Disputes and fights at the water collection point

India has been gripped by three years of drought in the villages where SWISSAID’s partner organisations achieve pioneering women’s projects. In particular, this affects single women and their children. Day workers cannot find work, farmers are faced with empty stores, cattle perish – and many people are desperate. The suicide rate rose dramatically last year.

The drought affects whole districts in eastern Maharashtra State, a remote region, in which most people are dependent on agriculture and where the Indian state hardly maintains a presence. State aid programmes in many cases falter in the planning phase or do not reach everyone. The government therefore sends drinking water transporters into the main villages, but people in many drought-stricken rural hamlets still have no water. Onlookers recount how fierce disputes and fights break out at the water collection points.

The village wells have run dry and the nearest water collection points are located many kilometres away. In some hamlets the people cannot even expect ten litres of water per day and the farmers have to drive the weakened animals dozens of kilometres to the next water point. In their dire need, the farmers sell the animals – their actual capital – well below the market price.

In these rural hamlets, SWISSAID is therefore funding drinking water tanks, which hold 2,000 litres of water, and drinking troughs for the animals. The authorities supply both with the precious liquid. With a donation of 220 Swiss francs, for example, you can fund such a tank for drinking water. A drinking trough for animals costs 75 Swiss francs.

Women and children are affected most by the drought

It is particularly tough for single women. In a country where even in normal circumstances two out of five children aged below five are undernourished, they have to bring up the young generation alone, provide food and fund the school fees. They mainly work as day labourers on the arable fields in the region. But when there is no rain, they cannot find work on the farmers’ fields. The women need ready money to cover their most vital needs – and they need to earn their own money.

MGNREGA: money for good work

The state employment programme grants everyone the right to 100 days of paid work annually, and payment is made within 15 days following completion of the work. The main sources of employment here are state road-building projects that rely on the operation of machines and also lighter jobs that can be done by unskilled workers. However, the women and day labourers have to claim the right to work. SWISSAID partner organisations help them to do so. They maintain excellent contacts with the authorities so 5,700 women and day workers might earn an independent income in the months ahead.

However, not everyone can work on construction sites. Women who care for small children or older family members are in certain cases provided with urgent support. Otherwise, they have to take out a loan at exorbitant costs which they find difficult to repay later.

Drought may lead to suicide

The debts plunge individuals into existential crises that make many people totally despair. The suicide rate has dramatically increased in the villages. “Since the start of the drought, we are noticing more frequent cases of mental illnesses and depression is widespread”, explain medically qualified representatives for the partner organisations. They train special “barefoot psychologists” who keep their eyes and ears open in the villages and help to refer acute cases to an experienced psychiatrist. To make a recovery over the longer term, mental health is just as important as daily bread and sufficient water.




  • Project code: 2/16/01
  • Duration: 6 months
  • Costs: 60'790 Swiss francs
  • Number of beneficiaries: 83'000 men, women and children in 60 villages