Laxman Singh

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 1998
Gram Vikash Navyuvak Mandal , Laporiya

Citation

This profile was prepared when Laxman Singh was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Laxman Singh is bringing natural resource management back into the hands of Indian rural communities that are most affected by the drought and water shortages brought about by ineffective centralized planning. He has crafted and refined strategies in the field of rural development since 1980, and he knows that popular ownership is critical for any sustained movement to emerge. "Like a survival skill, water conservation techniques have traveled down generations in Rajasthan. Therefore, what we need today are not experts from outside, but awakening the expertise within," he says. Laxman is demonstrating that communities are capable of determining and enacting what they need to meet their critical need for water, and that a critical component for success is that they perceive their capacity to change their situation. "Organizing the people and motivating them towards a common goal was tough, as the upper castes in the village had their own vested interests. But, persistent efforts and the fact that 'seeing is believing' really motivated the entire community to make the change," he says. He concentrates on training youth, now in over 80 villages of Rajasthan, to imbibe local wisdom and implement indigenous blueprints of democratic water management.
Livestock are an important aspect of the rural economy, and Laxman has incorporated into his water management scheme the need to regenerate denuded pasturelands to sustain the cattle. He has supplemented water conservation systems with strict measures to protect the meager land cover and induce the communities to regreen the land. The result has been a scientific model of natural resource management that has revived dwindling crop yields and arrested migration of people and cattle. After two years' work, the irrigated 300 hectares of land in Laxman's home village of Laporiya reaped agricultural profits worth Rupees 3,500,000 (approximately US$ 83,000).
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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