to increase fruit production, long-term objective was to develop forestry and eventually to combine ecological and economic benefits. The focus on economic benefits was given due to the fact that it would give tremendous motivation to people's participation in soil conservation.

Soil erosion control measures

Management of the Wupi river watershed includes soil erosion control on hill slopes and gullies, regulation of river system and rearrangement of farmlands. Following measures have been adopted in the watershed:

Engineering measures

These measures on hill slopes include horizontal ditches and fish-scale pits. These were small-sized activities which were aimed to be effective in a short time. Afforestation, check dams, slope cutting and grading, terracing, shrub planting, grass planting, etc. are some of the other engineering measures used in eroded hill slopes, gullies, slope collapses, and flood control works in the watershed area.

Vegetative measures

The variation in elevation within the Wupi River watershed is only 100 m and there is no obvious climatic change vertically. Hence, altitude has no significant influence on the growth of vegetation. The main factors determining vegetative growth are soil and moisture, which are closely related to the slope and its orientation. A combination of trees, shrubs and grasses suited to the characteristics of a particular site are planted within the watershed. At the top and along the ridges of hills, pines and grasses are planted. Mixed forests of conifers, broad-leaved trees and grasses are planted on the slopes. At foothills, fruit and bamboo trees are planted. More specifically, Masson Pines, Slash Pines, Schima and Lespedaza shrubs sps. are planted on southern slopes and at the top of the hills. Fruits trees with high economic value also are planted at the foot hills.

Reduction in fuel-wood shortage

In Wuhua county, soil loss is aggravated by deforestation caused by over logging of forests for fuel, and by scraping of grasses for soil fertility improvement. Population growth has made the shortage of fuel in rural areas even more acute. The fuel shortage problem is treated by:

- planting fuel trees around houses, along roads and near river banks;

- combining afforestation for controlling soil erosion with afforestation for growing fuel trees;

- popularising biogas and coal supplies;

- renovating cooking stoves to save fuel; and closing off hill slopes and opening them at a fixed time for cutting.

Management measures

Management is strengthened by setting up authorized organizations for closing off afforested hills. A special team responsible for closing off afforested hills has been set up. The team teaches the people about the importance of protecting forests and conserving soil and water, the importance of ecological balance, and relevant laws and rules. The team helps local inhabitants work out detailed regulations for closing off hill slopes.


Three types of contracts are signed between local Governments (i.e. experimental station) and individual farmers to carry out soil erosion control measures. These contracts are: contracts with a single household, contracts with several united households and contracts with professional teams (here in referred as contractor). The poor families, who can not afford the initial expenditure, are provided with seeds, plant and tools by the Government. The works carried out by such families are inspected after one year. If seedling survival rate is over 80% and structural measures are implemented with required quality, then more grant-in-aid is given to the farmers. There are three units of implementation who assume separate responsibilities to carry out soil and water conservation tasks. Firstly, experiment stations are run by experimental stations on hills with the support of local Government or by contracted households. Experiment stations produce nursery stock and provide technical guidance to the farmers. They assume all the cost of their experiments. The contractor carries out the works and supervises the management under the supervision of the station. The income generated is distributed among the experimental station, the local Government (village) and the contractor on 3:2:5 basis. In fact 20% of the Wupi watershed budget comes from this income. Secondly, some experiments in the farm fields are performed by local inhabitants, and not run directly by the experimental station. In these cases, the experimental station works out a comprehensive plan for controlling soil erosion and providing technical guidance. The experimental station subsidizes the cost of nursery stock and provides some tools, where as, the contractor takes charge of the implementation and management. Income is distributed among the experimental station, the village and the contractor on a 2:1:7 basis, respectively. 50 % of Wupi watershed budget comes from this income.

Water control measures

Before the Wupi river watershed was treated, the height of the main river bed was higher than neighbouring fields. Beds of the tributaries were also higher than fields because of siltation. A series of engineering works, such as construction of reservoirs and ponds, have been built along the tributaries to control soil and water erosion and to reduce the number of disasters caused by droughts and floods. These activities reduced the flood by 30 % and the sediment flow by 40 %.

The width of the original Wupi river channel was not uniform. In the middle and lower reaches, it varied from 24-50 m. The slope of the longitudinal bed was 1/250-1/400. To improve the situation, the river was straightened and trained which shortened the river length by 282 m. The width of the river was reduced by one-third, thus enlarging the cultivated area by 82 mu. The river bed was deepened by 0.5 to 1 m. Its hanks were reinforced with masonry and six cascade weirs to prevent scouring. The slope of the river bed was reduced to 1/450.

Measures to improve farmland

Due to the serious problems of soil erosion. the agriculture production was low. Soils are sandy yellow, and clayey, and the areas are swampy and cold bed fields especially have low agricultural production. Measures taken to improve these lands include: regulating the irrigation and drainage systems; planting green manure crops; applying organic fertilizer: deepening the cultivated depth; improving the soil by mixing it with sand: rotating crops of rice and sweet potato: excavating cold spring and irrigation ditches: and removing shrubs and weeds around fields.


Remarkable benefits have been derived from comprehensive, concentrated and continuous erosion control measures in the Wupi river basin (Wuhua Soil and Water Conservation office. 1994).

Ecological benefits

Reduction in soil and water losses

According to the investigation of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Water Resources and Electric Power, the annual rate of erosion in the Wupi river basin was estimated at 6262 ton/km2/yr. The erosion control program carried out since 1982 has reduced the annual rate of erosion to be only 217 ton/km2, today. The height of the river bed decreased by an average of 1.7 m, and the river is now perennial. The flood flow regulation and the irrigation of crops have reduced drought (for 2 months period) on 1,300 mu of farm lands along the banks of the river. Thus, the soil loss has decreased and the threat of floods and droughts have been mitigated significantly. Also, crop production has increased and the standard of living of the people has improved.

Improvement in ecology and environment

Over 30 years of erosion control works, the area covered by vegetation increased from 10-80 %. In 1982, afforested land cover was only 6,775 ha. By the end of 1989, forest land cover was increased by 44.8% of the total hilly land. Vegetation management practices included planting forests on the top of mountains and planting fruit trees in the middle hill and in the lower part of the slopes.

Change in local climate

After constructing reservoirs, ponds and check dams, the conditions of the farmland have improved significantly. Change in local climate such as the changes in air temperature (summer temp. reduced by 14° C) and humidity (summer RH increased by 8.8%) has occurred after implementing soil erosion control works in the Wupi river watershed.

