With 250 Check Dams This Woman Rescued 2 Lakh Villagers From Poverty And Tripled Their Revenue In 10 Years

Image Credits: Amla Ruia

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“The Future Of India Lies In Its Villages.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The economy in Indian villages is agro-based. However, the situation in villages has been deteriorating day by day due to bad governance, illiteracy, bad market and water scarcity. Four years ago, Devkaran migrated from Rajasthan to work as a labourer in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to feed his family as he was not able to do farming in his village due to the acute shortage of water. Now he is back in the village, thanks to check dams built by Amla Ruia. He is now reaping three crops a year and he bought ten buffaloes, two motorcycles and a tractor.

Bhuda-Budhi check dam during construction and during monsoon

During summer, many villages in Rajasthan, a state known for its scorching heat and parched soil, struggle to get drinking water, let alone water for agricultural purposes. There are many villages that are not able to get water even for a single crop a year due to which many farmers are facing poverty.

In 1999-2000, Rajasthan had been reeling under severe drought. Amla Ruia couldn’t ignore the situation of villages in Rajasthan when she read about the poor conditions of the farmers there. She immediately started for Rajasthan from Mumbai. She visited many villages affected by acute water shortage and tried to understand the situation and ways to solve the problem.

While on tour in the villages, she saw many hills surrounding the villages. During the rainy season, farmers used the water drifting from the hills to cultivate their lands. There were no arrangements or any structure in place to hold the excess water from going waste. Amla Ruia wanted to root out the water crisis from the village. The only way this could be done was by adopting sustainable water harvesting procedures.

Amla decided to construct check dams to stop the wastage and flow of excess water. These check dams stored the water which flowed from the higher grounds from hills to lower ground during the rainy season.  Amla started “Aakar Charitable Trust” and began working on her plan.

“Rajasthan was reeling under severe drought. I saw the pictures of famine-stricken villages on the TV screen and I felt that I should do something for them. My father-in-law used to send water tankers and food to the villages. I thought that was not a permanent solution to the problem. I visited those Rajasthan villages and started working to solve the water scarcity.” said Amla Ruia

How do check dams work?

Check dams involve small masonry works and extensive earthen bunds. They are most effective in hilly areas where the whole hilly terrain will act as the catchment area for the reservoir. The rainwater coming from the hills are stopped and stored by the check dam. They are cost-effective and bestow tremendous bounty on the land and the people.

Gunda-bera check dam during construction and during monsoon

Rs 500 crore in revenue

Aakar Charitable Trust visited all the villages in the vicinity and explained to the villagers that the only viable solution to water shortage is building check dams. Seeing the enthusiasm of the trust to help them villagers came forward and extended their support for the cause. In the first phase, the villagers built two check dams in Mandawara village in Dausa district. The result: up-to-the-brim reservoirs filled with water. The farmers near the reservoirs were able to reap revenue of Rs 12 crore that year.

The word spread like wildfire in the surrounding villages which helped the cause. The trust and villagers started building more check dams in different districts like Dausa, Alwar, Sikar etc. In total, the trust built 250 check dams in 156 villages impacting over 2 lakh people every year. The farmers who were once not able to grow one crop a year are now able to grow three crops a year. The revenue in total from 156 villages is about Rs 500 crore.

Involving villagers in building check dams

“The people were not willing to believe that somebody had a clear agenda of helping the villagers. They thought that we have an ulterior motive behind the idea. It took some time to convince the villagers. Few of them believed in us. We do not want any work where villagers themselves do not contribute. Because, if they contribute, that means they really need the work to be done,” said Amla

Amla Ruia talking to villagers.

Villagers are involved in every decision from site selection to supervising the check dam construction. Amla made sure that the villagers are also involved in the construction of the check dams which ensured and increased the sense of ownership in the villagers. The farmers bear 40% of the cost in the form of labour, stone, gravel and water required for the masonry work and rest 60% is borne by the donors. Farmers take care of the maintenance of the check dam.

Impact of check dams on villages

“There are massive changes in the villages. All villages are earning a total sum of Rs 500 crores The incomes in the villages had tripled. The villages along had started animal husbandry along with farming, growing three crops a year; few of villagers had begun small-scale industries too. All the children are going to school, all the able-bodied people who migrated are back in the village. It is only the water that has done all these transformations in these villages,” said Amla Ruia

Calculation of revenue generation

The local supervisors visit each and every farmer in the villages and ask them how much land they have cultivated and how much profit they have earned after deleting their expenses. Now, Aakar Trust also started working in Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhatisgarh. The villagers call Amla “Water Mother” for turning their barren land into lush green fields. For more details visit: Aakar Charitable Trust 

Also Read: Andhra Pradesh: This Man Is Building A Self Sustainable Village In India’s Second Driest District

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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Image Credits: Amla Ruia

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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