Across the globe, forest is known to be of critical importance for
habitats in terms of their biological diversity and ecological
functions. The ecosystem regulates the climate, restructures the
weather pattern and hydrological cycle and protects the very
important top soil by retaining the vegetation and controlling the
water flow. Scientists debate the linkages between biological
diversity and ecological services. Those who believe in a strong
link argue that any ecosystem, forests included, cannot cope with
stresses and shocks if the diversity of the system has been
Development and protection of forest along with deriving economic benefits for the stakeholders in a sustainable manner has been one of the key areas of intervention for VIKSAT particularly in tribal areas of Gujarat. Activities like Joint Forestry Management (JFM), afforestation, social forestry, grassland development, nursery development have been few of the multiple means to address the same. The activities are carried out keeping in mind the ecological, economical and social well-being aspects of the communities.
VIKSAT undertook several initiatives to restore, manage and develop the forest resource. The pro people approach adopted by VIKSAT signifies that people are the best managers and care takers of the resources, a critical factor that made significant difference. The approach led to formation, strengthening and sustaining institutions’ of people are for stewardship of the resources.
VIKSAT is pioneer in implementing the historic JFM programme in the state of Gujarat. The efforts included both, protection of forest resources and affirmation of economic activities from them. The significant role played by VIKSAT in restoring forest based ecological system by addressing socio-economic needs of local people changed the face of forest areas in more than hundred villages in Bhiloda, Satlasana and Khavda taluka. While widely acknowledged by the community, the learning therein has also informed the policy dialogues on JFM in the state.
At present there are 77 Tree Growers Cooperative Societies (TGCS) protecting around 7992 hectares of forest land. Out of the 77 TGCs 56 are registered under the cooperative society act which gives them an independent legal identity and formal recognition to assert their rights over the protected land.
Capacity Building of People’s Institutions - SAKSHAM
Sangathan Kshamata Manch (SAKSHAM) was formed in 1995 as an informal network of federations of PIs, registered as a Public Trust under the Bombay Public Trust Act 1950. SAKSHAM has representation from 12 taluka level federations across 9 districts in Gujarat, with a total membership of 417 JFMCs and 47,510 members. About 53,209.91 hectares of land is under protection by its members. These federations are involved in promoting forest protection and wasteland development. SAKSHAM facilitates the policy advocacy issues on behalf of the village level JFM Committees.
The project on capacity building of the federation to bring about self reliance, focused on
• Expansion of JFM activities within the State,
• Support policy advocacy,
• Explore employment generation opportunities.
Training to Institutionalise JFM
To restore the ecological status of Aravallis, conserve biodiversity, check desertification, improve moisture regime and protect infrastructure, a project named as Rajasthan Forestry & Biodiversity Project (RFBP) was being implemented in 18 districts covering 26 forest divisions in Rajasthan with the financial aid of the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC), Japan.
The programme was designed to do training need analysis (TNA),
design training modules and impart training for capacity building
of different stakeholders and institutionalization of JFM
programme in Rajasthan.
a) Training Need Analysis
The study of TNA covered the entire RFD staff including range officers, foresters/forest guards and cattle guards. Participatory methods for TNA went into designing of data collection tools, mobilization & orientation of survey team, field testing, data collection and data analysis.
b) Syllabus Development
On the basis of results of TNA, training syllabus was proposed for different stakeholders and the following training modules were developed:
• Training Module for Village Forest Protection and Management Committees (VFPMCs)
• Training Module for NGOs
• Training Module for Public Representatives (Panchayat & Sarpanch)
• Training Module for range forest officers, foresters, forest guards and cattle guards
c) Training Programmes
Training programmes were conducted for all the different cadres after consulting the Director, Forest Training Institute, Jaipur.
VIKSAT’s approach of ecological development combining with economic gain for stakeholder in sustainable manner has led to coordination with Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE) and Forest Department for an Integrated Grassland Development Programme.
The programme was operational in Khavda Pacham area which falls under the famous Banni grass land area located along the fringe of Rann of Kachchh. It is renowned for ecologically significant and naturally rich grasslands. Thanks to its huge pasturelands and rich vegetation, animal husbandry has prospered in this area as the principal source of income and provides secured livelihood for thousands of native residents. However, due to open grazing, over exploitation of its resources for commercial purpose, ingression of salinity and various ecological reasons the productivity of grass land has persistently declined in the last few decades. These ecological changes have direct implication on the livelihoods of Banni population and consecutively would result to further exploitation of the grasslands.
As declared by the Government of India, in the12th Finance
Commission, a decision was taken to revive the ruined grasslands
across the country. In Gujarat, the Forest Department and GUIDE came
out with a participatory fodder plot development program for
revitalization of grassland.
