Posted by Irv Buck (Highlands Ranch)

After a number of successful years of collaboration, we have been able to complete a first award-winning Watershed Project at Potkal Baste and vocational training for tribals at the Sakwar Mission.  In addition to these, we are on the threshold of finalizing nutrition and education projects for children at Potkal Baste.  It is truly amazing what difference these combined efforts have made for the villagers of the rural tribals who inhabit the dry plateau (Thane Tax District), State of Maharashtra, about 90 miles north of Bombay. 
The objective of this project is quite simple - initiated by the Rotary Club of Bombay Mid-Town (Host Partner) Mumbai, India, and Rotary Club of Parker, CO, USA (International Partner).  Rotary participation included Districts 4131 and 5450, and also the Rotary Club of Boulder Valley. This plan is to purchase and distribute 1,000 home toilets, one to each of 1,000 tribal families (poorest of the poor), in three consecutive Global Grants of approximately 334 units each. The first grant, Global Grant #1635575, cost USD $82,000 and yielded 337 toilet units for individual homes.  
The men had assumed a somewhat migrant lifestyle, taking on seasonal labor and often becoming indentured, while the women retained all responsibility for the home and family. Approximately 60% of the families can lay no claim to property.  Only one crop of rice could be grown a year (in autumn, after the monsoon season), barely enough for a family of five. First efforts involved providing potable water year-round by pumping from an underground aquifer. They now have water for household use, kitchen gardens, and preventing the wells from going dry. It was time to recognize the importance of sanitation issues to the ever- improving lifestyle of the villages.
The committee selected the two-pit waste control (WC) system in which one pit is used at a time. Family members can clean the filled up pit as it is opened after a long period of time, which by then becomes free of harmful pathogens and terrible odors, and at that time, becomes safe for disposing.  The financial management entailed formation of a village water committee that collects a monthly pittance (~USD 0.50), thereby providing a financial means for continuation of maintenance and training and also provides some “buy-in” from the villagers.  Our implementing partners, the National Institute for Rural Integrated Development (NIRID) and Jyotimoy have been working with the tribals for over 40 years, so access to the villages and support by the people was a given.
Regarding the areas of focus, this project encompasses all areas except Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution. As always, our Indian Rotarian partners met or exceeded all expectations and commitments.