GRAVIS expands its agricultural and water-harvesting knowledge to Africa


Under the Indo-Africa Agricultural Innovation Bridge Programme, in collaboration with Techno Serve, GRAVIS is expanding its agricultural and water-harvesting knowledge to Africa funded by USAID. The project started in 2015 in Kenya and Malawi, two very needy countries of Africa. The project is based on exchange of traditional and innovative agricultural and water-harvesting practices. The project is being implemented in remote villages of Malawi and in Kajiado area of Kenya. Both areas are very arid and drought prone, similar to the Thar Desert of India.

Main activities of the project are to construct rain-water harvesting dykes or bunds (khadins), construction of ponds and seepage wells and setting up gabion check dams. In addition, there are activities planned to set up agro-horti units to provide vegetation and nutrition. The overall idea is to transfer Indian knowledge on agriculture and rainwater harvesting to Africa, with modifications to suit the local context and needs. Further, thereby is a training component that emphasizes on training of farmers and local communities on the technologies introduced. Gender and climate change are another important components of the project, which are being studied in the context of two continents and efforts are being made to suggest areas of possible interface and exchange.

The community in Malawi is known as charcoal makers which is mostly dependent on meat production from piggery, chicken and small ruminants for food and household economy. They are basically small marginalized farmers and earn basically from charcoal making and cattle rearing. Massai Community in Kenya is nomadic in nature and does seasonal rotations. They are basically cattle rears and earn their livelihood from dairy products for which they breed livestock like cows, bullocks, goat, sheep and also donkeys as carriers. In spite of having large land holding per household, they don’t believe in land tilling. According to them, it is a crime against nature and tilling the soil destroys the land and makes it unsuitable for grazing. They use their land holdings for grazing or as economic commodity by selling during the long spell of dry temperatures.

GRAVIS in collaboration with Techno Serve has received excellent support from local organizations, authorities and communities for the project activities. Rural people of Malawi and Kenya are very hospitable and are very cooperative. GRAVIS has found it very easy to work with local people and is looking forward to completing all set milestones in due time.

Exchanges on local technologies and between grass root level development programmes are vital for community development at large. GRAVIS is very keen to share its learning with the communities in Africa and in other parts of the world, as well as to learn from other communities. While we hope that our knowledge supports African communities through the project, GRAVIS also believes that with the learning from the project our work in India will also strengthen further.

Effect of Drought on Women

Sisodia, Jahanvi*

Drought is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall leading to shortage of water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days, depending on the situations and circumstances. Drought impacts, Food insecurity, water availability & drinking water availability and health & sanitation. The basic water requirement for a person is 20 liters which includes both drinking water and water for daily requirements (WHO, 2011). However, the situation of water availability becomes acutely short and causes a state of emergency situations like drought. In all the states of India, the state of Thar, ‘Rajasthan’, suffers the most by drought. The region has only 1% of water resources of India (GOI 2004), which are depleting gradually, according to its usage. Rajasthan due to its arid and sandy region soil nature gets severely affected by drought, for say, ‘every 2 years’. Amid these tensed conditions women are the one who get affected directly.

Natural disasters affect both the men and women differently. It is important to talk about women as it has been proved by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD 2011), that during any type of natural disasters or calamity women are especially the most vulnerable. There is a need to eradicate the gender bias and improve women’s condition as leads to a quality of lifestyle. Also, by involving women in policy making helps in good governance and economical way of life.

It is the woman who gets directly affected here as they are the one who walk miles with pots on their heads, wait in the line and carry the water back. They have the unequal burden of harvesting the water and are often marginalized from using these resources. When the area is hit by drought the number of school dropouts increases of which a large ratio consists of girls. There is a huge difference between these dropout ratios as girls are associated with doing household work and the task of harvesting water in drought hit area is generally carried out by them.

Due to water scarcity the health and sanitation of women gets affects too. First, there is no clean drinking water and second, there is a subsequent loss in fertility as a result of poor health. The group which suffers most of the diseases includes Women and children. About 80% of the women and children in the Thar region suffer from iron deficiency and anemia (GRAVIS, 2010). The water scarcity subsequently affects the fertility of women and results in high death rates. Also, to notice that hygiene gets badly affected during menstruation.