Soil fertility improvement

The soil fertility has improved from 14 to 47 times compared to that of hare mountains (total C+ -0.389%. total N - 0.015 %). depending on the type of forest or ground cover introduced.

Social benefits

The agricultural system has changed significantly since 1980, as has the economic structure. The ratio of income from agriculture:forest:pasture: other activities (include cash crops, livestock and fisheries) changed from 68:5:9:18 in 1980 to 45:2:5:48 in 1989, respectively. At present, the total forest land area is 17,860 mu which is about 65.7% of the total areas of the Wupi watershed. Economic forests are now spread over an area of 557 mu, or 3.5 % of the total forest lands. Thus, the ratio of agriculture income has decreased due to decrease in agriculture area while the income from other activities e.g. livestock, cash trees, fisheries and other economic activities has increased. Appropriate policies on people's participation through contractual arrangements have enhanced the participation of the people in the soil conservation works. Significant change also occurred in the development of specialized household systems. By the end of 1989, there were 7 brick kilns. 28 households specialized in animal breeding, and 67 households in transportation with 11 automobiles and 96 tractors.


Within eight years till 1994. trees and grasses have been planted on 26,885 ha of barren mountainous areas. Water conservation forests were planted on a total area of 13,296 ha, fuel forests on 12,960 ha and economic forests on 6,632 ha. About 1,626 ha of crop lands were converted into forest land and 91,333 ha of hills were closed off to protect the forest. Grasses were planted on 5,773 ha. The total vegetative area has increased from 108,826 ha (33.9%) to 277,333 ha (66 %). The accumulated forest volume increased from 1,238,000 m3 to 2,030,000 m3 and the volume of forest logging decreased from 45,300 m3 to 14,050 m3. Thus, the barren mountain slopes have disappeared practically from Wuhua County. The change in income due to over all land use change before (1985) and after (1993) soil conservation program was implemented through the family or other contract systems of people's participation is given in Table 4. The agriculture income decreased from 54.46% to 42.9% while all other income increased significantly (Table 4).

Total area treated from 1985-93 by engineering soil conservation measures and land use measures in the county is 846 Km2. This has checked a total soil loss of 1,419.300 tons. This includes 564,500 tons checked by terracing and level ditches, 261.800 tons from gully control by check dams, 573,000 tons checked from soil collapses by check dams. These measures are coupled with vegetative measures/cover. The relationship between the vegetation cover and soil loss is given in Table 5.

Table 4: Changes in income (in million Yuan, Y) due to change in land use practices before (1985) and after (1993) soil conservation program through various contract systems of people's participation


Total output (106 Y)

Cash trees


Animal hush.
























Table 5: Relationship between cover and soil loss


Vegetative coverage area

Barren land

50 %



Annual precipitation (mm)





Annual runoff (m3/km2)





Annual soil loss (m3/km2)





Maximum soil loss (m3/km2)





Economic benefits

Soil and water conservation program in the Wuhua county by various contractual arrangements with the farmers has transformed the small watersheds into marketable commodity production systems bases. In mountainous areas, cash crop trees are planted in terraced farmlands. Pineapple, plum, shatian, shaddock, litchi, pepper, mango, tea, banana, carambola, papaya, citrus, agro-forestry, livestock, and aquatic products have been produced with high market value. The per capita food produced has remained same due to reduction in agricultural area, but the per capita income has increased 4-5 folds. This is a result of the success of the various contractual arrangements made by the Governments for people' participation in the small watershed based natural resources management by leasing the lands from 20-50 years duration.

Table 6: Change in farmer's income before (1985) and after (1993) soil conservation program with farmer's contractual arrangement in Wuhua County


total agricultural income

total food output

per capita food availability (kg)

income per capita (yuan)






















My sincere appreciation goes to the following institutes who were extremely helpful during this study: the Department of Water and Soil Conservation, the Guangdong Bureau of Water Resources and Hydroelectric Power, the Wuhua Water and Soil Conservation Office, the Water and Soil Conservation Office of Mezhou, the Experimental Stations in Wuhua, Hesi and Deqing Counties, Guangdong Province, the Institute of Geography, South China Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, the South China Normal University, communities of Wuhua County, and Guangdong province. Special thanks to Mr. Prem. N. Sharma CTA/RC Watershed Management/FARM, RAS/93/063, who visited Wuhua to help initiate this study. In addition, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the all individuals who helped shape this study.


Deyi, Wu. 1994. Agro-forestry Applied in Watershed Management in China. Course on farm/agro-forestry technologies, extension, and marketing in the Asia. APAN/CAF.

Deyi, Wu. 1995. State of Art and Status of watershed Management in China. Published in The status of Watershed Management in Asia WMTUH/FARM Field Doc. # 1, pp 7-18.

Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Guangdong Bureau of Water Conservancy and Hydroelectric Power. 1994. "Report on Soil and Water Conservation, Guangdong, China.

Guo Tingfu. 1994. Report on Soil and Water Conservation in China.

Guanzhou Institute of Geography & University of Toronto. 1994. Report on Soil Erosion and Land Management in the Granite Region of Guangdong province South China.

Wuhua Soil and Water Conservation Office. 1994. Report on Soil Erosion and Its Control in Wuhua county.

Wang Zhuhao. 1994. Report on Ecosystem in Tropical and Sub-tropical Waste Lowland in Gangdong Province. South China Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica.

Wuhua Soil and Water Conservation Office. 1994. Report on Wupi River Watershed Management.


B. Mishra**

[* A case study originally titled as "People's Participation in Sustainable Use and Management of Agriculture Resources-A case Study of Ralegan Siddhi". sponsored by the PCSD/FARM, RAS/93/067 (ANGOC, Manila, Philippines). Reprinted with the permission of the PCSD/FARM and the author.

