Article written by Eshwer Kale published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) (Vol. 52, Issue No. 3 dated 21 Jan, 2017)
“All the things I would do, if I had a little money…” so sang Abba in the 1970s, symbolizing the mantra that took root in that decade and has continued to only become a bigger and bigger reality for people. It is true that money takes us a long way , especially the poor – it means that there is food available, that children and families don't go hungry , they are adequately clothed and sheltered, that there is access to education, resources and opportunities, that basic needs are met. It goes to create a sense of security taking the family and the community towards a better sense of well-being. No doubt one of the most visible impacts of Watershed Development is on the economic conditions of the community . Increased water availability and regenerated vegetation directly translate into more and diverse agricultural productivity , which means more income for the families. And more income has definitely meant springing up of enterprises and creation of many and diverse livelihood opportunities. It also means that streams and rivers run longer , making water available for longer periods of time.In a post-watershed development scenario, typically ground water levels increase 25% to 60%, cultivated areas increase by at least 80%, irrigated agriculture areas increase five to ten-fold, crop production climbs 90% to 145%, school enrolment increases by 25-40% to 75-100% of all children, milk production increases by at least 200%. All these mean that communities depending on these watersheds move out of dire, poverty-stricken conditions to more prosperous and secure conditions. Yet something strange has been happening in the last decade or so. We have begun to see new patterns, new emerging realities: inspite of stupendous impacts that generate strong financial in-flows, the money doesn't seem to stay within the village economy . The demand and pressure on natural resources only seem to grow . While there is more food security , there seems greater uncertainty and vulnerability . Which brings us to the question what is this force that systematically strips communities off their natural resilience? Changing climate is one. But the more pervasive, underlying factor seems to be the relationships of the communities to market-forces. How can this be counterbalanced? This month's issue brings to you 4 articles that explore some of these key questions and brings some insights into the problems and their solutions. The story of Wankute is a typical watershed development story . We see how watershed development has changed, for better , the economic, socio-political and culture fabric of the community . Mihir's article forsees global economic trends in the coming recession. The article from our director's desk shares some of the ponderings on development and economy… and finally we share grassroots' explorations on what kind of development is required for a strong and resilient local economy , especially in the face of uncertain climate conditions. We hope to hear from you, dear reader , your feedback and insights and yes, sharing of your own experiences too.