When there is too less water- drought, the primary effect is on agricultural production which questions, ‘food security’. During the calamity the gender roles often changes, men migrate to the cities to earn. During such times women often stay back in villages and take up the task of working in the agricultural fields to support the children and elderly till their husbands return from cities.

There have been steps taken by the GRAVIS to overcome these gender differences and bring gender-sensitive changes. To bring women empowerment and hearing the voices of women there have been an initiative by the NGO to bring socio-economic changes. In these SHG the women are encouraged to build their small start ups which help them improve their social and economic status, for instance, the NGO has helped women to open small groceries, tailoring startups or working in wheat mills (GRAVIS, 2011) . Also the efforts to build Tanka helped women save miles of walk and brought a positive change in their lives. Women empowerment is essential in natural calamities as it will help develop better policies to deal with the disaster and also help build a sustainable environment and future.



Government of India (GOI). 2004. Drought–2002. New Delhi: Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture.

Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) publications; ‘Drought Health and Communities’; 2010; pg -1-44.

Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) publications; ‘Women combating drought’; 2011; pg 1-42.

India Together Publications; Article; Malik, Deepak; ‘Without rain a Bleak Outlook’; October 2002.

Population Reference Bureau (PRB) publications; Article; Yavinsky, Rachel Winnik; ‘Women more vulnerable than men to Climate Change’; December 2012.

Pradhan, Neeru Shrestha; Bisht, Dr. Suman; KIB, Su Yufang and Yahui, Zou; A Case Study On Adaptation And Resilience To Water Related Hazards: Analysing Gendered Responses To Climate Change In Yunnan; ICIMOD; 2011;  pg 1-25.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publications; Book; ‘Women at the Frontline of Climate Change: Gender Risks and Hopes’; ISBN: 978-82-7701-099-1; 2011; pg 1-68.

WHO Publications; Technical Notes; ‘How much water is needed?’; Water Sanitation Health; 2011; pg 1-4.


*Volunteer at GRAVIS


Remembering Tyagi Ji

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Tyagi Ji, the Founder of GRAVIS and one of the most distinguished social acivists of India, had passed away on July 27th, 2005. .On the 11th anniversary of his demise, a remembrance meet was organised at GRAVIS Head quarters in Jodhpur on 27th July, 2016. The meet was moderated by Mahitosh Bagoria of HEDCON. Mahitosh Ji shared, Tyagi Ji’s valuable instances of life and his 37 years of dedicated social up liftment service of marginalised and needy society. He was a socialist, self believer and a true follower of Gandhian philosophy. He was a bank of knowledge and he believed in imparting knowledge.

Chairperson of GRAVIS, Dr. Dhir, described him as a simple yet special person who was always away from materialistic comforts of life.  According to him, Tyagi ji believed in the philosophy of work as his mission, and in giving your best to achieve the goals, He also shared that it was his courage and will power that in spite of so many geographical and climatic problems, set up a structure in Thar Desert called GRAVIS, which is a leading NGO nationally currently.

Dr. Mohnot, the Vice-Chair of GRAVIS, described him as, ‘Sahej, Saral and Samvedanshil’, personality. According to him, Tyagi Ji, never talked about his accomplishments and he had the art of uniting people. He was an institution by himself; therefore he could set up a structure like GRAVIS. He thanked Tyagi Ji’s family for carrying forward his thoughts and legacy.


Mridula Ji, member of GRAVIS, remembered him as of a ‘charismatic personality’. She shared her experiences of working with Tyagi Ji and the impact he had on her life. She shared his contributions to water conservation strategies in Thar Desert and seedless farming.  Shri. Satyavrat Samvedi described him as a selfless man and a mass leader. Shri. Samvedi said that he was a true Gandhian and set examples for many to follow.


The meet observed the presence of many friends and colleagues of Tyagi Ji including Dr. J. P. Gupta, Shri Sharad Ji Bhavuk, Dr, Mahendra Paliwal, Sh. Glecha, Jyoti Bothra, Shri Bhura Ram Ji, Roshan Ji and others. His entire family was also present. The meet ended on the note of holding a two minute silence in the memory of Tyagi Ji, the foundation of of GRAVIS.


After 11 years of his leaving the world, GRAVIS continues to follow his vision of empowering poor and marginalzed. GRAVIS family pays its tributes to Tyagi Ji, the great leader who lived his life for poor and for the philosophy that he believed in.


New academic year begins in GRAVIS schools

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Education plays a pivotal role in life because it give people the skills and tools to enhance their future, communicate effectively with each other and provides information about our existence. Therefore, GRAVIS is also contributing its handful of efforts in promotion of education on ground in Thar Desert. GRAVIS, runs over 50 schools in the Thar Desert for educating children of marginalized sections of the society, for whom going to school is an ordeal.

Merely, providing education does not ensures that children are attaining education, it also depends on several other factors, like teachers, education facility structure, its feasibility, its fee structure and others. GRAVIS is covering three major issues which prove the lifeline for high school enrollment.  First, issue which GRAVIS caters to is of Sanitation and hygiene in schools.The organization has taken care of this important factor, to build up toilets for both the sexes. The organization runs several health and hygiene related programmes in schools on monthly basis, so as to instigate the students for healthy practices of good hygiene and sanitation.

Secondly, food and nutrition becomes an issue to be addressed in Thar Desert. GRAVIS offers mid- day meal type of food supplements to its students in its schools with a special focus on girl child. It provides iron and protein supplements like, Daliya, Gud (Jaggery), Halwa, Moong ki dal ki Khichdi.  In some of the schools of GRAVIS, mid- day meal school scheme is unable to cater to the needs sufficiently, therefore, GRAVIS is fulfilling the gaps wherever required.

Lastly, feasibility to education centers is the major problem in Thar Desert, especially for girl child. The school center varies from, 1 km to 5 km distance from home in both rural and urban Thar. In urban areas distance problem can be solved by providing conveyance and availing public transportation for reaching to schools. But, in rural area the conditions are different. In some cases, school does not come under the direct covering area by public transport even. In that case GRAVIS has founded a solution by providing bicycles especially to girl child, considering their major reasons of drop out in the district (according to the survey conducted by GRAVIS).

As the new academic year has started from July 2016, certain activities like educational school tours, sanitation and health programmes have started keeping monsoon in mind. Imparting knowledge about safe and hygienic life, good nutrition consumption and enhancing the aptitude of the children are all in action at GRAVIS school centers.

Thar prepares itself for the monsoon

GRAVIS in Sohanpura village

The arid climatic region of Thar Desert has been known for extremes of temperatures, scanty rainfall, peculiar type of vegetation, high wind velocity and intense solar radiation. According to climatologists, the projected climate change would deplete the state of its natural resources like surface and ground water availability, soil resources, crop yields, and also decline in forest and pasture land ecosystem thus exposing agriculture and livestock to the harshness of climate, and food insecurity. Proper mitigating measures have to be taken care to prepare the community in order to cop up the climatic shifts. GRAVIS, working since 1983, in Rajasthan, in the Thar Desert region, has been playing a major role in upheaval the rural structure so as make them more sustainable.

Every year, prior to rains in the region, the organization conducts several programmes on sustainable agriculture maintenance and water security in the concerned regions. Recently, in Sohanpura and Netasar villages of Pokhran Tehsil of Jaisalmer district training programmes were conducted on 28/06/2016 & 27/06/2016 respectively, which comprised of information dissemination regarding high yielding crop production which can sustain arid region. Benefits of mixed cropping were taught to be in practice to maintain the natural essence of soil and to avoid soil erosion. We distributed seeds which can grow in arid region and can prove to be fruitful for good crop yield in the region. Some of the innovative agricultural practices were taught to the farmers and villagers in the training programme. These training programmes help the villagers in gaining the new strategies of cultivation in arid region. Techniques like seeds preservation, natural production of crops, less usage of pesticides, usage of bio gas as khaad, were taught. In Sohanpura village, veterinary camp was also organised on 29/06/2016 wherein free of cost vaccination was provided to the livestock, by their treatment, their health was ensured so that they can be part of income generation to the concerned households.

Another, major work done by GRAVIS is on water security in the concerned districts, is the constructing and maintenance of Khadins, Nadis, community tankas, beris, and other water collection units in the concerned areas.

blog monsoon pics

GRAVIS at field

Monsoon also brings the fear of water borne diseases with it. Therefore, GRAVIS conducts pre and post health programmes in the community twice a month, to keep a tab on health risks in the community.  GRAVIS hospital organised these health programmed, annually in the district and provide expert advice, insights and experiences of health in the community.

Monsoon plays an integral role in human life, specially, in Thar, which has mostly rain- fed agriculture, as the area receives rainfall from South west monsoon which starts from June-August, causing high humidity in the month of August. Due to high wind velocity, the state receives irregular rains, which sometimes causes floods, e.g., in 2016, rains which created unprecedented havoc in the district, in Barmer district. With all the challenges, life presents in Thar, monsoon is an important contributor and GRAVIS works on ensuring that the communities get the best out of the rainy season.



Collective voice of older people to say No to Diabetics

Older people are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the Thar Desert of India. An action is required to deliver improvements to ageing policies in the state of Rajasthan – better access to healthcare services and improved quality of life. Health has been a major area of GRAVIS’ work and the focus has been on improving the health conditions of communities living in Thar. Health problems are also directly linked to poverty, poor hygiene practices, insufficient education and limited access to health services due to remoteness of villages, limited trained staff and high level of absenteeism among health practitioners. Primary health care in the region has not reached a large number of poor people, especially women, people belonging to the lower castes and communities living in remote areas.  The impact of all these factors can easily be traced in the dismal health indicators in the state of Rajasthan that are among the lowest in India. This year the World Health Day was observed by GRAVIS on 7th April in Kalron (Phalodi) of Jodhpur District. It was addressed by Medical and Health Officer and attended by many representatives from Government. Sarpanch from local government and various representatives from Village Development Committees (VDCs) have gathered at same platform and collectively raised their voice against non communicable diseases related to old age. Older people also received blood pressure and diabetics check-up during event.

Village Health Workers improve access to health services

2The poorest and most marginalized populations often have limited access to quality health care. This is certainly the case in rural Rajasthan where health indicators remain tremendously low. Within rural communities in the Thar, poor nutrition and sanitation lead to an overall lower health status. Chronic diseases like malnutrition are present among children and women lack access to gynecological and obstetric services. GRAVIS works extensively to improve the health status of communities in the region. On such intervention is the training of Village Health Workers (VHWs), who as a result of their work improve access to health services at the community level.

VHWs bridge the service gap by providing community health services including, health awareness training, immunizations, antenatal care, and performing deliveries, to villagers that would otherwise have limited or no access. VHWs are initially trained in first aid, disease recognition, pregnancy complications, maternal services, and hygiene. Later on, they continue to build capacity by learning new skills and information. VHWs are intended to function as a primary link between the community and the formal health care system.

In rural India, women are the most likely to need health care and the least likely to seek it out. A woman’s first interaction with a doctor may not be until she gives birth. VHWs are one way of linking women to formal health institutions. With VHWs providing care and support, women have the potential to be linked into a lifetime of formal healthcare.

VHWs also serve a very important role as point people for the dissemination of important health information to their communities. Through individual communication with community members or through attendance at gatherings such as SHG meetings, VHWs provide the community with information about immunizations, seasonal diseases, pregnancy, and medical camps. As long-time village residents, they are highly trusted and can communicate easily with their peers.

This trust can go a long way in terms of accessing quality health care. I recently met one VHW in Nayagon village, an elderly woman who is proud of her role as a conduit between her community members and formal health institutions. She told me a story of one woman who fell ill and went to the nearby clinic seeking help. When she didn’t receive the services she needed, she requested the help of this VHW who returned to the clinic with her. With the VHW’s assistance, the woman received the tests she needed to confirm a diagnosis of malaria. She’s now receiving proper care and is expected to have a swift recovery.

VHWs constitute an essential link between GRAVIS and the village in terms of health interventions. By supporting local health workers, GRAVIS is also inherently supporting the sustainability of healthcare services for village residents.

Mia Schmid

Mia Schmid is an intern at GRAVIS and is currently completing a Masters in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Previously she has worked for the Firelight Foundation in Santa Cruz, California where she contributed to the organization’s learning management systems. Her work at GRAVIS focuses on women’s empowerment through Self Help Groups and skills training.