Mahatma Guarantee National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been proved as a boon for people of Masulpani Panchayat in Uttar Bastar Kanker District of Chhattisgarh. It is amongst many Panchayats where MGNREGA planning and implementation has been done with a vision to generate sustainable livelihoods within the villages under the states Mega Watershed Treatment program. In Masulpani alone in last 5 years, around 250 structures have been completed which provided opportunity for water conservation and harvesting as well as employment within the village.
The situation was not the same, a few years ago and for most of the families ensuring food security for the entire year was a difficult task. This alarming situation was a result of poor irrigation infrastructure, high water runoff, and soil degradation which led to low agricultural productivity and ultimately to distress migration. Alternatives such as bore well were not successful as it has low command area of irrigation and high running cost. But in the last few years, the created assets in the villages have provided much-needed support to farmers for livelihood enhancement and for increasing their income of more than 50% of families by 30-40 %. The planning of work was done by members of Village Level Organizations and Self Help Groups and facilitation were done by CSO, PRADAN with support from Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) and MGNREGA functionaries in the district. It is a unique approach as it gives utmost priority to the needs of communities as well as to watershed planning principles.
While planning, water budgeting principle has been used and under MGNREGA, 105 land leveling and bunding, 43 individual farm ponds, 4 dug wells, 10 compost, and azola tanks, 39 cow sheds, 27 poultry sheds, 11 goat sheds have been constructed. This has helped to increase the cropping area, enhance the productivity of land, and has provided lifesaving irrigation to the farmers. In addition, it has opened up Agri allied livelihood options like fishery, goat, and bird rearing which is important from point of view of income as well as nutrition.
This process of converting a water deficit village to one with sustainable and long term irrigation facilities was full of challenges and learnings both for community members as well as implementers. It has revamped the trust in government systems and programs and brought a shift in the mindset of people. Initially, people were skeptical about building assets on individual lands as they feared losing land in the long term but with gradual training, exposures, and discussions community members came on board and started participating in the village level planning.
PRADAN, CSO, and block MGNREGA cell played an important role in the capacity building of Community Resource Persons and Gram Panchayat Functionaries. One of the interesting things, in this case, is that the focus was on creating capacities of functionaries and strengthening the systems rather than just on creating assets. It is interesting to note that Gram Panchayat is the implementing agency, community members do planning and MGNREGA Cell and PRADAN are facilitating the entire process. It also provided an opportunity for women to play a leadership role in the natural resource management of their village. It is indeed unique as it brings together various stakeholders for a common cause