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The village that depends on the Chauka

by isabel last modified 2011-05-25 17:15

Two villages namely Rahalana and Beenikhera has able to get enough grasses to graze their animals till February and they are reduced migration of 3 months.

Raichand`s Photo 

Raichand Gurjar and Lekhraj Bairwa are herders from Beenikhera and Rahalana villages.  We spent a day with them in May to check on the progress of the Chauka system that was put in place on the pastureland of Rahalana two years ago.  Created by GVNML, the Chauka is a method of preserving rainwater in the topsoil to enable the growth of native grasses and shrubs and has already been used to transform 40% of Rahalanas’ common pastures from unproductive barren lands into a desert garden capable of supporting many forms of life.

As we walk into the pastureland the two men point out the native plants that animals can eat, and as we get further in they show how unproductive grasses, that favor dry soil, are progressively being outnumbered by useful fodder which prefers the moist soil of the Chaukas. 

The men have a wealth of local knowledge; they show us how grass seeds are dispersed by ants and tell us of the hardship of migrating with animals.  Migration started later than usual this year due to the good monsoon but some families have travelled as far away as Agra, 300 miles, grazing animals along the way.

In Rahalana Village, almost every household, 1500 families, keeps animals. Goats, sheep, cows or buffalo.  All of these animals depend on common pasture lands for grazing as farm sizes here are small and are kept for agriculture.  Years of drought, which is most years, see high levels of migration to keep animals fed.  The income and milk that these animals provide is vital to the survival of many families. A constant source of fodder is hard to find and migrating with animals is costly and separates families.

In such conditions, getting the most from the land is a priority.  Initial work is done by GVNML on the Chaukas and it is then managed by the Village Development Committee (VDC) of Rahalana.  They make the rules of the pasture, such as banning the cutting of trees and preventing grazing after the monsoon to allow grass to grow and seeds to spread.  Violators are brought before the committee to answer charges but this is a rare occurrence.  Raichand only knows of one man that has been charged with removing trees from the pasture recently.

The herders of both villages await the day when they will not be forced to migrate.  They would not have to fight with landowners as they cross their lands, they can spend more time with their wives and children and they will not have to leave the sick and elderly to fend for themselves as they drive animals on in search of fodder.  They hope that the remaining pasturelands in their area can be transformed by adopting Chauka systems and that the VDCs will increase in capacity.  All of these things are possible and, with the help of GVNML, will someday soon become a reality.

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