The project was initiated in April 2005 and is being implemented in one watershed covering an area of 1200 hectares with support from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Presently the Capacity Building Phase of the project is underway.
Most tribal households in the region fall below the poverty line calculated at less than a dollar a day. The tribals depend mainly on a mix of agriculture, animal husbandry, non-timber forest produce collection and casual labour for their livelihoods. Agriculture is mainly rain-fed with little or no irrigation facilities available and the average land holding in the area is one to one and half acres. The food production is sufficient to meet requirements for around six to eight months in a year, and the community depends on either wage labour or migration to meet their cash and subsistence requirements. The recurrent droughts and crop failures over the past few years have made the tribal livelihoods vulnerable. Forests and other common lands are largely degraded but continue to contribute significantly to the livelihoods of the tribal communities in terms of fodder, fuel wood and non-timber forest produce. With increased degradation however the benefits from the commons are also declining. Animal husbandry is closely linked to farming practices, with animals being kept mainly for the purposes of draught and farmyard manure. In such circumstances expenditure of most households exceeds their income; instances of borrowing are high and so are the interest rates charged. Most households are caught in a trap where the incomes that they earn are mainly used to repay the interests on the loans taken. The economic vulnerability of the tribals increases further in years of drought. With average debts ranging up to thrice the annual income and the farm production meeting about half the subsistence requirement, income earned through migration is critical for survival.
An analysis of the opportunities that could trigger off improvement of the tribal livelihoods suggests action in the improvement of natural resources. It is necessary therefore that a concerted effort be made to increase farm productivity, improve cash incomes, increase food security and strengthen the institutional mechanisms that govern the common lands especially forests that play a crucial role in checking runoff and soil erosion besides aiding groundwater recharge and providing fuelwood and fodder.
The project seeks to strengthen community based natural resource management and livelihood option to address the economic vulnerability of the tribal households inhabiting the watershed area.
The specific objectives of the project, are:
- To build and strengthen the capacity of the community to conserve and manage their natural surroundings and resources through collective action.
- To work towards the stability of shared natural resources, and agriculture production systems and improved agricultural productivity through appropriate soil and water conservation measures.
Strengthen the inter-linkages between different production systems and natural resource based livelihoods to improve cash flows in the village economy.