Hiware Bazaar

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 Location  Ecosystem Type    Conservation Type    Area(hectare)  Legal status 
 Ahmednagar, Maharashtra  Forest  Ecosystem Conservation  976.94  Reserved Forest, Privately Owned

Case Study (2009)


In the fast-developing urban growth of India, there are a few small villages that can teach us a lot about progress that is ecologically balanced! Hiware Bazar would certainly lead the list of these villages. About 17 km away from the city of Ahmednagar in the state of Maharashtra, this community of 1250 people has taken the reins of its future firmly in its own hands! A village that was considered to be a ‘punishment zone’ by all government officials who were posted there due to its high crime rate has in the last 17 years turned around completely. Hit by repeated droughts, migration of its inhabitants to larger cities and a severe addiction to liquor, this village hit rock bottom in the late 1980s.

The village hosts a typical grassland ecosystem with thorny acacia species and neem trees. The village is surrounded by small hills, on which many continuous contour trench (CCT) and nala bundings were made. Among the big mammals found here are the blackbuck and the black-naped hare.

The village conserves about 976.84 ha of forest, which is legally a reserved forest, under the jurisdiction of the forest department. In addition, the village has privately owned land and village common land.

The main communities residing here are the Hindu marathas and scheduled castes like mahar, mang, ramoshi, cobbler and carpenter. Milk production, poultry and farming are three main sources of income. The total livestock of the village is approximately 2000. Many people from this village are in the armed forces or teachers. The village is dependent on the surrounding forest for its fuelwood and fodder requirements.

Historically, this village was an important and prosperous trading center because of its location. Hiware Bazaar marked the end of Shivaji’s territory and the beginning of the Nizam’s area. The prosperity was apparent in the plentitude of food and water for the people and animals of the village. Hiware Bazaar’s downfall began in the early 1970s. A drought-prone area, the farmers had no option but to be dependent on rains for a single crop every year. The decline in the availability of water for drinking and agriculture led to increased unemployment of the farmers. This was immediately reflected in the increased rate of alcoholism, crime and migration to the cities. The social structure was so badly affected that the eligible youth would not get brides from outside the village. This was for two reasons: first, that the woman would have a hard life due to paucity of water and, second, it was feared that alcoholism and crime rampant in the village would affect the future of the family.

This situation continued till 1991. The transformation came about when Popatrao Pawar was elected as the village Sarpanch. Holder of a Master’s Degree in Commerce and a former competitive sportsperson, he began studying and implementing various government schemes for village selfdevelopment. Under his guidance the villagers decided to proactively reorganize themselves. The Yeshwant Krishi Gram Panlot Sanstha was formed and began chalking out a plan that would increase the water table in the village. The forest around the village was divided into four watershed zones. The villagers decided to construct various types of bunds and trenches, along with planting trees and constructing storage and percolation tanks. A number of check-dams were built in order to prevent loss of water by run-off. 

Various government schemes and voluntary agencies supported this integrated approach under their own watershed development programmes. In 1993-4, an afforestation programme was started with the help of forest department on 400 ha of land, which involved contouring of the hills to reduce loss of topsoil and better water retention. Afforestation was also taken up on private lands. Nearly 10.5 lakh trees have been planted in the past decades. The villagers set up following rules and regulations for themselves and for the management of the area:

• Certain areas were demarcated as no-grazing areas and grazing was permitted only in certain patches.

• Tree felling was completely stopped.

• It was realized that borewells lead to rapid depletion of groundwater and unequal distribution of water. This led to a decision prohibiting digging bore wells for the purpose of irrigation.

• Water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and banana were also prohibited, unless irrigated by drip or sprinkler system.

• Selling of land to outside landlords or to industrialists was banned.

 The gram sabha also decided to ban hunting in the forest.

The village adopted the Adarsh Gaon Yojana (AGY) (Ideal Village Scheme). 

Under the AGY the village under the leadership of Popatrao Pawar focused on restoring the natural environment around the village, mainly by addressing the problem of soil and water conservation. Due to heavy deforestation, the meagre rainfall received by the area was all lost in surface run-off. The first steps were to help this water percolate into the earth, so that wells could be recharged and vegetation could grow again.

Most of this was made possible because of the discipline that the villages agreed to impose upon themselves and adhere to. In addition to the rules mentioned above, the village decided to follow five thumb rules to ensure overall development:

1. No intake of liquor and other addictive substances (nasha bandi)

2. No free grazing in forest lands (charai bandi)

3. No tree felling (kulhad bandi)

4. No large families, i.e., the need for family planning (nas bandi)

5. Providing voluntary labour for community welfare (shramadaan). (Nearly a third of the work that has gone into rebuilding the village has been done through voluntary labour offered by the villagers!)

Since free grazing is not allowed and forests and grasslands are protected, people meet their fodder requirements mostly from their agricultural fields. Since 1994, villagers have been stallfeeding their cattle. Dairy is now a big business in the village, which is supported by fodder from the grasslands extracted in a regulated manner prescribed by the villagers. After all the water harvesting efforts, water is now in plenty; however even now it is used judiciously and equitably. Water-intensive crops are not allowed and borewells are not dug in the village. 

