The smile on the face of Malla Damor, head of an eight-member family from the remote Gopalpura village in Madhya Pradesh, has a story to tell. It is one of how concerted community action helped change the face of his village for good.

While Malla toiled over the years as a farmer, he was entirely dependent on monsoon rain to help cultivate his land. His wife, Kamma Damor, would often join him in the fields to lend a helping hand. It had always been like that for as long as he can remember.

50-year-old Malla used to harvest one crop of maize through the year and, if he was lucky, some local variety of pulses in the post-monsoon season. The absence of a regular source of water made it difficult for him to plough the fields for anything beyond that. His two sons and four daughters would see their parents toil incessantly to ensure a square meal for them.

Two years ago, The Coca-Cola India Foundation, Anandana, and its partner, NM Sadguru Foundation, decided to help change the lives of not just farmers like Malla but also the people of the village. The Coca-Cola Foundation agreed to a proposal to build 25 water harvesting structures. These were planned as small structures where the impact of the intervention could be seen in a short period.

It would benefit nearly 5000 people in the region which had 765 families. A check dam was built which had a replenishment potential of more 40,000 cubic metres of water.

With the rain-fed water supply, Malla had always been always been accustomed to harvesting well under one quintal of wheat on his three-acre land. A good monsoon will help boost his income while a dry season could add to his worries. 

But his fortune changed with the regular supply of water round the year. He has now been able to harvest about 60 tonnes of wheat on the same land. He could also cultivate a crop of maize and grams that added to his income.

The images of the lush green fields in the village now tell the story of prosperity and happiness.

The healthy profit that has now come Malla’s way tells the story of change that has happened. The 60 quintals of wheat that their fields produce gives them nearly Rs. 72,000 in revenue. After accounting for nearly Rs. 30,000 spent on labour, fertiliser and seeds, the family is left with the rest as their profit. The money they make with harvesting more than one crop is the additional income that is adding to their happiness and prosperity.

Geography that made history

It has not always been very easy for the people of the region because of its geographical features, dominated by the rural population.

The Thandla Tehsil is located in Jhabua district, part of the western region of Madhya Pradesh. It has about 182,000 residents, with nearly all its population living in rural areas. Nearly everyone relies on agriculture, or related activities for their survival. Short ridges are a noticeable feature of the rugged terrain for the region. The Mahi River that originates from the Ajmera Hills nearby is the major source of water for the people. The average rainfall in the tehsil is 840 mm and it also boasts of an intensive drainage network that could do any city proud.

Doing good for the community

The improved availability of water has had a marked impact on habitation too. Before the check dam was built just about a fourth of the village land was under cultivation. Locals say that several families were moving to nearby Gujarat in search of work. In just two years since the check dam has been built, the land under cultivation has more than doubled and some villagers are now choosing to stay back.

There are several instances of farmers buying more cattle and converting their thatched-roof houses into pucca homes. Some have also bought their own vehicles.

The entire community now has improved availability of water, something that they could only dream of earlier. Open wells and hand pumps now have round-the-year supply of water too, ensuring ample drinking water supply to the people.

The smiles on the faces of Kamma and Malla Damor clearly tell the story of the entire village.