Over the past 5 years, Mann Deshi has constructed nine check dams. Each dam has transformed the lives of rural farmers, with increasing crop yields and soil fertility. After the construction of the dams, there has been a drastic reduction in rural to urban migration.

Mann Taluka is one of the most drought prone areas of Maharashtra, receiving just 4-5 inches of rainfall each year. The large farming community depends on a reliable water source to grow crops. During the dry season, some families migrate as far as 300 km to find work as labourers in Mumbai or other large cities. Migration interrupts their children’s education. Food shortages during the dry season results in families selling off livestock, compromising their long-term source of income. The economic consequences of a drought contributes to keeping rural families mired in poverty. The combination of these factors is responsible for rural Maharashtra having one of India’s highest farmer suicide rates.

What prompted us to start building check dams?

In 2012, Mann Taluka faced one of its worst ever droughts. This is when a farmer from the area approached Mann Deshi and asked for a loan to buy water and fodder for her cattle. She was willing to get into debt to make sure that her animals were well taken care of. This is when we stepped in to organize a cattle camp for the region. A cattle camp provides shelter, fodder and water for animals during droughts. Mann Deshi’s cattle camp was one of the largest in India, and hosted over 14,000 buffaloes, cows and goats throughout the drought which lasted for about 1.5 years. Farmers brought their cattle from as far away as 40 km and many of them started living on the campsite with their families. Mann Deshi provided water, food and fodder for the farmers and their cattle throughout this period. The dams were built as a long term solution to the cattle camp.

How has this helped empower women and the larger community?

Before the dam, women had to walk an average of 5km daily to collect water for their families. Since the installation of the dams, many families have been able to get water directly to their homes. The longest anyone needs to walk to reach a water source is 15 minutes. This gives women more free time to engage in productive economic activities and contribute to their household income. Young girls and boys are now learning to swim in the dam. This has also provided residents in the community with a new form of exercise to maintain their physical well being.