Gharat (Watermill) Upgradation

1. Upgradation of Traditional Watermills For Hydropower Based Enterprise In Ganeshpur, Uttarkashi (2011-2012)

Rural populations of Uttarakhand have been using hydro-power energy from its many perennial streams and rivulets by building indigenous water mills for grinding flour etc for centuries. However, for the last few decades many of these were abandoned for various reasons. The rapid decrease in water flow in streams, high drudgery and time taking process, as well as easier access to diesel driven grinding machines in villages and poor returns from farm produce are responsible for abandoning what was an ecologically and socio-economically sound system.

Aims: The project proposed to upgrade a watermill in Ganeshpur village which still has abundant stream flow, and create a model for other viable water-mills in the region by adding improved technology for multiple functions. The upgraded watermills are designed not only to grind flour but also to provide hydro-based electricity for community use. The aim was to create a unique model of community effort and shared benefits while retaining the system of private ownership of the gharat.

As the majority of Uttarakhand’s village population still exist as agricultural and subsistence economies with the women providing most of the shared agro-processing services such as rice-hulling, oil and juice extraction, etc., it was a big step towards building and strengthening community institutions and enterprises.

One gharat each in Ganeshpur and Bon villages in Uttarkashi were chosen for upgradation with financial support from Himmotthan Society and technical support from HESCO.

Gharat as a community enterprise: The concept behind the upgradation was that along with the financial benefits to the gharat owner, the women’s SHGs could be strengthened by linking them into the processing and other functions of the gharat. This was where the work done by Himmotthan Society and The Himalaya Trust differed from the rest. While a lot of attention has been given to the gharat upgradation by other NGOs, no thought was given to making it a community enterprise so that it may have a secure and sustainable broad base.

The project design included a baseline survey,trainings to community participants, establishing of efficient marketing linkages with the aim of developing a community run agro- processing centre, reducing the drudgery of women through introducing different agro-processing mechanisms,providing access to the facility to the poor and powerless in distant villages, employment to at least two persons per watermill, and creation of a cadre of trained local youth for operating and managing the upgraded gharat.

Outcomes:The upgradation of the gharat and development of gharat-based micro-enterprise at Ganeshpur village has been a quiet success story, leading to developing further such initiatives in viable areas in Uttarkashi district.

More than 20 farmers have been trained in different aspects of operational and mechanical issues for maintaining the gharat. A primary agro- processing centre has been established in the village. Over 500 persons have benefited directly or indirectly from the agro-processing units, and family incomes have increased from 10,000 to 15000 per individual per year.

With the upgradation the income of the gharat owner increased four times while the women of the Vinayak SHG processed and sold the products from the local ashram to the Gangotri Temple Committee. Starting with a revolving fund of only Rs. 30,000, the group did a business of Rs. 73,000 in the first month alone.

During the Assiganga natural disaster in 2012 and the Kedarnath disaster in 2013, the residents of Ganeshpur used the electricity produced at the gharat to charge their cell phones. 15 families were supplied with electricity for more than one and a half month-until the authorities set up the power grid.

The Vinayak Water-based SHG was started with 5 members but now the 20-member strong group offers training and employment to people.   This maybe the only rural SHG in Uttarakhand having its own office, store and land received from the gram Panchayat. Today Vinayak does a monthly business of Rs. 150000 and it is steady increasing.

 2. Udgradation of Gharat clusters in Bon Village, Uttarkashi

Project support: LEAP Foundation; GIZ(Indo-German Energy Program – Renewable Energy component (IGEN – RE), THIRD

Background: With the encouraging results of the Ganeshpur gharat a successful market was established for the gharat produce. The gharat owners were encouraged to start a community business, incorporating the gharat into a village-level enterprise. In 2012, Chandrashekhar Chamoli, a progressive gharat owner from Gainwala village (Dunda block) agreed to join the project.  An SHG was established in Bon village to facilitate the processing and marketing of the gharat produce.

It was the disaster of 2013,that drew the attention of local people to the advantages of gharats. When the diesel-run mills and power supply failed, the gharats supplied basic power.

Project Process:  LEAP Foundation helped initiate the project of upgrading five gharats. GIZ began to support the scheme from April 2014 to September 2014.The Himalaya Trust was given the consultancy for upgradation and training in the gharats.

GIZ pressurized the gharat owners and the SHG to take loan from banks to run a community enterprise. But to completely establish the gharat enterprises, not just to set up the machines but also to link the bank, SHGs and market, requires at least 3 years of work. In September 2014 GIZ decided to drop the project without setting a business linkage for the group. The LEAP Foundation was approached once again and a revolving fund of Rs. 46, 364 was given to purchase raw materials. The group then started manufacturing “Pahari Pashu Aahar” (animal feed) which was snapped up in the local market.

Outcome: Since October 2014 till May 2015, The Himalaya Trust and the LEAP Foundation have helped the cluster get a bigger market. In early 2015, Mrs. Darshana Joshi, Founder & Director of THIRD (The Himalayan Institute of Research and Development) linked Swaraj SHG to her associates at Green Swaraj, a food marketing company. With this Swaraj SHG entered into a bigger market. Today the programme is a highly successful enterprise and the gharats and Swaraj are continuously increasing their business.

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