** Associate Secretary, Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (AVARD), New Delhi, India.]


In recent years the notion of sustainable development has emerged as a reaction to the highly technological and centralized processes that have governed thinking on development, the green revolution being a classic example. The process of sustainable development envisages that people should not merely participate, but be in charge of their own development. Some initiatives in India have grappled successfully with this complex process, and different models of people driven development have emerged. Perhaps the most notable of these is the remarkable work of Mr. Annasaheb Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi village. When he first returned to his village in 1975 it was a extremely degraded village. There was large scale migration, ill health, low productivity and a flourishing business in the illegal distilling of alcohol, resulting into violence especially against women. Today Ralegan is unrecognizable. Productivity has increased manifold. There is a sense of community and sharing among all the people, and complete self-sufficiency in foodgrains. Ralegan only demonstrates what village people can do when they take control of their own development. It serves as a testimony to community interest taking precedence over self-interest. This miracle was achieved by:

- The emergence of local leadership: Annasaheb Hazare is from the village and his intimate knowledge of the community, its culture and traditions and his exposure to the outside world enabled him to play the role of a catalyst and a bridge.

- Underpinning of moral sanctions: He recognized the conflict in development between old and new, traditional and modern, violent and peaceful. His intervention gave space to the traditional leadership to reassert their moral authority and lay the foundation for a moral just and human social order. The basis of Annasaheb Hazare 's intervention is a moral and voluntary code of conduct which has been adopted by the entire village community. This is a six point program that includes: ban on open grazing; ban on tree felling; ban on dowry; ban on consumption of liquor; family planning; and donation of labor (Shramdan).

- Involvement of all sections of society, especially the weak and vulnerable: Right from its inception, the Ralegan village participation process involved women and lower castes (Harijans) in all planning and implementation.

- Identification of People's Priorities: Annasaheb Hazare being a son of the soil, was able to identify water development us the primary need of the village, and that helped to mobilize popular opinion in his favour.

- The use of simple but effective technology: Annasaheb recognized that merely providing strong moral basis would be insufficient to motivate people towards constructive change. His intervention to manage rain-water run off through watershed development was cheap, local, and maximized their use of local resources especially labor.

- Holistic and sustained development: Having started with water management, Annasaheb Hazare went on to include community work to prevent erosion and to promote widespread afforestation. The holistic impact of these measures began to be felt within a decade. It is note worthy that the villagers have been working continuously on this process for the last 20 years by now. Thus, long term continuity is a vital ingredient in the strategy for sustainable development.

- The primacy of the village assembly (Gram Sabha): Although Annasaheb has taken the leadership in Ralegan, all major decisions are taken in the Gram Sabha, which has institutionalized a democratic style of functioning.

Breakdown of traditional sustainable systems

People's participation is viewed as a dynamic group process in which all members of a group contribute to the attainment of common objectives, share the benefits accruing from group activities, exchange information and experience of common interest, and follow the rules, regulations and other decisions made by the group. Need for people's participation is articulated in terms of efficiency and/or cost-effectiveness, equity in distribution of benefits, sustainability and empowerment of the people.

The concept of sustainable natural resource management is essentially integration of three factors - first, human beings have a common destiny of interdependence with other living creatures on the earth; second, the main concern of development is not growth at all costs but to render the lives of majority of the people easier and more harmonious; and third, there are thresholds of irreversibility which traditional economics does not take into account. Besides, sustainable resource management is not only for environment management but also for poverty alleviation. FAO has defined it as the management and conservation of the natural resources base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.

In Indian context it may be further explained as a means to meet the basic nutritional requirements of present and future generations, providing employment with sufficient income and quality living conditions for rural people; maintaining the productive capacity of the natural resources while protecting the environment and reducing the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to adverse natural and socio-economic factors and other risks as well as strengthening self-reliance.

Natural resources-mainly land and water-under Indian condition are endowed with rich diversity and vast expanse so any kind of generalization about a country with a sub-continental character can only be half-truth and misleading. The three clear cut major geographical features- mountains, plains and plateau represent entirely differing ecosystems and are further subject to diverse agro-climatic and physical factors. However, all these varieties are well integrated as parts of one whole. Besides, the cultural thread binds them together to emerge as unity in diversity.

India has a history of civilization built on irrigated agriculture in the river basins and rain-fed cultivation combined with small scale irrigation works on the drier plains. For thousands of years rural people farmed in a sustainable manner that maintained the traditional agriculture systems and conserved soils and water resources. The farmers' local knowledge of their environment followed by healthy resource management practices continued to meet people's need without any significant threat to environment. In nutshell, the ancient Indian agricultural practices had in-built mechanism for sustainability of natural resources base at community level.

During the colonial period, the process of commercialization of agriculture started and people's involvement was often forced for selfish reasons without any concern for people's needs or future crisis. Such moves often served as a starting point to mobilize people against the colonial rule in pre-independence days.

After independence the eradication of mass poverty by over exploitation of natural resources became a major cause of degradation. Green Revolution brought in adoption of modern varieties of wheat in the mid 1960s and of rice in the 1970s and with its crop-specific focus based on excessive use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides, expansion and intensification of irrigation from surface as well as ground water, a shift to mono-cultures and multiple cropping witnessed spectacular progress in production and saved the country from mass starvation. But at the same time it gave rise to waterlogging and salinity. Large dams and centralized water resources management raised ecological vulnerability of the ancient river systems and destroyed the age old traditional systems of irrigation aligned along natural drainage features. The modern varieties decreased biomass for animals and soil fertility and lowered eco-system productivity. Considerable strain on ground water resources have led to emergence of new weeds and soil micro-nutrient deficiency. An Indian scientist/philosopher Ms. Vandana Shiva termed the scenario "Violence of Green Revolution: The Indian Tragedy".

Participation of resource poor farmers

The agricultural land in the country is owned by individuals, where as large irrigation schemes are owned by the Government. Rich farmers have their own irrigation structures - tanks, lift devices or tube wells. The resource poor farmers can hardly afford to utilize costly inputs. Besides, only about 40% of the people have access to land which also suffers from skewed distribution pattern. 49% of the cultivated land belong to 10% of farmers with large holdings of 4 ha and more (1985-86). Only 13 % of the land belongs to 50 % of the farmers with marginal holdings of one ha or less. The common lands too are often encroached by rich farmers.

Unequal access to land, water and other resources is a major constraint to people's participation in true sense in many places. This is in two forms: First, extensively large cultivated farms. Secondly, due to hereditary rights, the best lands are usually held by old and influential families to the exclusion of poorer households. The remaining, ecologically more fragile land, is therefore under pressure from landless and socially vulnerable people.

Insecurity of tenure in case of share croppers keeps them off from improving and conserving the natural resource base. Besides, social insecurity gives rise to conflicting interests between different groups of farmers and farming and non-farming communities which only culminates in degradation of the natural resources.

