Kharland Development Project, Government of Netherlands, 1984

The Centre was involved in the Kharland Development Project in eleven villages of Mhasala Taluka in the Raigad district of Maharsthtra, from August 1987 December 1993. This pilot action research project was an innovative experiment to gain and assimilate experiences that could be applied in improving the planning and implementation of future programmes in other kharland areas in Maharashtra. The major variables under the project were :

• Improvement of agricultural production through training, extension work and conducting of field trials.

• Agronomic, horticulture and livestock activities.

• Socio-economic activities.

• Health, education and sanitation programmes.

For implementing the goals of the pilot project, a general socio-economic survey was planned and a special womens survey was undertaken by the Centre to get a clearer picture of womens multiple roles in the household and village economy.

An action plan was drafted keeping in mind the concerns expressed by the women in the survey which included improvement in health and educational facilities in the village. They emphasized the role of Mahila Mandals for womens development and upliftment. The gamut of the planned activities expanded in response to pressures from below. This helped to plan more appropriate interventions and monitor existing facilities in the villages in connection with health, education and empowerment of women.

The emphasis was on strengthening of Mahila Mandals for achievement of better socio-economic status for women of these villages through organizing Mahila Mandals for achievement of better socio-economic status for women of these villages through organizing Mahila Mandal shibirs, conducting awareness training programmes and helping them to register their Mandals to start economic activities for self-reliance. Leadership and management training was imparted for developing of organizational, accounting and marketing, skills. Registration of the Mahila Mandal was a significant achievement as the process itself was empowering for the women and it has enhanced their access to credit, technical assistance and also their collective assets. It has led to increased confidence in their ability to manage their won activities. It also helped them to move into decision-making positions in village, taluka and zilla-level bodies.

The inclusion of women in agricultural activities was crucial as they were producers in their own right in the subsistence economy of these villages. The priorities were on information supply, follow-up support, identification of their training needs, arrangement of training programmes, demonstration/dissemination of new methods and technologies of crop cultivation and water management, exposure and field visit, and making women visible in rural economy by mooting the idea of join land title in the distribution of kharland.