Rains lift older people of the Thar desert
Rains are rare in Thar Desert of India. Not often does one see lush green landscape, freshly filled ponds and rivulets. In the absence or shortage of rains, Thar is usually not a pretty sight. Barren and brown, lifeless and arid.
Living with adversity
Older people of Thar learn to live and deal with adversity from the moment they are born. Droughts do not depress them. Lack of water and food does not discourage them from living a cheerful life. They are used to deprivation, dearth and hunger.
It is only obvious that a sudden change of weather, a kind blessing of the Rain God would please everyone in Thar, especially older people as they have seen many brown and dark years.
The rains came
"It seems the rain is making up for many, many drought years," exclaims Bishna Ram a 75 year old farmer from Ghator village. He added, "this is as good a rain as I have ever seen in my entire life."
2010 was a year of great rains in Thar. Rains were widespread, continuous over a period of time and brought with them enough water and moisture to fill reservoirs, feed crops and enlighten the spirits of the older men and women of Thar.
The GRAVIS and HelpAge implemented project POC (Promoting Older people-led Community action) benefited tremendously thanks to this excellent rainy spell.
Newly built structures to store rainwater were put to good use. Household tanks and village ponds are all full of water, creating oasis-like scenes in the desert. Dykes on farming lands captured all the moisture and the crops are full of life and colour. After many, many years most farming households of Thar harvested a bumper millet crop.
"It was a dream crop for our family this year. Good rain and the new dyke on our farm were very helpful," happily reports Bhanwari Bai, a 60 year old woman.
The relief of water
More than anything, good rains mean more drinking water. Most women, young and old, who would have walked miles and miles in the years of drought and water scarcity, are now relieved from the excruciating drudgery of fetching water this year. There can not be a bigger relief for women of Thar than to have abundant drinking water available within the household.
It is extraordinary to experience what difference good rainfall can make to the success of a project. In the context of POC in Thar, it certainly has.
Project POC will continue further in its efforts to store rains and support older people. More positive results are expected in coming years, and hopefully there will be more rains, and more joy.
Read more about HelpAge's work in India