Similarly, in case of water resources the participation of poor farmers is minimal. Rich farmers pump out and use most of the ground water reserves without any concern for others. India had well managed traditional community tank irrigation systems in the past with no problems of either sharing of water or its maintenance and repair. But that spirit of caring and sharing has disappeared today.

Prejudice against women

Women are very closely associated with many activities relating to appropriation of natural/agricultural resources and/or their products. They are responsible for collection of fuel-wood, fodder, forest produce, collecting grasses from grazing lands (gaudier), fetching water for household use and sharing larger agricultural operations. But this participation by women is treated as invisible. Besides, in many cultures and castes, women are discouraged from participating in the meetings and training programs along with men hence their participation in resource development and conservation programs is negligible. However, many experiences show that when conscientised and given opportunities, rural women do participate actively in the meetings and training camps and are able to identify their problems and suggest solutions.

The growth in any kind of production involves social and ecological costs and there are signs that under the present agricultural development system these costs are approaching a level where they outweigh the benefits. Over exploitation of natural resources is clearly unsustainable in the long run. However, in most places it is not too late to devise more socially and ecologically cost-effective ways of achieving continued growth to meet the growing need of the present population while preserving its productive capacity for the future generations.


Some of the well known recent (over last 30 years) initiatives/movements are identified here.

Naxalite movement

It was launched in early 1960s and named after the village of its origin, Naxalbari in West Bengal State of India. Its major plank is skewed land tenancy which is the major cause of degradation of natural resources. It facilitates access of poor to natural resources by organizing them and acts against exploitation of the poor by the rich. It believes in use of force to attain political power and in Maoist-Marxist-Leninist philosophy.

Chipko movement

It is a Gandhian movement led by Mr. Sunder Lal Bahaguna whose genesis goes back to early 1970s in Garhwal Himalayan region of Uttar Pradesh. The movement has mobilized people against commercial felling of trees to safeguard the fragile Himalayan ecology in the larger interest of the people and wild life.

Save Narmada movement (Andolan)

It is an all India strategic network of social activists and NGOs to mobilize people against the building of Sardar Sarovar (in Gujarat) and Indira Sagar (in Madhya Pradesh) dams. The main issues are displacement of local people without proper resettlement/compensation and demand for the rights of the communities to their own natural resources.

Bodh Gaya Andolan

It started in 1970s to address the issue of redistribution of some 3,600 ha of ceiling surplus land held by Bodh Gaya Matt. It generated tremendous popular participation and peaceful action.

Ganga liberation (Mukti) Andolan

The Ganga Liberation Movement started in early 1980s to abolish water lord system. Social activists and youth organizations organized the fisher folk and created pressure on Government to bring necessary legislation to change the exploitative system.

AVARD'S irrigation schemes

The schemes started in 1968, created irrigation structures, introduced equitable water distribution/sharing and management systems through popular participation. The schemes also served as a rallying point for the people.

Water council (Pani Panchayat)

Initiated by Gram Gaurav Pratisthan, Pune, Maharashtra, it is a community-based water council. The groups of people share water equitably on per capita basis under non-transferable water agreement. People contribute 20% of scheme's cost and even the landless partake in schemes who sell their water to needy farmers.


It is a successful effort in community-based micro-watershed development by the construction of three small dams in Haryana State of India.

Rope makers of saharanpur

It is an initiative of community-based action and social movement combined to empower the rope makers in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh to regain their traditional rights to use and sustain their natural resources.

Chakriya Vikas pranali (the cyclic system of development)

The cyclic system of development is a community-based natural resource management system by bringing landless and land holders together through equitable system of sharing income and introducing technological innovations, multi-layered multi-cropping based on symbiosis between different species of plants and crops.

MYRADA's self-help groups

The organization enjoys the distinction of organizing people for self-development through their known resources generated by small savings and collective efforts in Karnataka State of India.

Rural labor association of Halpati Sava Sangh

The organization, a member of AVARD, has very successfully organized agricultural laborers in defence of their rights and minimum wages.

Ralegan Siddhi

It is a unique example of participatory watershed management and all round development in Ralegan Siddhi village of Parner county (taluka) in Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra. This is later presented here in detail.

Self-Help groups by Taj Mahal gram Bikas Kendra

The organization, a member of AVARD, has successfully, organized rural poor women in a muslim dominated pockets of Howrah district, West Bangal. Over 4,000 women are members who generate resources through small savings and use it for the development of micro-enterprises.

Mahila Vikas Sangh (women development federation)

It has organized women in a tribal pocket of Bihar through awareness generation, education and monitoring for income generation activities to ensure a better earning for improvement in quality of their lives.

Self employed women's association

Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) has organized self-employed women's union through awareness generation, education and training for income generation activities.


Development fundamentally refers to human beings. It should be a human experience to meet people's physical, mental and emotional aspirations and potentials, not just in economic terms but should also lead to a sense of self-sufficiency and fulfilment. Ralegan Siddhi, often termed as an oasis of greenery surrounded by dry and bare hilly tracts is a unique example of transformation from poverty to plenty and a living model of people's participation in natural resource management in a watershed.

The physical setting

Ralegan Siddhi is a small village with an area of 982 ha in Parner county (taluka) of Ahmadnagar district, Maharashtra, India. The location is shown in Fig. 1. It is situated on latitude 19° 22' N and longitude 74° 27' E at an altitude of about 755 m AMSL. It is 87 km of Pune city towards north-east, 5 km away from Pune -Ahmadnagar State Highway.

It is a drought-prone and resource poor area with annual rainfall ranging between 50-700 mm and temperature varying between 28°C and 44°C. The village is surrounded by small hillocks on the northeast and southern sides. The land is undulating and slopes vary from 3-15%. The soils are shallow. In lower areas, patches of black soils mixed with pebbles are seen but towards the higher areas the soils are inferior and unsuitable for cultivation. In about 70% of the area the soils are light to medium in structure.

Demographic features

The 1991 Census enumerated a population of 1,982 living in 310 households (presently estimated to be around 325). The sex-ratio being 902 females per 1,000 males (1,029 in 1971; 1,013 in 1981). The continued decrease in the ratio is explained as the return of male folk to the village with improvement in the socio-economic conditions of the village. Backward classes (scheduled castes and scheduled tribes) constitute only 14.23% of the total population.

