The People’s Empowering Movement (PEM) reached out to Bansuri in May 2014 with a grant proposal for an irrigation project in Rajwadi, Ratnagiri. Satish Kamat, the founder of PEM, had already been living and working in this region and had adopted an approach of building strong, empowered communities. His focus on self-reliance, by creating a conducive environment for members of the community to develop solutions to their problems and contribute to their implementation, aligned perfectly with Bansuri’s Vision and Ideal.
What started off as a single irrigation project bloomed into several region wide partnerships based on the same model. We remain in constant conversation with these communities, evolving our own support and funding, to best serve their interests, as defined by them. Meanwhile, PEM’s strength lies in the community’s growing ability to articulate their own needs and play an active role in meeting them.
The broad model under which various PEM projects function:
Bansuri has been collaborating with PEM across several villages and developmental sectors. Together, we have worked to implement irrigation projects, increase the productivity of agricultural land, abet livelihood and introduce alternatives, and widen the range of nutrition easily available to families. Below is a brief, sector-wise overview of the work carried out.
Krushiratna Bachat Gat, Rajwadi was the first group we worked with. Here the farmers needed to bring water from the river to the fields. A government scheme that promised funding never came, so they approached Satish for assistance. He consulted with engineers to put together a proposal, understanding how to bring water to the fields, and at what cost. Bansuri funded this project, partly as a grant, and partly as a soft loan. The beneficiaries provided labour for the work, and were able to build the pipelines providing the farms with year round access to water. PEM also brought in experts to train the farmers on cropping patterns and organic farming so that they could improve crop variety and yield. At Rajwadi, 25 acres of farmland were brought under cultivation and 25 families benefited from the project.
Inspired by this transformation and the model, three other SHG’s approached PEM for assistance in irrigation –
Shree Ganesh Shetkari Utpadak Gat, Dhamani:
15 acres of farmland were brought under cultivation and 16 families benefited from the project.
Bramhanwadi Panipurawatha Yojana, Rajwadi:
20 acres of farmland were brought under cultivation and 22 families benefited from the project.
Bhoomi Ratna Purush Bachat Gat, Chikhali:
25 acres of farmland were brought under cultivation and 18 families benefited from the project.
In order to boost productivity, members of the Krushiratna Bachat Gat requested, and received funds for a power tiller. The following year, Brahmanwadi Panipurawatha Bachat Gat received a power tiller as well. Encouraged by the effectiveness of this mechanisation, the groups funded investments in additional accessories. They also took the initiative to rent out the tillers to neighbouring farmers, using the earnings to fund maintenance of the machines.
Bhoomi Ratna Purush Bachat Gat approached us again with an idea to plan for the future water needs of the region, given that rains were erratic. They wanted to build a tank on the nearby hilltop in which they could conserve water and thereby have the capacity to irrigate up to 50 acres of land. After the tank was constructed, they even started fish breeding in the tank, which they now plan to scale up.
Since crops were no longer dependent on rainwater, and productivity had increased, PEM worked with the community in Rajwadi to create better market access through technology. What started off as a simple app for farmers to share images for order placement with their local contacts, has grown into the ‘Rajwadi Bhaji App’.
This app is an online market for grocery stores and sellers in cities to buy directly from farmers. The app also helped streamline pricing, ensuring that the farmers were able to make a profit.
The residents of Bamanewadi hamlet faced an acute shortage of clean drinking water. To improve their situation they contributed funds to build a bore well and then approached Bansuri to fund the pipeline, storage tank and pump for water extraction.
Women from Bramhanwadi spent 3-4 hours a day fetching water for personal and cooking needs. Following the success of the irrigation model, they approached us, wanting to create water pipelines direct to their homes. We supported them financially, while the beneficiaries themselves implemented the project.
The women in Shembhavne came together and formed an SHG called Kamdhenu Mahila Doodh Utpadak Bachat Gat through which they wanted to start a dairy farm. The SHG was a co-operative structure, wherein profit and livestock ownership was shared equally amongst the members. They followed a democratic system of elections to choose office bearers and all decisions were made collectively.
We partly funded this project through a soft loan, and the community contributed the other part. The group was also taken to existing dairy farms to receive training on relevant activities.
In 2005, Shri Vyaghrambari Bachat Ghat was formed in Guhagar to set up a vermicompost centre that was funded by the local bank. This was extremely successful, generating an annual turnover of 3.5 lakhs and earning a reputation of being a quality supplier of fertiliser in the region.
In 2018 the group planned to scale up their venture by setting up a new shed and adding a few production boosting tools to mechanise the process, for which funding was given by Bansuri.
In 2018, PEM approached us to support a backyard poultry project that a Rajwadi farmer wanted to start for his daughter-in-law who was physically handicapped due to polio.
We provided the seed money required to construct a shed and buy the first round of chickens. We hoped that this would inspire other young women, especially those with disabilities, as they strive for independence.
A group of 12 women from Tural, formed the Kokankanya Swayam Sahayak Mahila Bachat Gat, to create paper articles like lanterns, envelopes, etc.
We supported the initial capital investment and now the women are running the venture from their profits and making wise investments in the business.
Bansuri also initiated cultural, health and the environmental activities in the same communities. Since Holi is an important festival in the Konkan region, we have been sponsoring the celebrations in Rajwadi, through the Rajwadi Bramhanwadi Gramastha Mandal, since 2016.
Under the ambit of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, we purchased 1000 dustbins so that each family in the Sangameshwar Block of Deorukh, had a wet and dry bin in their homes, encouraging them to segregate their waste. In the same community, we constructed a compound wall around building of a Zilla Parishad school to protect the children from heavy vehicular traffic that passes through the area.
In 2019, when pre-cyclone rains ravaged crops in Ratnagiri, we were able to provide timely relief in the form of 90 quintals of rice distributed to 80 farmers in Rajwadi, Dhamani and Chikhali who incurred great losses.
Bansuri is extremely proud to be associated with PEM because the achievements run deep and influence mindset changes, not mere indices. Some tangible milestones are:
56 families are involved in livelihood activities beyond farming