• 14/02/1999

Gula Ralu, 90, is the eldest resident of Village Ambakhoda in district Jhabua. According to him, two Renerations of people reside in the villages: his generation, which:has t seen the jungle, and the next one, which migrates in tpe absence of the jungle. But, in recent times, he admits that he is noticing a 'big change' in the village. "People are no longer migrating in search of work. I was told that a villager even managed to spend Rs 50,000 on his son's wedding," he says.

Till 1994, the village used to see a migration of 500-odd people every year for a period of four to six months. Women were left behind to look after the livestock. For fodder, they had to travel up to Ratlam, 50 km away. When watershed development started under the Rajiv Gandhi Mission (RGM) in Ambakhoda in December 1997. The village's 764 livestock population was starving for lack of fodder. Its 92.40-hectare (he) agricultural land was yielding just a few kg of wheat and corn. During monsoon, the soil run-off rate was so high that it ruined agricultural land.

But, in just one year, RGM has done what had eluded villagers for years. With the construction of Hathipahwa watershed, the availability of grass has gone up. There is, in fact surplus grass, which means more income. Wells in the village have more water. People have already started installing diesel waterpumps. Ambakhoda is witnessing a social change as well. Villagers have prohibited the consumption of liquor, stopped stray grazing and banned felling of trees.