The level of literacy has gone up from 30.4% in 1971 to 39.65% in 1981, and further to 50.95% in 1991. As of now, according to the villagers, no one in the 15-35 year age group is illiterate. Today, the over all literacy rate is estimated to be around 65 % which is far above the national average of 52%.

Socio-economic structure

Marathas of Khatri caste out-number other castes and constitute nearly two-third of the families. Among others are the backward castes including Mhar, Chamar, Bharhadi, Pardi, Sutar, Barber, Fishermen, Matang etc.

There are only five landless and 13 artisan households in the village. Most of the landholders are small. 51 % of the landholders own 1-3 ha land which is about half the total area as well as population of the village. There are only 12 farmers (about 3%) owning more than 6 ha, who own about 18% of the total area. Though the average size of landholding (2.5 ha), appears to be relatively large, considering the poor quality of soils and low productivity levels, the holdings are quite modest.

Occupation-wise cultivators are in majority, followed by agricultural labor. Agriculture is the mainstay for majority of the people. Others like grocers, drivers, cobblers, barbers, blacksmiths, broom makers, health workers, teachers, shopkeepers, flour mill operators, welder, and bank workers represent the services and rural artisans. Another interesting factor in the Maratha families is that most of them like to send at least one of their sons for military service. However, the occupational structure of the village has been under going change since 1976 in favour of agricultural sector.

Base-line situation

By 1975, prior to intervention by Mr. Anna Hazare, the village had become quite notorious with all sorts of social evils, moral down fall and with badly shattered economic conditions. In general, the village presented the profile of a poverty-stricken and debt-ridden society. Scarcity of water was key to distress which limited the prospects of agriculture. The water table was below 20 m, most of the wells used to dry up during summer and the drinking water had to be fetched from the neighbouring villages. The high rate of surface run off, due to high degree of slope and lack of vegetative cover had washed away the top fertile layer of the soils. Barely 20 ha of the village area was under irrigation. As a consequence the agricultural production was too meagre to support and sustain the livelihoods of the people particularly the resource poor farmers. Not even 30% of the food grain requirements could be met from rain-fed mono-cropping practised in the village. About 45% of the villagers had a single meal/per day and about one-third of the households missed their meals every alternate day.

The poor farmers and agricultural laborers forced by their poor economic conditions had only two options - either to migrate to nearby cities of Pune and Bombay to find some manual mobs or join the army of laborers working under Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Government by commuting a distance of about 22 km daily. Any short fall in the earnings had to be met by borrowing from the money lenders (Sahukars), the Shylocks of the times. The inability to repay the loans often led to further indebtness and bondage. An enterprising villager being depressed by his impoverished condition went to the neighbouring village and mastered the technique of distilling liquor by using 'Shindi' grass which grew in abundance in the area. His success attracted many more in the trade and by 1975 as many as 40 illicit liquor distilling stills came up. Even school children fell in the den of drinking. The wide spread alcoholism brought many undesirable and anti-social elements and the village emerged prominently on the crime records of the police department who along with money lenders exploited every bit of opportunity for their selfish ends.

Fig. I: Location map of case study village

The combination of poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, indebtness, mutual suspicion, use of money and muscle power for malpractices, not only shattered the village economy but also degraded the social/community life. Majority of children were denied access to education - hardly 10% children attended schools, drop out rates were high. It was difficult for girls to step out in village streets which were full of rogues and drunkards. Social strife and tension became routine, conflicts and crimes were common. The community was divided along the lines of caste, creed, political following and economic status. Thefts, arrests, extravagance on festivals and marriages, funeral rites, discrimination against lower castes (dalits) and atrocities on women were common. Women had to bear the brunt of drunk males in various forms. Children were denied of their basic rights to minimum needs, women were humiliated and all the old value systems and cultural norms of a civilized society had receded to the rock level.

The devastating drought of 1972 made the situation from bad to worse. The Government in its bid to help fight the drought, constructed a percolation tank but due to faulty design, lack of supervision, and high rate of percolation, it failed to serve the purpose. Another help came from Tata Relief Committee and Catholic Relief Society in the form of construction of check dams, deepening of wells and provisions for medical relief. Despite all these, much could not be achieved in any of these initiatives due to lack of people's participation.


The base-line situation shows that the conditions in the village were rather hostile to any reconstructive initiative for an outside agent. In this critical situation, Mr. Kisan Baburao Anna Hazare, popularly regarded as 'Anna' (elder brother) appeared on the scene (life sketch and achievements in box). He was shocked to see the pitiable condition of the villagers, particularly the resource poor farmers' women and the children. The man, Anna Hazare, with a high level of confidence and with his life's sole aim of service to the people, resolved to intervene to bring about a change in the situation. His guiding factor was "it is better to light a candle than blaming the darkness". The approaches/methods used by him for the participation of farmers in natural resource management works are highlighted below.


First of all, Anna went through a careful envisioning of the deteriorating situation in village life and decided to initiate through religion-moral undercurrent by persuading the people for reconstruction of Sant Yadava Baba temple. But he failed to impress and influence the people at large, primarily because the people were too busy with their own business and the worldly affairs.

Gandhian approach

The second step was to set up examples by self-practising rather than mere preaching as Mahatma Gandhi used to do. Initially it went on unnoticed but in due course it gathered momentum. Particularly, he tried to organize the youths of the village under 'Tarun Mandal' (youth organization). Besides, participation from all the sections of society was ensured and encouraged. Thus, the construction of temple was completed by voluntary labor only.

Creation of a common platform

Keeping all the differences and disparities aside, a common platform and meeting ground was created in the form of Sant Yadav Baba's temple. People started sitting in groups during evenings and discussing about the affairs of the village and common concern. Thus, the process of friendship, cooperation and communication started.

Moral cleansing

Mr. Anna Hazare himself took this initiative. During informal chats he started quoting the sayings of great men like Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave etc. He also used the ideals of Sant Yadav Baba whose memories were still alive in the minds of the people. Bhajans (hymns) and religious discourses etc., in the early hours of the day through public address system from the temples were used to enlighten the people. Thus, a change in the general attitude of the people was brought about by moral cleansing. This process facilitated the people of different castes and class to be at equal footings in mental/moral level and the differences among the people started sinking. Untouchable (dalits) were allowed to enter the temple and share their thoughts with others.

