Community Based Development Activities
WATCH's agriculture technician and health staff and the link people support the villages by providing training and initial support for agricultural projects. The project health staff and link people introduce new or improved ways of preparing and cooking vegetables, how to make supplementary food for their babies, etc., with the women. When the women decide to try one of the new activities but need help, they request the help, which usually has to come from WATCH. The agriculture technician helps any of the groups in a site requesting help. Most groups chose to do income generation activities. The groups have been raising angora rabbits and pigs, cross-breeding chickens, establishing communal vegetable gardens, growing mushrooms and peanuts, initiating compost manure making activities, improving soil quality by using lime, planting of fruit saplings, engaging in seasonal trade of fruits and vegetables and exchanging seeds and technology with women's groups from other areas. All of these activities have directly added to women's and family health and incomes.
WATCH's Credit and Savings Programs are some of its most successful activities. When literacy groups decide to study key words like 'credit' or 'savings' they are given several activities to help them understand these topics. After these activities, many of the groups have decided to make their own savings program. They make their own rules as to how much and how often members should donate, etc., and manage these affairs accordingly. All together, more than 150 women's groups have saved a total of about RS. 1.5 million. WATCH's credit program has helped a number of groups escape their debt traps, and others carry out income generating activities by supplying a small seed loan for a group. The group themselves makes rules about borrowing, interest rates, etc., and loans out money to members and non-members. Those receiving loans use them for necessities or for income generating activities. These people then repay the loan, with the group keeping the interest for itself. Once their account is large enough, the group can repay the loan to WATCH and continue lending to their group's members and others outside of the group. WATCH has to write off various loans provided for emergencies like snakebite, operations, etc.
WATCH's Community Forestry Program has been successfully facilitating the organization of women's and community groups to regain control over the protection, management and utilization of forests from the District Forest Office (DFO). A key component to the success of this program has been the confidence building activities (camps, trainings, literacy classes, etc.) among the rural women. These lead them to become more involved and to assert their decision-making rights in the community forestry development process. WATCH has organized 50 Community Forest User Groups and is working on forming more groups. WATCH has also organized 11 leasehold forestry groups. Leasehold forestry is done for the poorest people who do not own or have access to any land. The government leases land to them for livestock activities and other agricultural income-generating activities. WATCH provides agricultural and forestry information to these groups and emphasizes putting greenery into the areas, training the farmers on how to do so.
WATCH's involvement in forestry also includes various educational activities and research, which are important for developing and sharing innovations in the field. Together with the support of various other organizations, WATCH has held training workshops and seminars, conducted case studies, and produced various educational materials. WATCH has been involved in dialogue and discussion regarding formulation of the act and legislation of community forestry. It had done lobbying with the parliament members for the introduction of changes against those provisions, which were found to be user-unfriendly. WATCH has been doing similar action for any proposed revisions. WATCH feels it is its duty to safeguard users' rights of forest management.