You will bring water out of the rock for them; you will provide drink for the people and their livestock. - Numbers 20:8
Water out of a rock. God did it for the people of Israel thousands of years ago and it is happening again today.
In the village of Sinisingi, the water is flowing. Over 2,500 meters of irrigation pipeline have been laid from the water source high in the mountain rocks to the village. This Gravity Water Flow System has revolutionized the lives of these villagers.
The village is in the district of Gajapati, one of the most remote parts of the Orissa region of India. The land is barren and the tribal groups who live here on the edge of the forest land rarely have the water they need for daily living and growing crops.
With the irrigation pipeline, villagers now have enough water to drink and to grow their crops. Before, the women had to walk more than half a mile to get clean water. “It was a crisis,” one of the women tells me, “But now, we can grow many different kinds of vegetables and have enough to sell in the marketplace.”
We walk the hilly land and see how these tribal people have terraced it. Water gushes through the pipeline and through the furrows in the fields that have been dug. In just three months time, the irrigation system was constructed to provide water for 22 families and 30 acres of land.
Sinisingi was the first of three villages where MCC partner Isara has worked with the village to provide water. All twelve villages of the Gajapati district are targeted for future similar projects as funds are available. Each irrigation system costs just under $20,000 to construct, mostly in labor that the villagers provide in exchange for food.
We visit the village of Abarasingi, the next village scheduled to receive an irrigation line. We meet with village leaders and learn that three kilometers of pipeline have already been laid and only one kilometer remains. This time, the pipeline will provide water for 31 households and over 120 acres of land, including drinking water for a school of more than 100 children.
The villages will own the water rights to the water sources and Isara is also helping the villages gain access to government programs that they are entitled to. The project provides one-time seeds to each farmer for their kitchen gardens.
Isara leaders say that, each time, the process gets easier with the villages because villagers can see the results in the villages that have already received water.
Just prior to visiting these villages, we learned that MCC will be able to provide an additional $75,000 for irrigation pipelines in four more villages next year.
Flow, water, flow.
Ron Byler is executive director of Mennonite Central Committee U.S.