Darewadi, in the rain shadow region of Maharashtra, India, was once a parched village, where women journeyed miles for water and livelihoods were hard to come by. Water for drinking and irrigation was available for only three months of the year. Land, soil and water were depleted to an extent that the community resorted to migration for survival. The village was on the verge of desertification in 1996, when the villagers approached WOTR.

Fr. Hermann Bacher, the founder of WOTR and the father of community-led watershed development in India, supported Darewadi residents in implementing watershed activities. Soil and water conservation measures involved digging a series of continuous trenches along the contour or ridge to act as speed breakers, control erosion, and harvest water. Gully plugs, stone bunds, earthen nallah bunds, gabion structures, check weirs and percolation tanks were constructed. These aided recharge of ground water through percolation of harvested water into the ground. These measures resulted in the stabilization and development of the Darewadi watershed. Inclusiveness of the community, ensured through shramdaan (voluntary labour) in the beginning, helped develop a sense of ownership.

The degraded landscape was slowly transformed, as the watershed was stabilized and developed. Water resources were restored, for drinking and irrigation, and improved soil moisture content supported production of food, fodder and fuel. The cropping area per season increased, and two crops per year and crop diversification became possible. There was a remarkable increase in vegetation cover and the ground water table was raised.

A Village Watershed Committee was formed to represent the residents of Darewadi, and to work with WOTR and government departments to plan, implement and monitor work, and support conflict resolution. The Committee has had to take potentially unpopular decisions to sustain the benefits of natural resource regeneration, like calling for a ban on bore wells.

Transparency throughout the process has been a key element of success, with details of the work and expenditure displayed in the village school.