Selfless leadership

Anna himself invested all the money he had (Rs. 20,000) for purchasing building materials for the temple before asking others to contribute. He started living in the temple with a resolve to remain a bachelor and broke all his family ties as a form of penance. He has not visited his parents, who live at a stone's throw distance from the Guest House, for the last 17 years. Villagers were impressed by his sense of sincerity, selflessness and sacrifice and he emerged as their undisputed leader by winning the hearts of the people.

Identification of the most pressing common problem

The main reason of disintegration, division and distress of the village society was the lack of a sound livelihood support system. The economy of the village was agrarian and shortage of water for irrigation was the major constraint to its development. Thus, assured availability of water was collectively identified as the top priority in a meeting of villagers.

Initiating the process of change at individual level

The Gandhian dictum is that change should begin at the level of individuals. If the individuals change, the village will change; and if the villages change, the country will change. This can be clearly observed in the approach followed in case of village Ralegan Siddhi. Stress on personal morality, abstaining from alcohol, cigarettes and from non-vegetarian foods are essential components of a voluntary personal code of conduct imposed by the community itself on the village. Besides, it has been linked with a broader vision of social morality encompassing social equality and egalitarian distribution of benefits of growth. The concept of personal morality has been chiefly drawn from Hindu religion. An oath for giving up drinking was taken up by the villagers at the temple. Personal and social morality have been interlinked nicely to serve as the foundation of the new social order. Untouchability and discrimination of dalits have been vanished.

Socialization of costs and surpluses

In the implementation of resource management activities e.g. developing public utilities, tree planting, deepening of wells etc., voluntary labor (Shramdan) is an essential component. This has helped in socializing the costs and has helped develop a sense of belonging among the people, in addition to lowering labor costs of the activities. In addition, 25% of the surplus generated from community resources are set aside as village funds which is utilized for other community projects. Special attention is paid to the development of the deprived sections. This safety set has helped greatly in securing the participation of the resource poor farmers. Assistance to cultivation of harijan's land by better off farmers, provision of grain bank to make foodgrains available during slack periods at low cost, construction of masonry (pucca) houses for harijans with the support of community etc. have helped in reducing the disparities and strengthening the sense of togetherness.

Democratic decision making process

People in the village are not the blind followers of Anna. Every new initiative is thoroughly discussed in village meetings. Pros and cons of any new initiative are considered. Plans for implementation of a particular scheme and code of conduct are openly discussed and a select group of people carry out and supervise the works. Thus, at every stage the involvement of people in decision-making is very important.

Social reform with strict discipline

Once the decision is taken by the villagers to eradicate a particular social evil, it is implemented with strict discipline in letter and spirit. As in case of drinking, any one found drunk in the village used to be tied up with the pillar of the temple and beaten by the military belt of 'Anna'. Since it used to be a collective decision nobody could dare oppose it. Similarly dowry and extravagance have been curbed.

Need-based planned socio-economic development

Since all the decisions pertaining to launching of any scheme are taken in village assembly, the decisions reflect the needs and aspirations of the community. For example, the top priority was accorded to the rain water harvesting and management of the four village watersheds. Every drop of rain was trapped by developing a drainage system, trenches, check dams, drainage plugs, percolation tank etc. by developing and designing micro-watershed specific schemes. This initiative recharged the ground water and now enough water is available all year round at 6.5 m depth as compared to the ground water depth of 20 in earlier. This was followed by regeneration of plants, grasses, development of best locally suited farming systems, continuous watch and monitoring of water distributions to irrigate crops in a judicious manner, selection of crops according to soil moisture and needs of the people. Organic manure is prepared by the farmers by using human and animal wastes as well as crop residues.

Similarly, to meet basic minimum needs of the people solar street lights, community latrines, biogas plants for cooking and above all a well managed high school are installed and being satisfactorily run. Today, not only the children from the village but also from the cities like Bombay and Pune come to study in the village school. The preference is given to the so called "spoiled" children in admissions to encourage these children.

Cooperative management system

Most of the villagers are farmers. Hence, it is beyond their repaying power to go for bank loans for irrigation wells individually. To overcome this problem, cooperative system of irrigation has been evolved. Two or more farmers develop the source collectively, share the water equitably and repay the bank loan in proportion to the land irrigated by that source. This system has enabled an access to irrigation even to the poorest of poor farmer on equal terms. To avoid any confusion or misuse of water, Water Ration Cards are maintained by farmers. Each farmer can use the water as per his/her allotment. A second turn to any farmer is allowed only when all the farmers have taken their first term.

Special focus on women

The availability of drinking water, fodder, toilet facilities, bathroom etc. have reduced the drudgery of women. The moral upliftment of the village has improved the status of women at home and in society, due to change in attitudes of men towards women. Mahila Mandals (Women's Groups) manage the women-specific issues. Besides, all women's panchayat (assembly) is another step to encourage the participation of women: The village milk dairy is run by women. Atrocities on women are taken up very seriously and the culprit is dealt with strictly. Even husbands are not spared. However, it still needs more time for women to attain equality with man. A scheme of sewing, cloth cutting and tailoring has failed particularly due to low demand and lower returns. Lack of marketing strategy is the prime cause of failure. In general due to added development activities, the load on women in field and home activities has increased but they feel that they have regained their lost dignity and have equal participation in decision making process, today.

Facilitating village organizations

To manage the affairs, village organization have been developed for smooth functioning of each and every activity. The broad administrative organization diagram is given in Fig. 2.

Each of these units are separately registered societies with fair degree of independence and are competent enough to take operational decisions. Thus, in all the above approaches people and moral values enjoy the centre stage, and common good is the sole aim.


Big achievements of a small man

Kishan Baburao Hazare, popularly known as Anna Hazare, a slightly built, short statured soft-spoken person with small deep set eyes and clad in dhoti, kurta and Gandhi cap hardly looks the sort of person who can create a miracle in community-based sustainable -watershed management with people's participation.

He was born on 15 January, 1940, in a small village called Bhingar of Ahmadnagar District in Maharastra state of India where his grandfather served in army and his father worked as an unskilled worker in an Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy.

In 1952, after the retirement of his grandfather his father resigned his job and returned to his native village Ralegan Siddhi in the same district where he owned 15 acres of degraded land. It was a real problem for his father to support a big family comprising half a dozen children. So Anna Hazare, on the request of his issueless aunt (father's sister) was sent with her to Bombay to continue his studies.