Most major decisions are taken in the gram sabha (village council), which is convened on the 15 August (Indian Independence day) and 26 January (Indian Republic Day) every year. The gram sabha meetings may be called at any time if there are any issues to be discussed or resolved. All women and men aged 18 years and above are members of the gram sabha. 66 per cent of the total electoral population forms the quorum. As a rule, at least one family member from each family volunteers two days in a month for common village activities. The village nominates one full-time volunteer who has passed at least his 10th standard and is aged between 25 to 35 years. As part of the AGY, villagers also select a village committee to work for village development, which has to be approved by the district commissioner. The committee also has to be approved by the gram sabha.

The committee is constituted of at least 7 members, of whom at least one has to be a woman and one from a scheduled caste or tribe.

As the water table got recharged, water reappeared in open wells and seasonal ponds. The constant assured water has helped farmers to change their cropping patterns to grow crops that are more nutritious and lucrative. Not only do the villagers now grow enough to last them the entire year but are also able to generate substantial income by selling farm produce, particularly vegetables. They have also managed to increase their profit margins by establishing direct producer-consumer links and doing away with the middlemen. Now the produce from Hiware Bazar sells at good price in the local market, as the village assures quality to the consumers. Additionally, the farming is largely organic, since the villagers find it cheaper and more productive to use cowdung (which is now available in plenty because of stall-feeding) and locally produced vermicompost.

The increased fodder available has improved the yield of milk from livestock. Milk production has reached 2200 litres per day, as compared to a mere 150 litres per day in the mid-90s.Fodder in the forest now is enough to meet all the village needs and those of the surrounding villages. Once the cutting season is declared, anyone can take one headload per day till fodder remains available on payment of Rs 100 for the entire season. Payment is made to the gram sabha.

Given the enthusiasm of the villagers, their efforts at forest conservation, watershed development and the ban on hunting, the forest department has initiated its Joint Forest Management scheme and the forests of the village have been handed over to the village for management. This has also helped them bring in some resources for water harvesting structures and tree plantation. 

The development indicators of the village are amazing. The number of wells have increased from 97 in 1999 to 217 in 2006. 600 ha of land has been brought under irrigation as against 120 ha in 1999. The number of families living below the poverty line has reduced from 198 in 1999 to 53 in 2006.

The village has paid serious attention to formal and informal education of the youth. In addition to achieving 99 per cent literacy rate (as against 30 per cent in 1999), they also organize debates, education camps, essay writing competitions, etc. for the village youth.

There has been a considerable decline in alcoholism and the crime rate. Out-migration has declined sharply due to the cultivation of more than one crop per year. The spirit of cooperation and success of the programme has increased the self-confidence of the villagers. Bio-gas plants have been established for the purpose of meeting fuelwood requirements. Villagers claim that the number of wild animals has increased since the ban on hunting.

As a recognition of their efforts, Hiware Bazaar received the Gram Abhyan Puraskar 1995-6, the Adarsh Gaon Award in 1997, the National Productivity Award in 1998-9 and the Maharastra Vanashree Puraskar in early 2000.

An effort to involve the neighboring villages of Akolner, Bhorvadi, Chaas,Kamargaon, Bhoirepathar, Neemgaonwagha, Jakhangaon, Neemgaondhana and Dahitne in the conservation and watershed initiative has now been initiated by Popatrao Pawar. This includes lectures and discussions with the villagers.

In a report on Hiware Bazar, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) website in September 2006 claimed that the protection measures have led to significant increase in the population of wild animals in the village. 

Having achieved what hundreds of villages in India are striving for and urban areas should be striving for, villagers in Hiware Bazar speak of their achievements with pride, and rightly so! The village has very effectively fought the pressure from land-grabbers, which is a big pressure as the village is very close to the urban centres of Ahmednagar, Mumbai and Pune. One of the rules specifies that outsiders cannot buy land in Hiware Bazar, and those villagers returning from big cities (and there are several) have to stay in the village for a minimum of one year to prove their commitment to village life before they can be re-accepted!

Finally, one realizes, the secret of the success of this village lies in the respect and space given to each resident’s opinion. All decisions are taken through a process of consultation, ensuring inputs from the collective wisdom of the community. Self- discipline is sustaining life in Hiware Bazar—the lives of the environment as well as humanity!

  The information here has been complied from an article by Girish Kulkarni, ‘Watershed development transforms village in Ahmednagar district’; a questionnaire filled with the help of villagers by Shanta Bhushan, Kalpavriksh, Pune, in 2000; a questionnaire answered by Mohan Chattar Yashwant Krishi Gram aur Panlot Vikas Sanstha, (YKGPVS) on 20 April 2001; notes by Manisha Gutman, Kalpavriksh, based on a field visit in September 2006.

Mohan Chattar,
Yashwant Krishi Gram and Panlot Vikas Sanstha, (YKGPVS)
Hiware Bazar,
Block No. 8,
Bhaji Market Building,
Market Yard,
Tel: 0241-355782

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

Recent Updates

The greening of Hiware Bazaar in Maharashtra

The story of a Maharashtra village that transformed itself and the lives of its people.

Hiware Bazar: A water-led transformation of a village

A summary of the watershed developments that are helping Hiware Bazaar.

An Oasis in Drought hit Maharashtra, Village Sets Example

An article on how the village works and how the villagers have become so prosperous without damaging the surrounding environment.

Local Governance and Environment Investments in Hiware Bazar, India

This paper on Hiware Bazar shows how the village achieved success through investing in local ecology for economic good. The village followed an integrated model of development with water conservation as its core.

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