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NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) is an organization that is not part of the local or state or federal government. OR It can also be defined as autonomous non-profit and non-party/politically-unaffiliated organizations that advance a particular cause or set of causes in the public interest.

The NGO’s may be broadly classified as traditional, community based and government sponsored. In this, Government sponsored voluntary sector comprises agencies engaged in welfare programmes such as rural development, afforestation programmes (Vana sama rakshana Societies), watershed management, health and education services (Parent Teacher associations, Village Education Committees) as well as those engaged in research and evaluation.

Watershed development is not merely a matter of harvesting rainwater. Its success crucially entails working out collective protocols of equitable and sustainable use of surface and ground water, bringing together of scientists and farmers to evolve a dry land agriculture package and a host of other livelihood options and the mobilisation of rural communities in the direction of the disadvantaged. Many NGOs in India have set examples in one or more of these challenges.

We, therefore, tend to agree with the National Advisory Council that the role of NGOs can be very important. But it is clear that two problems need to be addressed: – How to find genuine NGOs with quality and – How to ensure that NGOs do not end up becoming mere oases* of excellence.

GO – NGO collaboration

Joint Forest Management and Watershed Development from 1990 onwards is a good example of a sustained effort at testing the efficacy of different institutions with respect to GONGO collaboration. Several institutions have been involved in these programs.

In 1994, the department of land resources of the Ministry of Rural Development had circulated the Guidelines for Watershed Development (GWD). GWD aimed to bring local communities to the center stage and move the administration towards a facilitating role. It proposed a user-friendly organizational structure with Watershed Associations (WAs) and elected/nominated watershed committees undertaking field/village-level implementation of each watershed.

The Haryali Programme from 2001 made panchayat bodies sole managers of watershed development activities. Other institutions that had participated effectively in watershed management were completely sidelined. Moreover, Haryali guidelines have also reduced the budget for community development and capacity building.

One of the main criticisms of the Haryali Guidelines has been that they completely do away with the concept of the Village Watershed Committee (VWC). The Haryali Guidelines hand over the VWC's role to the Gram Panchayat (GP).

The panchayat bodies have not always been efficient watershed managers largely because they are territorial units and not ecological entities and technically not equipped. So it was decided that ,if a Grama panchayat has several watersheds, then each watershed area should have its own Watershed Association (WAs)

Joint Forest Management with participation of local communities was another initiative started in the nineties under different D.O.s in different states. However, the Clauses governing the setting up of the Committees often created an asymmetrical power structure with the government department’s nominee having the power to dissolve the Committee.

CAPART’s achievement in Watershed Training Program A very interesting innovation in this regard has been attempted by ‘Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology’ (CAPART) through its Support Voluntary Organisation (SVO) programme for watershed training. SVOs have also set up an excellent system for capacity building and field-support.

The idea of this organization was that each state would have one or more (depending on training needs) SVOs who could help develop one or more Master Trainer Organisations (MTOs) at the district-level. MTOs would in turn take up the responsibility of training PIAs within the district.

NGO’s as facilitating agencies Rural Communities, if they are to be promoted and developed as communitybased organisations, require facilitating agencies that are skilled in motivating and organising local groups to work for a common purpose. Facilitating agencies, preferably competent NGOs, should be selected through a rigorous and transparent process as indicated in the guidelines to be formulated by the respective national board of each

In Watershed Development - (MoRD,) only PRIs can work as facilitating agencies. Scope for selecting more suitable facilitating agencies even when available with proven record is very limited. In Joint Forest Management –(MoEF) there is no mention of the role of facilitating agencies. The role of NGOs is mentioned as motivators without specifying their position in the scheme and financial support.

To correct improper land use and provide sustainability of the natural resources within watersheds, the contribution of local people is so necessary. NGOs can play very important roles in such participation.

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