He passed 7th standard. By then his father had mortgaged part of his land and was badly debt-ridden. So Anna being the eldest son decided to support his father and started working on a flower shop for Rs. 401- a month. This was not enough. After gaming some experience he started his own shop and called two of his younger brothers also. He could earn Rs. 700-800 a month. But unfortunately he fell in bad company and in a scuffle he thrashed some one badly and was wanted by police. Fearing arrest he fled back to village where he came to know about military recruitment. He joined army as truck driver in 1960.

During Indo-Pak war in 1965 and again in Nagaland during insurgency he had miraculous escapes while all his colleagues were killed. Being far away from family and friends he was so deeply depressed that at one point of time he decided to commit suicide but for the marriage of his younger sister he changed his mind. While travelling via Delhi he noticed a book 'Call To The Youth For Nation Building' by Swami Vivekananda. He studied that book and many other works of Swami, Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave and got a clear message and mission for life in the service of humanity. He took voluntary retirement and settled in his native village in 1975.

The situation of the village was at the peak of its deterioration. Poverty, illiteracy, degradation of natural resources, theft, corruption, alcoholism, infights, lawlessness and many other vices were common. He was shocked to see all this and was baffled, and did not know from where to start and how?

He started with the renovation of a temple, for which he spent all his money, snapped his ties with the family, decided not to marry, and started living in the temple. Initially nobody extended a helping hand but his sincerity influenced young and old alike. Since he was 35 years old, neither too young nor too old, he could communicate and link with both young and old effectively. He organised youths and with their support eradicated alcoholism, a root cause of many vices in his village. The village assembly collective decided to beat publicly any body found drunk. The temple served as commons platform for meetings for all, without any consideration of caste, creed or economic background.

He always stressed on consensus decision in village assembly, based on which he started with watershed management as the shortage of water was the most acute problem in his village. Five voluntary codes were decided. These were: ban on open grazing and felling of trees, control on population growth (family planning), dowry and alcoholism. Structures were created to conserve every drop of water by using simple but effective technology through 'shramdan' (voluntary labor). Five hundred thousand trees have been planted. Ground water is recharged. Irrigation potential increased from 0.5 % in 1975 to 70 % in 1985. Agriculture production increased by four times. Thus, now there is enough food, fodder, fruit, firewood etc. in the village, not only for own consumption but surplus for export also. In the 1995 only, onion worth Rs. 8,000,000 (aprox. US$ 230,000) has been sold by the village. Now there is an intermediate college, post office, bank, cooperative societies, solar street lights, low-cost latrines, bio-gas plants, training centre for watershed management etc. in the village.

His basic approach has been to change the individual through moral cleansing, collective effort, use of simple but effective technology, special focus on weak and women and above all participation of all in every program. Today he is leading this program in 300 counties (talukas) of Maharastra on the request of the Government of India.

For his contributions, he has been very rightly honoured by the Government of India. His decorations include, Padma Bibhusan, Vriksh Mitra Puraskar, Krishi Bhushan etc.

This is in fact, a success story from poverty to prosperity by the efforts of a son of the soil.

Reflections on the experience and insights gained

The insights gained from the experience of Ralegan Siddhi may be identified as below:

- Involvement and participation of the people is possible provided there is a committed and sincere leadership to educate, organize and motivate the people for the attainment of a common goal.

- Voluntary action either by an individual or people is an extremely vital factor to promote, facilitate and catalyze people's participation in sustainable village development.

- A mix of commitment with flexibility, sensitivity, innovativeness and autonomy are essential for success.

- Holistic approaches to people's participation in sustainable development are necessary for involving people whole heartedly. The approach being employed must have the potential to generate the spirit of cooperation, caring and sharing, adjustment, harmony, self-help, self-reliance and special emphasis on the resource poor farmers particularly women.

- Need-based planned initiatives and their proper priorization by the people themselves through democratic decisions with focus on the poorest and weakest and proper consideration for gender issues ensures better and fuller participation.

- If economic downfall is followed by moral downfall, than moral upliftment is also followed by economic upliftment. Assured economic benefits attract participation of the people.

- The first benefit must go to the poorest of the poor and first input must come from the richest of the rich to sustain the emotions and confidence of the poor. It is a successful method to bring people together. Once they come together they talk, discuss, plan and act collectively and share the costs and benefits in a just manner.

- Any process aiming at arousing people's participation must start with the individuals.

- Sustained efforts over considerable long period of time are required for the people to gain confidence for self-development.

- The basic components of environment, particularly land, water and vegetation are the vital links to bring rural people together as their livelihoods are closely dependent on these natural resources.

Fig. 2: Organization diagram of village Ralegan Siddhi


- Leadership in voluntary action does not need any formal degree of education. Anna Hazare is a 7th standard pass retired military truck driver. But it demands a high degree of selflessness, egalitarian attitude, foresight and humane virtues to win the trust of the people.

- Moral cleansing is a necessary step to remind people of their moral and social obligations as well as to sensibilize them for community/collective action.

- Rich and poor, high and low, men and women, can cooperate with each other if there is a sound reason and shared concern.

- Any effort to arouse people's participation must touch the basic day to day needs and must ease out people's hardships and help in their self-development.

- Voluntary codes with strict discipline approved by the people themselves do miracles.

- The efforts at participation must he total. No one in the community must be left out of the fold of the process.

- Strict formal rules and regulation are not necessary for encouraging people's participation in natural resource management in a watershed for sustainable development. People themselves can develop their moral codes for cooperation.

- Shramdan (voluntary labor) is a no cost method to bring people together for common good.

- People understand their environment much better than anybody else from outside. Hence, people's participation is an essential element and pre-requisite for, any development initiative to be successful. Hence, it needs to be designed into development programs from the beginning.

- The initiatives to mobilize people should be people/community and place specific. Any kind of generalization may be harmful.

- The weak, poor and women need special consideration and concessions for their fuller participation.

- The efforts for participatory watershed development must aim at the improvement in the quality of life of the people and should be designed for people first.

Achievements at Ralegan Siddhi

- Successful abolition of social evils like alcoholism, dowry, corruption and the caste system. These changes paved the way for positive steps to development.

- Successful implementation of voluntary codes e.g. ban on grazing, protection of green cover, check on extravagance on marriages etc.

- Social acceptance of the use of public toilets for biogas.

- Successful implementation of development schemes through cooperatives with the support of Government and bank loans. No aid is taken either from national or foreign agencies.

- Regeneration of watershed resources through people's participation, a living example of watershed development and management.

