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First Person (cont.)

First Person Student
Rakesh Sarwal, Doctoral Candidate, Procter & Gamble Fellow

In arid areas of India, Rakesh Sarwal is measuring the difference a rainwater-retention effort can make in village life.

Way back in 1988, I got into the administrative service in India. One starts from the grassroots level—gets training, makes mistakes, learns. Once we were given a target of distributing 40,000 water filters in a rural district.

We could have purchased these filters from some company in a metropolitan area. But we chose a second way.

We trained local women to produce the filters. Then we bought the filters from the women and distributed them to people who needed them. This, I think, is a good example of how education, health and economic development can be rolled into one.

I am now conducting research in a series of villages in an arid region in the state of Rajasthan. A nongovernmental organization has been working with the people there on water management. What they do is help people dig out village ponds so that when the rains come the water doesn’t just flow to the sea. Instead, it recharges the groundwater, it replenishes the ecosystem.

In some of these villages, women have to travel six hours to get a bucket of water. You can imagine what happens to them and to their children when water is nearby. There has been a remarkable change in all aspects of their lives—in health, in educational status, in economic welfare. But until now there has been no formal evaluation of this project. I want to know: Just how beneficial is it? Is it cost effective? Perhaps it holds lessons for people elsewhere. ?