News Release

Water Project Fosters Self-Reliance in New Totladoh


On this hot October day, the women of New Totladoh stand knee-deep in water, some dipping in their pots, others washing clothes. The recently expanded reservoir has been filled by a late July rain and a new deep borewell is supplying an overhead tank nearby. Other women are carrying buckets of water to newly planted fruit trees. 

It was not always like this. Until 2002, these people lived in what is now the Pench National Forest with access to the Pench River and Reservoir where many fished for a living. When they were relocated here from their original forest village of Totladoh sixteen years ago, it was a dry and barren place. Thanks to their united efforts and with help from LDS Charities (charitable arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), there is now water in New Totladoh.

Smiling villagers have gathered under a colorful tent to celebrate the expansion of the reservoir and the new borewell, men to one side and women to the other. Mothers and children sit in front on the ground. Although there are a host of honorees, this is, in fact, a celebration of the entire community to create a new life from a hopeless situation. 

After relocation, the women of New Totladoh played a major role in developing the village through the New Totladoh Women’s Committee. Frustrated by the fact that the men had to leave the village to find work, they led the effort to dig a reservoir in 2003. From April to June between 130-150 people, including women, worked from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. every day until it was finished. They also had a shallow well built. But together these were able to provide water only five months of the year. 

The women of Totladoh are prominent today. Rathiya Ahirkar, wearing a pink and white sari, is honored for finding the water, Tarabai Pathan for her leadership. Standing together after the ceremony, they express hope that the expansion of the reservoir and new, deeper borewell will allow New Totladoh to realize greater self-reliance.

Tarabai expressed her gratitude for the reservoir and well, “We are very, very thankful for what you have done. Without water, life is very hard. But with this facility we feel very optimistic.  We feel very happy about it. Water in the reservoir and water from the well will be helpful for our daily needs. We don’t have to walk to another village to get water. We can stay here now.”

She and others are hoping that water will also provide livelihoods in the village. “We go 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) from home every day to work in the fields,” Tarabai explained. “We catch ahold of any truck—there is no security. It drops us off and leaves us. Sometimes we have to walk back.  Our daily wage is 120 rupees a day and it costs 60 rupees to get to work and back. And because its agricultural work, we don’t even work year-round.” 

Vinod Gajbiye, tribal activist and moving force behind the project added, “Now we have water, the first thing we will do is try to conserve it. Water is precious. We understand the value of water.  We will also try a water-based livelihood program. Fish farming is one of the options.”

Already the community is benefiting from water for livestock and agriculture. More than 200 fruit trees have been planted, and water is available for crops and gardens.

But water, as crucial as it is, is not the richest resource in New Totladoh. “It is the power of being together in bad times which has brought us here from 2002 to 2018,” said Vinod. “It’s a big miracle. People’s participation is the key to what happened today.”

As S.V. Sunil, representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, handed the keys of the pump station to village leadership, he said, “Now it is in your hands. Our desire is that you have water enough for many years to come. Our wish is that your life becomes better every day.” 

Judging from the way the people of Totladoh have risen to challenges in the past, it is very likely to be so.

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