Translated by Kanishk Rohilla
An Indian farmer teaches Israel and the world a successful conservation technique
This inspiring story of a village that was once called the village of mad people. Lapodia is approximately 80 kms away from Jaipur in Rajasthan.
The hero of our story 62-year-old Laxman Singh tells of how, 40 years ago, the village was riddled with horrific droughts and poverty. The young migrated to cities where they worked on minimum wages. He tells of how water scarcity, for animals and people, compelled the villagers to walk several kilometers in search of water. This often led to disputes and fights and people began to refer to this village as Lapod or mad.
But then Laxman Singh wrought a miracle. He developed a special technique of water conservation that has inspired not just villages in Rajasthan but farmers as far away as Israel. Israel which is known for its high-tech innovations is now learning from an Indian farmer.
The Chokha system, developed by Laxman Singh is soon to be launched in Israel.
Chokha system is a technique for farmers that provides them with income and employment while conserving water and preserving the soil
Laxman Singh recounts the incidents that made him realize that something needed to be done for the betterment of village. He remembers how people would laugh whenever he mentioned the name of his village. He vowed to change the image of his village and make the villagers take pride in it.
In 1977 he formed the Gram Vikas Navyuyak Mandal, Lapodia, to rally the people of village around development. This group was given the responsibility of convincing the villagers to take ownership of their land and resources and not live as mere labourers.
He also began the system of labour donation to save the village. He then took on the primary problem of water conservation. “One of the first things I thought about was how water could be stopped from flowing out of the village itself. I named the system I devised the Chokha system. It is the technique I went to Israel to teach and which the people of Israel came to our village to learn.”
The Chokha System
Every village has a piece of common grazing land, which in Rajasthan is called gochar. Every village has between 400-1000 bighas of land under gochar. The village has 400 bighas which were brought under this system by Laxman Singh. This grass land was used as the main stage for water conservation.
Walls were built on three sides to hold rain water during the monsoon. The main wall is 220 feet long and other two walls are 150 feet long. The land is then allowed to flood with up to 9 inches of rainwater. This level of water causes no harm to the grasses under it. Dhaman grass is grown in that area and animals are allowed to graze on it. Small channels are dug for animals to drink water form and several tanks have been made in the village to store rain water. The ground water level in the area is systematically recharged.
A system has evolved whereby every villager is equally responsible to save and conserve water for the village.
During the summer months when there is less work people come together to dig and restore ponds. When around two thousand people, the population of this village for instance, work collectively, a large pond can be made within 4 or 5 days. All nearby villages are busy digging and repairing their ponds during the summer months. Large rallies are organized in every village and meetings are conducted where water, trees, land, animal husbandry and soil conservation are discussed.
Lapodia now has more than a lakh trees of several varieties and a flourishing agriculture and animal husbandry economy. The village has approximately 103 wells.
Laxman Singh was awarded the National Youth Award in 1992 and in 2007 he was given the President’s Award for his work.
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