Shimla: Community efforts in watershed management sustained over two years has changed livelihoods patterns in mid-himalayan zone, which otherwise is a water deficient region where village women had to go through a daily grind of trekking long distances to fetch fodder for farm animals.
Started in 2007, the World Bank assisted $ 60 million Mid-Himalayan development project has empowered many villages in the region including Sherpur by ensuring sustainable management of land and water resources and enhancing livelihood incomes.
The project unleashed activities such plantation, soil conservation, water harvesting, horticulture, agriculture and other income generating activities with community participation that has touched almost every aspect of residents livelihood patterns.
Life for Bimlo Devi, a resident of Sherpur village in Chamba district would start before the crack of dawn, for other than cooking and other household chores she would trek 8 Kms of hilly terrain to fetch fodder for the cattle from the forest.
Trees planted over a 12 hectare area of degraded forest area in Sherpur by a women group in 2006-07 has turned around the land into a thickly forested one.
The user group zealously guarded their new planted forest, which enabled Sherpur pannchayat to earn recognition by being awarded the first prize of Rs 4 lalks for bringing about greenery.
â€œLife is much easier now and we do find time for other activities. Our group plans to make paper plates, knit woolen garments and raise poultry that would be sold at a cooperative store outlet in Banikhet,â€ said Bimlo Devi.
Bhavani Thakur also from Sherpur, sold turmeric worth Rs 1000 , onions Rs 6,000 and garlic worth Rs 2,500 this year alone.
Sushma Devi, earlier sceptical about the new initiatives has changed her views as she now boasts of an increased income. â€œI am earning about Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 more a year through activities such as plantation, poultry farming and knitting, she said.â€
A World Bank baseline survey had established that 90 percent of the people in the zone had a average land holding of less than half-an-acre.
After implementation of the watershed project, the World Bank report states that the average household income had increased by 50 per cent, crop yields by 75 per cent and crop diversity has gone up from one to two to three to four crops.