Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR) – Experience Report 2013

July – August 2013

by Dimitri Lenzin & Pascal Vuichard

This field report gives you a broad overview over the life in India and the work at WOTR. We are two Master students who have accomplished a six week internship with WOTR in Ahmednagar.

Work at WOTR:

Fr. Bacher founded watershed Organization Trust (WOTR), in the year 1993. Fr. Bacher, who is swiss by birth and indian by heart, developed the inclusive ecosystem-based watershed development. Which aims at supporting the farmers so that they do not have water only in the rainy season but as well in the months afterwards. It is inclusive, as it empowers women, the poor and the landless. These watersheds increase the level of groundwater and therefore the farmers can harvest up to three times a year instead of only once in the rainy season. Through this program several hundred villages are not anymore forced to migrate during the summer time and can afford a modest life from their harvests. From these projects already over a million lives benefited. Recently WOTR changed their objective from building the watersheds to help farmers to manage climate change adaption and doing capacity building. Today partner NGOs often do the project implementation. For capacity building WOTR recently further extended their training center in Darewadi, which now is bigger and electricity is almost 100% provided by wind and solar energy. In this training center already over 300’000 people from over 38 countries were trained.

In the first days we had time to learn about the NGO, their objectives and how they work. In the beginning we had a meeting with Kishor, who was our main responsible. He gave us two tasks, which were writing a first draft of a Strategy plan and a Sustainability Report. After about two weeks Ganesh offered us to choose two topics, about which we could write field reports. A further task was to assess the impact of the project financed by Gateway to India Switzerland in the village Kaluchi Thakarwadi. With only about CHF 2500.- significant impact on the lives of these villagers has been achieved. For example an electric water pump was installed and therefore 10 families do not have to migrate anymore but can pump the whole year water into their fields. Thus, we had several tasks, which allowed us to learn about water management as well about how the NGO functions. These were very interesting insights we could gain. However, in the beginning it took about two weeks until we actually could start our work. We think this was mainly due to finding and defining our tasks as well as it seems to be important to get to know the people first before you actually discuss in 2 detail about the tasks. The people at WOTR almost all are fluent in English and open to explain how the NGO functions. However, as they are often busy in the office it it takes some time to get to know them. Therefore, we noted that meeting them in Darewadi and discussing about the NGO helps improving the relationships more quickly. The workload was never very high so that we had enough time to enjoy the daily two teas, the good food at lunch and the table tennis after lunch. On the weekends we made several trips. We recommend to visit Pune, as well the caves in Ellora and Ajanta. For the caves we left on Friday evening to Aurangabad, from where we could go visit on Saturday and Sunday the caves. Overall it was a valuable experience, where learnt much about the culture as well about the NGO.

How to get there:

WOTR’s operational head office is situated in Ahmednagar, approximately 250 km to the east of Mumbai. Ahmednagar is a city with 350’000 inhabitants. It is mainly an industry city, strong in the car production. If you fly into Mumbai you will likely get there at night. The NGO suggests you to spend a night in Mumbai and take the bus the next morning. Mumbai is a very big city and has several bus stands. The best way to get to Ahmednagar is to take a Shivneri Bus form Dadar Bus Stand, which is situated a bit outside of the city centre. Do not believe any story the taxi drivers are telling you about buses leaving from other terminals J The Shivneri Bus is operated by the MSRTC, the state owned bus company. It is very easy to spot the bus as it is the only one which is light blue. We suggest you to take this bus as it is the safest and most comfortable way to travel to Ahmednagar. The Shivneri takes you to Pune, a three million city half way to Ahmednagar. The bus drops you at Shivaji Nagar Bus Stand, there you have to change to another Shivneri Bus which will take you to Ahmednagar but also departs from the same bus stand. Once you reached Ahmednagar you can take a Rickshaw from the bus stand to the WOTR office. Not many people know WOTR, well known places nearby are the social centre. Or just ask to drop you at “Behind Market Yard”. When you are at the social centre, the WOTR office is just 50 Meters down the road.

Life in Ahmednagar:

The room is provided by WOTR but it is not free of charge. You have to pay 300 Rupees per night. The room is actually very nice. You have an attached bathroom with English toilet and shower which has on about four of seven days hot water. The room is situated just opposite of the WOTR office, so no long travelling to work.

The food is not provided by WOTR, you have the choice of eating at different restaurants or at a so called “mess” where you eat at a family’s house. We strongly recommend you to eat at the mess. It is delicious food and you get in touch with many people. The food at the mess is pure vegetarian, so of course no meat but also no eggs and of course no alcohol. If you want to drink alcohol or eat meat (chicken) you can go to Hotel Rajtan which is only about 100 Meters down the road. Before coming to India we were not at all vegetarians but we have to say that we didn’t miss the meat a bit. There are so many different vegetarian dishes that you won’t miss the meat. Also alcohol is seen as a bad thing and is only allowed in so called “Permit Rooms” where only men are allowed to enter. Ahmednagar is a nice city to explore the Indian life for the first time. You can go to the Bazar in the city centre with its narrow roads and its colorful shops. If you need anything just go there, they have shops for everything, just be prepared to haggle for the price.

The people in Ahmednagar are very open and friendly. As not many foreigners visit Ahmednagar, the people are very interested to get to know you. By just being open, eating at the mess, playing cricket with the kids in the small park next to the office and greeting people on the street, already after two weeks we already knew almost the whole neighbourhood. This was a very nice experience, as it allowed us to get to know more about the culture even though not many people in Ahmednagar are fluent in English. A highlight of our life in Ahmednagar was the Hindu wedding we were invited by the family of the mess. It was their sons marriage and we were invited as special guests. This was an amazing experience.

July and August are in the rainy season and therefore the climate is enjoyable with about 25 degrees. On some days it is raining, but almost never heavily. So, long pants and a shirt are often sufficient. During summer, which is here from February to June, there is no rain and a heat of about 40 degrees.