Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Mahadev Gomare, a farmer from Latur has been reviving rivers and natural farming practices in his district as part of the ‘Jal Jagruti Abhiyan’, and is now implementing it in several other cities across India.
Water Crises in Maharashtra
The Marathwada region in Maharashtra is one of the most drought prone regions in the country and is infamous for the many farmer suicides. As reported, Maharashtra witnessed 32,605 farmer suicides in the last 19 years from 2001 to 2019. The water shortage that affected Latur in 2016 left rivers, dams and lakes completely dry. The lack of access to drinking water made it even more difficult for people to survive.
With a view to change this, Mahadev Gomare initiated ‘Jal Jagruti Abhiyaan’ in the city of Latur and pledged to rejuvenate rivers and improve the livelihoods of farmers.
Gharni river after the desilting efforts taken by Gomare and his team
“In 2016, the residents of Latur made a substantial contribution to the initiative and I managed to collect nearly Rs. 7.5 crores. The villages who paid nearly Rs. 25 lakhs a year for water tankers do not require it anymore. The work was done within a year's time,” said Mahadev Gomare.
Looking at the deteriorating state of his own village, Gomare kicked off a movement to lead farmers towards the path of afforestation, water conservation, rainwater harvesting, desilting, organic farming and more.
The journey of Mahadev Gomare
“In 2013, we held a conference in Bengaluru where 2,500 sarpanches got together to discuss the issue,” Gomare recalled.
Subsequently, Gomare and his team revived the 143 kilometer stretch of the Manjara river located on Balaghat plateau in Latur. They also rehabilitated its tributaries - Terna, Tawarja and Gharni so as to provide water to nearly 900 villages. After the success of this attempt, Gomare worked towards giving life to 22 rivers across 150 villages including districts like Nagpur, Nashik, Satara, Pune and Jalgaon in Maharashtra. Today, regardless of untimely rainfall or hot, scorching summers, villages have enough water both for drinking and farming.
“The villagers trust our process and believe in us. We were actually looking to pool in at least a hundred labourers for the Latur project, but the villagers helped us instead. They formed groups and worked in shifts and made things easy,” he added.
Mahadev Gomare working on ground in Maharashtra
The supply of water benefited farmers to a large extent. The production of soybean and chickpeas increased two-fold compared to the previous year. “The constant shortage of water and its disastrous consequences motivated us to begin this journey,” said Gomare.
Upcoming projects on Water Conservation
Due to limited availability of water supply in the rural areas of Maharashtra, implementing regular water management is a must for the farmers to upgrade their farms.
“Sufficient amount of water is a must for agricultural activities. So, we prioritised water conservation in all the villages. We came up with a watershed development plan by studying all the geographical characteristics,” said Gomare.
Today, the farmers are finding new ways to achieve sustainability and grow crops. And, Gomare continues to help them by providing adequate guidance when it comes to the type of soil, methodologies to implement, etc.
“We first treat the soil based and then help them choose crops that can be grown even with limited water. Besides, we also enable farmers to carry out orchard farming to gain additional income at a fairly low cost. We distribute the seedlings to them through the Art of Living Foundation either for free or at a discounted price,” he adds.
The project also involves training women and youth of the villages to manage water resources.
The project is presently being executed at four villages of the Deoni Taluka and 14 villages at Ausa Taluka in Latur. Besides, desilting initiatives are being run on the Godavari river in Nashik, Idukki, Idamalayar, Chulliyar, Walayar, the Meenkara dam in Kerala and the Mangalam dam in Hyderabad to expand water storage.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
Written by Aparajita Ghosh
Some resources to help you understand Gomare's efforts: