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From Scarcity to Self-Sufficiency: A Story of Laporiya

Chauka System

The story of Laporiya goes back to late 1970's when the western part of our country was reaping the benefits of Green revolution. In the same era somewhere eighty kilometers away from Jaipur a village Laporiya was fighting with its fate. The village was facing a severe problem of water scarcity and drought was knocking on the doors.

The village was in bad shape, with each passing day the water table was drastically falling and signs of migration were evident. The livestock was left unfed due to the marginal availability of fodder, and lush greenery was fading away. People were paranoid about their future and village was slowly getting gripped in the clutches of poverty, malnutrition and caste conflict. The situation was pathetic, people were helpless, and the government had no clue how to intervene. Eventually, nothing was going in the favour of Laporiya. A situation arrived when even rain was not able to bring back the moisture content in the soil. The situation even worsened when in late 1970s government declared Laporiya as a barren and saline land with minimal possibility of crop cultivation.

Meanwhile, in the village Laxman Singh, a young man and a freshly graduate from Jaipur University returned back to his natives just to find this abysmal situation prevailing at his village. Laxman hailed from an ancient Rajput royal family from Jaipur who was once the ruler of Laporiya before independence. He was distraught by witnessing the degradation of once a green and jubilant village into barren pastureland. Laxman thought of no other option but immediate need of an intervention. He was determined enough and motivated by the desire to evacuate his village out of this havoc. Laxman was ascertained that the traditional water harvesting technique, which has been practised from generation to generation in Rajasthan can prove instrumental mitigating the crisis. For that, he wanted to train the local youth and harness the local resources available to develop a concrete water harvesting system.

After a careful initial observation, Laxman concluded that the problem was persisting due to the negligence of the villagers and absence of guiding mechanism, which has perpetuated such a situation. Thereafter Laxman decided to mobilise the community, therefore, he arranged a meeting with help from his friends. In the meeting, he firmly asked the locals to either cooperate or to leave the village. Once people started arriving for help they embarked on a mission to repair the broken embankments, percolation tanks and to de-silt the community pond. During the work of the programme, the barriers of caste and class began fading away. The community, who previously quarreled over petty issues, was now going through the proper processes of resolving larger problems.

It was Laxman who had very early realised the potential of the rural youth and later on harnessed their energy to accelerate the developmental work. Perhaps it was the eclectic power of youth that became the bandwagon of the Laxman's success. In the process of mobilising the community, Laxman formed some youth association which later on lead to the inception of Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal (GVNM).

Laxman travelled to nearby areas to further study the water-harvesting systems. He relied more on the traditional knowledge and skills of gajdharis (traditional engineers). Ultimately these small developments led to a big invention which came to known as "Chouka System" or "Laporiya Square". GVNM started working on the near flat community pastures lands which were then in the hands of an upper class of the village. They began building chaukas (squares), a system of low berms and shallow pits, to recharge the local groundwater and to regenerate the communal pasture land. The chauka system divides the open, grassy plains into several cells of chouka. Within each cell, the runoff was carefully managed with the system of berms to ensure that the monsoon rainwater, which comes in intense bursts, is spread over the entire area. The slight slope pattern of the land allows rainwater to enter the square and fill it up as per the available depth. Excess rainwater then flows into the next square and soon all the square get filled with water. At the downhill end of the cell, the excess water gets collected in a tank, this is used for watering livestock.

This model of Laxman Singh slowly became a huge success in mitigating the pain of the fellow villagers. The land which earlier hardly supported any rain-fed crop now incubated two irrigated crops a year. Lush greenery was enhancing the livestock farming. Villager's income slowly started to rise, harvest was increasing and a positive change was visible. Laporiya was not only able to sustain low rainfall period but was now becoming immune to any foreseen drought. Since its troubled days, the Laporiya has now moved from scarcity to self-sufficiency, the food and fodder need is no more an issue.

GVNM in these years is working towards rebuilding the social institutions and have even extended their work to "integrated village development". This model of Laporiya has been replicated in the nearby villages and Laxman Singh is now an inspiration when we look back at his achievements.

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