The main objectives were
o To strengthen the traditional practices of conservation of Grassland
o To prevent the migration of Maldharis (cattle herders) by developing fodder sources
o To develop and conserve the grassland and develop various varieties of grasses
As a part of this program, Bhumi Sankalit Ghasiya Jamin Vikas Karyakram was implemented by VIKSAT in 5 groups of 14 Panchayat villages. The key activities of the Program included formation of grassland development committees (GDCs), building their capacities and developing grass plots with participatory approach ensuring community ownership, equity and sustainability.
Since 1986, VIKSAT, the Regional Resource Agency (RRA) for
Gujarat, Diu & Daman, has been executing the Annual National
Environment Awareness Campaign (NEAC) sponsored by the Ministry of
Environment & Forests (MoEF), New Delhi. This annual campaign
conducted on the identified environmental theme every year to spread
environmental awareness. Non – Governmental organizations, School,
Colleges, Nature Clubs, Education and Training Institutions,
actively involved in the field of environment education and
awareness takes part in the campaign and spread awareness through
various programs like seminar, workshops, rallies, padyatra, Jatha,
competitions, street play, puppet show, meetings, folk media and
The National Theme for 2011-12 was “Forests for Sustainable Livelihood” which included Sub themes like Afforestation, Forest Conservation, Forest and Climate Amelioration, Forest for Water, Joint Forest Management, Agro/Social Forestry, Forestry in Urban & Peri Urban Area, Renewable Energy and Green India Mission.
Out of the 875 requests for proposals received, 569 applications from the institutions were sanctioned for implementation in 2011-12. An amount of above Rs. 52 lacs was disbursed to the partner organizations in Gujarat, Diu and Daman to implement the activities.
VIKSAT along with West Bengal RRA were recognized as best RRAs in the country. He further informed that MoEF has requested VIKSAT to orient the other RRAs about the internal procedures being followed.
Land and water as finite resources encounter severe pressure from a growing population as well as changes in consumption and production patterns due to un-sustainable development, urbanization and industrialization. There is a rapid decrease in freshwater availability and productivity of the available land. The ever increasing demand for water and food possess the greatest challenges and the situation is getting alarming in the days to come. Declining land and water quality and increasing pollution exacerbates the need to address the causes not just for mitigation but for regeneration and restoration of the resource base.
As one of its main thematic areas, VIKSAT takes up programmes under
land and water management, which holds a key to sustainable livelihood
for many in the rural regions. The special focus is on managing land
and water resources through PIs. VIKSAT has been addressing common but
grave problems of depletion of groundwater, droughts etc. through
groundwater management, artificial recharge, RWH and adaptive
strategies for drought.
Restoring, rejuvenation and recharging of the land and water both in terms of quality and quantity constitutes one of the most critical area for the organization. The focus on land and water management in terms of watershed development, land development, improved agriculture practices, change of cropping pattern, providing irrigation support, adoption of new technology and knowledge has been the focus area. Discussed below are few of the strategies followed.
Sembaliya watershed project
VIKSAT initiated watershed based interventions since February 2005 in six tribal dominated villages along the Poshina belt in Khedbrahma block of Sabarkantha district, Gujarat and in one village of Kotada block of Rajasthan. The patient and consistent efforts have resulted into completion of the several phases. VIKSAT has successfully implemented the ‘Full Implementation Phase (FIP)’ spread over four years covering watershed area of 1240 Hectares. So far, treatment measures have been undertaken in 852.85 ha. of land.
The project measures include (1) Area Treatment consisting of forest land,
grassland and farm land development activities and (2) Drainage Line Activities.
The area treatment includes activities like earthen bund, stone bund, continuous
contour trenches (CCT), Water Absorption Tents (WAT), plantation on wasteland,
sowing of grass seeds, grass seeding etc. The drainage line treatments include
activities such as gabion structures, nala plugging, earthen bunds with cement
spillway, construction of waste weirs and check dams.
Navamota Watershed Project
In February 2008, another watershed development programmes was initiated at Navamota and surrounding other six tribal dominated village with total geographical area of 1956.7 ha. The delineated watershed area is over 990.58 ha. The project is currently in the second year of the FIP covering watershed area of 898.92 Ha. So far, treatment measures have been undertaken in 332.95 ha. of land.
Ratanpur Watershed Project
The Ratanpur watershed project intervention started from the year 2010 in five tribal dominated in Khedbrahma block of Sabarkantha district, Gujarat. The delineated watershed area is 1073.26 Ha out of the total geographical area of 1576.99 ha.
