Kapsi village can now withstand two years of no rainfall, has doubled its agricultural yields and is 90 % alcohol-free.
Life has changed completely for Dadasaheb Khatar, a farmer who lives in Kapsi village on the dusty two-lane Phalton-Satara highway. His days of waiting are over. He no longer looks out for the tankers from Phalton that used to bring them 12,000 litres of water every two days for his cows, his family and his fields. He now gets water from one of the many check dams built in his village by volunteers of The Art of Living. Kapsi is one of 1200 villages in Maharashtra that are transforming on many fronts due to the tremendous efforts put in by The Art of Living volunteers. With a population of approximately 1,700 people and no industrial activity even in nearby villages, drought conditions from 2000 to 2003 had put the village back by almost 20 years. Dr Madhav Pol, an Art of Living teacher decided to take charge. Taking inspiration from the 5H program designed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, he, along with the sarpanch (the village heads) and a few villagers, decided to tackle the problem at its roots.
Most of the villagers were found to be addicted to alcohol. The volunteers conducted Breath-Water-Sound workshops, which is a five-day stress-elimination workshop offered for rural folk that helps in getting rid of the addiction. "Today, 90 per cent of the population has given up alcohol," vouches Khatar.
Simultaneously, The Art of Living teachers and volunteers started building check dams to collect rainwater for future use in order to tackle the severe water problems of the villagers.
"Today there are 28 check dams – 17 gabion structures and 11 underground structures – to collect rainwater. As a result they can now withstand two years without rainfall;" says Dr Pol. "Three cement bandaras (permanent structures that collect water) have also been built to further consolidate its water position."
Khatar's happiness is evident. "What could be better? Today there is water everywhere. All the fields are well-watered because of the underground structures. The water tables have risen and when we think of our previous situation, it's unbelievable. What could be better than having enough water for a farmer," he asks simply.
Built from the seed money donated by The Art of Living and the initiative of its volunteers, the dams have resulted in raising the water table so high that all the wells are full.
The Sarpanch of Kapsi, Deepak Kadam, too is grateful for the long-term relief provided by these projects taken up by the organization. "During the drought period if we had approached the government they would have built roads to provide employment which is not a solution to our problems. These projects have addressed our very needs." Kapsi has already won an award at the taluka level and is attracting hordes of visitors.
With the help of the state government, our volunteers and villagers have implemented the Continuous Contour Trench method of rainwater harvesting on 400 acres of land. Along with this the volunteers have been holding seminars on chemical-free farming (CFF) to educate the farmers on how to get better yields through natural means and zero-investment. Four such seminars have been held in the last two years, that were attended by 1200 farmers, 600 farmers, 700 farmers and then 2,000 farmers each. The last was held in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, when he visited the village this year. As a result of these seminars, 30 per cent of these farmers have adopted CFF and the village has almost doubled its agricultural yield this year. "We want to reach out to as many villages as possible. India is in the villages and we have touched 31,500 so far," says Ramesh Raman, an Art of Living spokesperson.