- Successful involvement of the people in formation of development schemes in a democratic way through village meetings. It has also shown that participatory sustainable development is possible.

- Non-degrading and sustainable utilization of natural resources as well as generating alternative sources of income to enhance the economy at family and village levels.

- Development of agriculture and allied sectors by better farming practices and cropping patterns, judicious use of water by introducing drip irrigation system, yield enhancement etc. as a result the village where nearly three-fourth population was below poverty line, has become self sufficient and is surplus in food grains, today.

- The quality of life of women and people belonging to backward classes because of special attention and focus have improved appreciably.

- Strengthening of infrastructure life drinking water, sanitary facilities, biogas, postal, baking, roads, schools, health centres etc. with the participation of the community and by availing Government schemes.

- Development of managerial skills and capability among people with low level of education, exposure and training.

- Evolving social techniques to establish civil control over public spaces and creation of a civil society which is responsible to itself and its environment and responsive to the needs of its members.

- Enough scope for women for self development.

- An appreciable change in the attitude of the people with high degree of moral standards and ethics.

- Over all improvement in the quality of life of the people, and conservation and use of the natural resources in a very sustainable manner.


- Though there has been tremendous improvement in the status of women and much has been done yet more remains to be done to involve them fully in the process. This means that women development needs specialized and extra effort.

- There is no effort towards the development of agro-based rural/small scale industries to enhance the value of the products and keep the participation of the people intact.

- The managerial capability is weak and it is reflected in the failure of cloth cutting and tailoring scheme and thereby weakening the participating of women.


- It is not easy to find a devote and committed leader like Anna Hazare in the second generation to keep the process going. His effort to choose a leader so far remains unresponded.

- Moral cleansing at individual level in today's materialistic world where personal liberties and human rights come in the way is a very difficult proposition and may pose problems in other areas.

- Ralegan Siddhi village has more or less a homogeneous character having groups of people with not much economic disparity or diversity in caste/religion. The Neo-Buddhists are close to Hindus so there was no problem but in case of Muslims, Christians or Sikhs being part of the society it may be difficult to organize them along religious line.

- Anna has been the undisputed leader of the village and nobody objected to the initiatives floated by him. At the most there used to be only mild queries on the part of the villagers, in case of disagreement. It may not be so easy to generalize the dedicated leader driven approach.

- It is easier to transform a virgin and underdeveloped area like Ralegan but very difficult to develop semi-developed areas. Though Ralegan has made tremendous progress, its impact on the neighbouring villagers is minimal so far.


The case study shows the success of Gandhian approach to people's participation in watershed management. Since 1975, this has resulted into participation of all the 325 village families, renovation of a temple, stopping illicit liquor distillation, water harvesting in 4 small watersheds, construction of many check dams, plantation of five hundred thousand forest trees, controlled grazing, raising of ground water level from 20 m depth to 6.5 m, sale of onions worth Rs. 80 million in 1995 alone (exchange rate in June 1995 1 US$ = Rs. 31.3), solar street lights, village toilets, biogas, organic farming, introduction of livestock, a full high school, institutionalization of decision making at village assembly level, local voluntary organizational capacity building, acceptance and application of voluntary code of conduct, formation of different action committees, etc.

The success has made the Government of India to request the leader (Mr. Anna Hazare) to take up the program in 300 counties (talukas) of Maharastra state.

The major elements responsible for the successful people's participation in watershed management at the Ralegan Siddhi village are: emergence of local leadership, underpinning of moral sanctions for all, voluntary moral codes e.g. ban on uncontrolled grazing and tree cutting etc., GO/NGO partnership, involvement of all sections of society, holistic and sustained development over long time (10-20 years), use of simple, appropriate but efficient technology for watershed management, primacy of village assembly in decision making. The only weakness sighted with this model of people's participation in watershed management has been that it is driven by a strong and highly motivated local leader which is the case of most Gandhian models of development. It is still to be seen if it is replicable when it is tested on the 300 proposed counties.


It gives me immense pleasure in expressing my gratitude to ANGOC for assigning this interesting study to AVARD, the national focal point (NFP) for PCSD, and the management of AVARD for providing me this opportunity and expressing confidence in me to do this study.

May I take this opportunity to thank Shri Anna Hazare, his office Secretary Shri Raja Ramji of Ralegan Siddhi village and Shri Sanab of SACRED, Aurangabad, for facilitating the study in various ways during the field work. I also thank Shri Keshar Singh for his excellent secretarial support.


The Farmer-centred Agriculture Resource Management (FARM) Program is an Asian Program of the UNDP/FAO/UNIDO for support to sustainable food security in China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. As a child of Earth Summit, FARM is designed to support the implementation of Agenda 21, with a focus on the major problems of agriculture resources degradation and poverty. The ultimate goal of FARM is improved conservation, management and utilization (for improved household food security and poverty alleviation) of agricultural resources by resource-poor communities and farm households in Asian rainfed areas.

List of Publications of PWMTA-FARM


Issue No. 1, theme:

WMTUH and FARM Introduction

Issue No. 2, theme:

Status of Watershed Management in Asia

Issue No. 3. theme:

Farmers' Organizations

Issue No. 4, theme:

Policy Issues in Watershed Management

Issue No. 5, theme:

Gender Framework for Resource Management

Issue No. 6, theme:

Participatory Watershed Management Training

Issue No. 7. theme:

Gaps in Participatory Watershed Management Training and Education in Asia

Issue No. 8. theme:

Envisioning of WM professionals

Issue No, 9. theme:

Participatory processes in integrated WM

Issue No. 10, theme:

Land use titling - a key to people's participation in WM

Issue No. 11, theme:

Sustainable WM

Special issue:

Membership Directory (Edition I and II)

II. Field Documents

No. 1

Status of watershed management in Asia

No. 2

A rapid review of the NWDPRA in India

No. 3

Case study of people's participation in WM in Nepal (BTRT area), in Nepalese language

No. 4

Case studies of people's participation in WM in Asia:

Part 1: Nepal. China and India

No. 5

Case studies of people's participation in WM in Asia:

Pan 2: Sri Lanka. Thailand and Vietnam.

No. 6

Recent developments, status and gaps in participatory watershed management training and education in Asia

No. 7

Participatory processes for integrated WM

No. 8

Farmer-led integrated upland WM - A trainers' manual (in press)

Participating Countries: