WASH to the Foothills of the Himalayas

By Colin Alford
 
For most villagers in a remote part of Himachal Pradesh, India, life was a struggle. There was no water within the villages and no toilets. With little education, no health education and poor land management skills, there seemed little hope for the people to improve their lives – until a group of development agencies banded together to help.
 
Rotarians from District 9940, New Zealand have been supporting the work of the Rural Centre for Human Interests (RUCHI) in rural villages in the foothills of the Himalayas for more than 10 years. (As at July 2016)
 
RUCHI or the Rural Centre for Human Interests is a non-political, non-profit making organization committed to the development of rural India. www.ruchin.org. RUCHI has been working in the area for over 36 years.
 
Funding for the first step of their joint effort in the region was secured in 2005 by a bunch of New Zealanders working in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Kasauli. They obtained a Rotary Foundation grant to build a dam on a stream near the village of Bandh, meaning villagers had access to clean water year round for the very first time.
 
This project subsequently expanded to include the concept of a ‘Rainwater Harvesting Village’, with a chosen village set to act as a model for future initiatives. Villagers were provided with gutters, water tanks, washrooms, household toilets and effluent pits. Other programs introduced included immunisation, health education mainly for women and children, kitchen gardens, composting, training in farm management, environmental education and microbanking.  Three “Rainwater Harvesting villages” projects have been completed with funding by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) through Rotary New Zealand World Community Service (RNZWCS Limited) and by Rotarians mainly from District 9940.
 
The Baddi Intergrated Project is the latest RUCHI initiative.
 
The Baddi Intergrated Project is set to take this model for development to deliver water, sanitation, health and community mobilisation to improve the lives of 10,000 people within 30 villages  and adjacent informal communities. Implementation has been planned over a period of three years, which began in March 2015.
 
These are the results achieved so far:-Rainwater collection and irrigation infrastructure is increasing yields for those with land, and providing clean drinking water for both the slum dwellers and nearby rural communities. Agricultural training including land management techniques and crop diversification are additionally increasing food production volume.
 
Health outreach workers are addressing serious issues of TB, diabetes and other preventable and treatable disease. In conjunction, social issues such as domestic violence are being resolved through promotion of gender equality and the establishment of women’s self-help groups. ommunities are being facilitated to self-organise and participate in decision-making within local governance structures and increase their access to government social protection. Economic strengthening is being targeted through savings and loans clubs, and encouraging savings habits amongst communities.
Funding for the program has again been provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through Rotary New Zealand World Community Service (RNZWCS Limited) , by Lionex GmBH, a German biotech company active in the fields of biomedicine and human health, who provided a grant in kind. and directly from Rotarians, particularly those in District 9940.
 
An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to these organisations and people, with special thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Eastern Hutt and Hutt City, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Contact Colin Alford, alford.c@xtra.co.nz
 
RNZWCS is pleased to support this program as it aligns with the development priorities of Rotary New Zealand, and its strategy to maximise impact and sustainability of outcomes through long-term partnerships.  Rotary New Zealand has successfully worked with RUCHI for the past ten years to support the expansion and scale up of its interventions, and this progam represents substantial value for money by implementing proven methodology to benefit impoverished communities.