The project is planned as per ridge to valley approach and is currently in the CBP. Intensive community consultations during planning is key in generating social capital in the programme.
Matarwada Watershed Project
The Matarwada project intervention, currently in CBP, was initiated since 2011 in 1164.63 Ha out of the total geographical area of 2436.40 ha spreading over four villages.
In all the watershed projects, village watershed committees (VWCs) , primarily responsible for project measures implementation with VIKSAT’s facilitation, are formed and are being slowly but steadily being empowered to fulfill their responsibility.
One of the key aspects of the CBP has been in gaining confidence of the
community. Transparency plays an important role in winning trust and confidence
of the community to implement community development projects. The VWCs makes the
payment, at a public place directly into the hands of the people who work under
the project. This is done in the presence of the community leaders, community
members and VIKSAT representatives, which has granted greater
credibility to the whole process.
WATERSHED PLUS: ENHANCING LIVELIHOOD RESILIENCE OF THE TRIBAL COMMUNITIES
While technical interventions like soil and water conservation and water
resource development are significant to watershed projects, over the years it
has been realized that forward linkages for input supply and extension
activities also need to be promoted for the required translation of the benefits
of watershed projects into generation of additional income. This felt need
transformed into an additional component of the watershed project is termed as
The entire project turned up into a combination of two components; component one focused on investment in soil and water conservation structures which is a major activity and the second component aimed at getting maximum mileage of the first component through additional activities. The cutting edge of second component is in providing flexibility to the project and meeting complimentary requirements of the project by establishing forward and backward linkages to achieve the desired results and improvement in socio economic conditions of the people. These ‘Watershed Plus’ activities are as follows:
(a) Skill building trainings
The skill building trainings include trainings for women SHG members for various income generation activities, and youth were given training for repairing of diesel pump and hand pump. The participants were given practical hands-on experience during the training as they were expected to actually repair one diesel pump and one hand pump at the field sites. After the trainings, the participants were also given tool kits to facilitate in the process of income generation.
(b) Interaction with scientists and exposure to promote improved agriculture practices
To provide opportunity for interaction with agriculture scientists and also to expose the community to improved agriculture and animal husbandry practices, visits of selected farmers to Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Khedbrahma, Dantiwada Agricultural University, Navsari Agricultural University and Lachhakadi watershed area were organized. The visits had an impact of widening the vision of the participants. Their motivation and urge for improvement was clearly reflected during the village meetings which followed the visits and can also be observed in the improvement in the quality of work done under watershed project.
(c) Demonstrations for Improved Agricultural Practices
The second component of the watershed plus project involves demonstrations of improved agricultural practices by some of the dynamic farmers of the project area with inputs from scientists. During the year, demonstrations were conducted for Maize, Cotton, Groundnut, Castor, Pigeon pea, Green gram and Brinjal.
(d) Celebration of Field Days
Field day celebration provide an opportunity to a large number of farmers to assemble at the selected demonstration plot to themselves witness the success of the trail in terms of considerably increase in the crop yield after adoption of the improved agricultural practices suggested by the scientists.
(e) Support for Irrigation- Provision of Pipe line
Support for irrigation is one of the major requirements which farmers often require after a watershed project. This is particularly important in tribal areas where agriculture land is scattered and farmers are having minimal exposure to irrigation as traditionally the agriculture pattern is rain fed. Lack of exposure with low investment capability, the small and marginal farmers generally find it difficult to try different irrigation methodology on their own and hence required external support towards creating a demonstration effect. Thus to begin with, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes of 100 meters running length and fittings were provided to the 25 beneficiaries. This helped the farmers in applying irrigation largely to their cotton and wheat crops. As a result, the crop growth was good and farmers got higher production.
(f) Seed kits distribution
Again as mentioned above, provision of improved seeds, is also essential for motivating the farmers to shift towards improved varieties. Thus seed kits for Wheat, Lucerne and Green gram crops were distributed to total 58 farmers.
(g) Demonstration of Drum kit irrigation in vegetable crops
The farmers usually prefer flood irrigation when water is abundantly available for irrigation since it is the simplest method of irrigation. However, where the water is in short supply, micro irrigation systems (MIS) provide best solution to address irrigation needs. Further, it also enhances production of the crop at least by 30 per cent as per experience of the scientists. To demonstrate the same, 10 drum kits along with good quality vegetable seeds were also distributed to beneficiaries.
(h) Reconstruction of wells
There are large number of ‘Kachcha’ wells in the project area which are filled up by the soil during heavy rain falls and storms. The farmers have to take out the soil from the well to rejuvenate the well. Very often, this is not done in time and ultimately the crop is deprived of irrigation at a critical stage. To demonstrate the importance of well strengthening and help a few of the needy farmers, well strengthening activity was implemented. Three farmers were able to implement the activity out of five selected beneficiaries.
