Akash cluster is made up of two large villages in the Tonk district of Rajasthan, an area of North western India which has semi-dry climate, which means it rains from June to September and receives little to no rain for the rest of the year.
The local savings and credit organization, formed 7 years ago, serves about 140 families, revolving members' savings as small loans to meet some credit needs. However, villagers' credit needs remain very high, especially before harvesting when income is low.
The largest of the two villages is surrounded by hills. To the West, the village is bordered by the Bisalpur reservoir and a few small natural lakes, used by buffalo to cool down in the hot season. To the East it is watched over by an ancient hilltop fort.
The bustling population of 5000 people, which skews male, is mostly employed in hard-labor and agricultural work. It is close to the main road leading to Jaipur so there are plenty of opportunities for trade and manual laboring work. Like many small rural villages in India, there are problems with water, sanitation and hygiene because of a lack of clean drinking water, good drainage systems or any sort of garbage disposal.
The Bisalpur reservoir
What the villages do have on their doorstep is one of the most important reservoirs in Rajasthan. The Bisalpur reservoir was formed by the damming of the Banas river in the ‘90s and provides fresh water for hundreds of thousands in the nearby state capital of Jaipur and the Tonk districts.
While having such a huge source of fresh water nearby seems ideal, the location of the reservoir brings more disadvantages than advantages to the villagers. When the reservoir is full at the end of the rainy season, the sluices on the dam are opened to protect it from collapse, which results in the local fields and roads flooding. Outside of the rainy season, the local farmers don’t get any water from the reservoir. Before the dam was built villagers were able to use the river for irrigation but now thier fields remain dry for much of the year.
While the yearly deluge is annoying for the villagers, they do try to make the most of it, using the flooding as a reason to celebrate and spend time with their familes.
One month of water
The smaller hamlet is much smaller andhas a slightly older population as a result of migration. Young families find it difficult to raise children in the village as the nearest school is a five mile round trip which most of the children have to do on foot or by bicycle.
The population's choice of work here is also limited to either manual labor or agriculture, but both are in short supply. This is partly due to the inaccessibility of the village – there is just one road leading to it.
Despite the closeness of the reservoir the village receives water from the dam for just one month of the year. For the rest of the year the residents are forced to make do with water from local wells – and there are only ten of these for the whole village. There isn't enough safe drinking water for the people yet enough water for their land and livestock. The poor access to water is a big problem, it reduces their ability or be self-sufficient in agriculture and makes finding agricultural work harder.