Large sections of the population of the newly formed State of Chhattisgarh depend on the rain to grow crops. This is especially true for the 32 per cent of the tribal population of the State.
In recent years, Chhattisgarh is facing one of the worst droughts in recent years, with a shortfall of 300 mm of rainfall from the usual 1100-1400 mm per year. At places, the shortfall is as much as 500 mm. Severe damage to the kharif crop inevitably led to large-scale hunger and migration. The district of Mahasamund was the worst hit.
In response to the alarming situation, several NGOs have initiated relief works. AFPRO, CARE, World Vision and the Public Health Engineering (PHE) departments of the government and village Panchayats have come together for a programme to provide succor to about 65,000 villagers in 103 villages across 43 Panchayats in Mahasamund. The programme is supported by the Australian High Commission and co-coordinated by CARE.
A total of 24,226 person days of employment were generated in 32 villages. Cash-for-work in repairing and deepening ponds and tanks, construction of water diversion structures, strengthening existing dams and canals were implemented in the programme period 1st February to 1st May, 2001. The local practice of wage employment, called the Godi system was followed, whereby digging one Godi of land measuring 13ft.x13ft.x1ft. makes a person eligible for a payment of Rs.105.
In collaboration with the PHE department, AFPRO also trained 14 youth in repairing and maintaining hand pumps. The new mechanics will be given a toolkit each, and will operate in 43 Panchayats. 28 non-functional hand pumps will also be repaired. Combating droughts however requires a long-term vision. AFPRO has already worked out the design details and cost estimates for soil and water conservation structures for 22 villages in the Mahasamund block. The communities where the structures are planned are cooperating enthusiastically, voluntarily guarding raw materials and supervising construction work.
A campaign is on in these villages, propagating the importance of conservation to mitigate the effects of future droughts. Drought-resistant varieties of saplings have been distributed in all 103 villages