As Tarun Bharat Sangh situated in semi arid region of Rajasthan, the water and forest conservation becomes the first step of development. From this activity all other progressive activities flow. It is a cyclic and mutually reinforcing chain. These activities also highlight that water-protecting support systems, like afforestation and hill slope protection are interlinked. All these efforts are motivated by the desire to maintain an ecological balance between nature and man.
TBS starts its work with mobilising communities around the issue of water, and supporting them in reviving and revitalising the traditional systems of water management through construction of ‘Johads’ for rainwater harvesting.
The community contributes their labour; TBS arrange some funding and provide support to the villagers in studying the topography and soil type, assessing the water needs of the village, preparing a labour-sharing plan based on the benefits accruing to individual households and, finally, construction and management of the johads/ pokhars/ pagaras/ tankas etc.
Over 10,000 Rain-Water Harvesting (RWH) structures have been restored in this way. The effects are visible in terms of recharging of wells and aquifers, renewed flow of rivulets which had been dry for many years, increased bio-mass productivity, and significant increase in agriculture production, reversal of out-migration and reduction in women’s drudgery. Due to high fodder availability, villagers have also benefited from selling milk products through an informal cooperative arrangement.
TBS has built on existing cultural traditions of the area to revive the feeling of one-nest with nature which existed in village communities, and to create an understanding and ethos of integrated ecosystem development. The organisation plays a facilitating role in helping communities to articulate their priorities for natural resource development, and to find solutions. The decision-making process is decentralised.
The work on water harvesting led, in an organic manner, to communities looking for ways to revive the forests and evolve systems of meeting their fuel and fodder needs through natural resource conservation and management. Discussions leading to community actions like regulating the use of pasture land for fuel and grazing, reserving land for grazing, for protecting certain forests, for building check-dams across forest streams and protecting wildlife.
In spite of caste and gender hierarchies, TBS has been able to inculcate a common commitment to the community ecology and economy.