(i) Well Deepening
In the project villages, some farmers use wells for irrigation as well as drinking water purposes. But after khariff season, the availability of water in their wells is considerably reduced. The farmers felt that if the wells were deepened by about 10 feet, it might improve the water quantity available for irrigation. For this purpose, nineteen farmers were supported with well deepening. As a result, more water became available for irrigation in Khariff season particularly providing for supportive irrigation to cotton. It also resulted in the increase of the area of the irrigated land during khariff season and some of the farmers also had additional water for irrigation of Rabi crops.
(j) Irrigation development on group basis:
While it is not possible and even feasible to promote individual wells for everyone, VIKSAT has been encouraging small and marginal farmers to join hands and form small groups to take advantage of their collective strength to mitigate their problems of irrigation through the concept of group wells. Under this, a beneficiary group was formed where one of the farmer was having a open live well in his field with sufficient water but unable to irrigate his own entire field nor able to sell the water to neighbouring farmers due to lack of water lifting device. The group was encouraged to install good quality diesel engine to lift water from the well and provide water for irrigation to all the members of the group. The efforts to promote group based irrigation helped 20 farmers to come together and form three groups. These three groups contributed their cash contribution and installed diesel engines (10 HP) in the month of March 2010.
(k) Veterinary Camps
In project villages, veterinary facilities are inadequate and lack the medical treatment of their animals. Camps are important for vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of the animals at village level. For providing veterinary services at village level, five camps were organized- three in the month of September 2009 and two follow-up camps in the month of January 2010, in three of the Sembaliya watershed project villages. The surrounding project villages were also informed about the camps. Veterinary camps were organized with technical support from Department of Animal Husbandry, Himmatnagar. Overall, 658 farmers participated in three camps and 2111 animals were treated.
Convergence with Government Department
(a) Nursery development with forest department (Social)
District Department of Social Forestry in Sabarkantha district had invited NGO representatives of the district to seek participation for promotion of social forestry. In this meeting, VIKSAT representative informed the department about the watershed projects along with watershed Plus project implemented in the tribal villages of Khedbrahma block. Taking the note of the same, forest department offered a nursery programme for each of the two watersheds.
(b) Promotion of Horticulture Crop in Tribal Area with Horticulture Department
In Bhiloda field office area, VIKSAT has collaborated with the Horticulture Department, Himmatnagar for gaining 50% subsidy for farmers for 1000 saplings of improved variety of Mango. The village wise list is given below.
A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets, and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.
A sustainable livelihoods approach is a holistic method of addressing development issues that centres the discussion on people's livelihoods. Sustainable livelihoods is a chameleon-like concept that can serve many functions: it is at once an established development objective, an analytical tool used to understand the factors influencing a community's ability to enhance their livelihoods, and a method of eradicating poverty
Underlying the sustainable livelihoods approach is the theory that people draw on a range of capital assets or poverty reducing factors to further their livelihood objectives. Assets are categorized as social, human, natural, physical, financial, and political, and may serve as both inputs and outcomes. Various vulnerability factors over which people have little or no control (such as environmental disasters and political unrest) impact the assets. Assets are also filtered through policies, institutions, and processes that determine the degree to which the people's livelihood objectives are realized. The model that VIKSAT adopted for sustaining livelihood base of the stakeholder was through livelihood financing. As an organisation we understand that it is important to make people partner in growth and that is only possible when they contribute equally not depend on the grants alone.
VIKSAT has taken up a new project under livelihood domain titled “Promoting Sustainable Natural Resource Management through People’s Institutions” under larger “Umbrella Programme for Natural Resource Management” (UPNRM) being executed by NABARD. The programme aims to develop alternative financing solutions and to institutionalize community-based public private partnership (PPP) approaches for the natural resource sector for sustainable livelihood generation. UPNRM is an approach to support financially viable models for productive resource management and also to facilitate private sector involvement in a partnership mode for the implementation of public investment Programs for rural areas.
Institution and Capacity building
Nurturing, managing and building capacity of the institutions in general and peoples’ institution in particular has been the core approach of VIKSAT from beginning. We believe that the quality the institutions formed by the organisation does matter a lot for its’ growth and development.
Over the last 34 years, VIKSAT has worked at grassroots level with communities in their local regions towards developing models which ensure sustainability of livelihoods through natural resource management. To enhance meaningful participation in natural resources management, VIKSAT has been working towards imparting skills related to institution building, resource generation, management and other support.