Gambegre Village is one of 400 villages located in critically degraded landscapes of the state, that came forward to participate in the World Bank-funded Community-Led Landscape Management Project (CLLMP) in 2019. A survey by the North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) in 2012, revealed that as many as 1900 villages in Meghalaya had worryingly depleting natural resources, marred in equal parts by climate change and anthropogenic activities. Given that so many are reliant on these resources for sustaining varied forms of agriculture-based livelihoods, the data was an ominous warning that the need for sustainable interventions was immediate.
Since 2019, the people of Gambegre have initiated multiple NRM-first efforts to reclaim their lands and rejuvenate the deteriorating landscapes. As CLLMP is a community-driven development project, the planning and implementation processes were led by the communities. The project only facilitated support with the implementation. Interventions comprise a community nursery, a PCC water conservation unit dam, a spring chamber, trenches, a dugout pit, 18-day hot composting methods, and support with a tree plantation drive at a depleted natural reserve. Projected long-term results include enhanced productivity, revived natural resources, and more significantly, opportunities for improved livelihoods.
The 12-bed Songjatchi Community Nursery is home to different local saplings including the endangered varieties. Fruits to be found here are jackfruits, mangoes, gasampe, che’eng, agol, raju, chandan, bolgisim, chambu, bolkasin, neem, ajari, soksinareng, bolbret, and sakap. Some of the matured saplings are transplanted to the catchment area. The community has been able to sell about 350 saplings to date. The PCC water conservation unit dam and the spring chamber have helped with secured access to water for both domestic and irrigation purposes, directly benefiting 10 and 9 households respectively. The spring chamber, in particular, has also addressed the issues associated with drudgery, sanitation, and agricultural health. Two trenches covering three acres of hill area were built in July 2020, one in Jenggrim (C) and another in Rami Chiga, which have led to increased water levels in the streams. The soil removed during the rainy seasons is used to create a berm just downhill from the trench and is useful in slowing surface water run-off and soil erosion from sloping land and re-vegetating the degraded lands.
The water from the dugout pit at Jenggim Bipek is for the community nursery during the dry seasons and for cleaning and bathing, benefiting 35 families. CLLMP is also promoting the Berkeley hot composting method for achieving fast and efficient production of compost for various plantation activities and also as a source of revenue to sustain various activities undertaken. Compost that is currently priced at Rs. 20 per kg is sold to Tura and other markets. And finally, the community planted different species of tree saplings in Songgitcham Reserve like the Te.brong, the Te.gatchu, and the Gasampe species. The initiative was aimed at recovering lost forest cover and building a sheltered home for animals and birds. During World Environment Day 2021, the community planted nearly 200 trees in the reserve area, in line with the Hon’ble Chief Minister’s One Citizen One Tree Campaign.
These multi-pronged, community-led interventions of the CLLMP project have completely transformed the village’s approach and thinking in terms of how they plan to move forward managing their natural resources and catchment areas and have delivered impactful and quantifiable change. Project personnel are continuously facilitating support to Gambegre through handholding and monitoring of implemented activities. On their part, the community is buoyed by what has been accomplished and is participating in village meetings to chalk out strategies for further rural empowerment and to pose an optimal model for holistic development. In the pipeline are dugout pits in Rangsan Amuchakram, Wa.sik, and Ronggrim Bipek to raise the underground water levels and improve the springs which are critical sources of water for them.