How to conduct a village study.

Kirti Poonia
35 min readFeb 4, 2021

Many years ago I put my heart and soul into learning how to conduct a village study to design an intervention for the village.

A lot of you ask how should you start working with a village, so I thought of sharing this piece of work so you can begin your journey and may be help start a meaningful intervention in a village that needs one.

I used the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method, it is an approach in which the end users of a solution or system are involved in the planning of the system from the start. A good participatory approach where the knowledge and the opinions of the village are a critical part of the solution and this improves motivation, increases learning and feelings of ownership and enables community empowerment.

This report took us 2 months of living in the village and surrounding areas. So it’s fairly detailed, and will give you a very unique inside out perspective of the village and how detailed you need to be while doing this.

The village I studied was- Ulseti Village, Bhainsoda Gram Sabha, Lamgarah Block, Almora District, Uttarakhand.

Ulseti is a very small village and despite being so close to the city of Almora, it’s people face innumerable problems.

Step 1: Understand the physical space in detail.

The village of Ulseti is a located in the Lamgarah Block of Almora District of Uttarakhand. It is a part of the Bhainsoda Gram Sabha which constitutes 3 villages all neighbouring each other — Bhainsoda, Ulseti and Kunuda.

The village is located at an elevation of 1670 meters above sea level and the nearest town is the city of Almora about 28 kilometers away by road. The geographical coordinates of the village are N 29° 33.341' and E 79° 40.363'. The satellite view of our village looks like this -

The Revenue Department has marked our village as a part of the Bhainsoda Gram Sabha. A few years ago, Ulseti’s populations was the highest of all three villages and the Gram Sabha was by its name. Recently, the population of Bhainsoda has become the largest of the three villages in terms of population and hence, the change in name of the Gram Sabha.

The village is located on a hill. On top of the hill is Ralakot village. Below that is the van panchayat(village forest) of Ralakot. Below that, on the same mountain face, is the van panchayat of Ulseti. And in the middle of the mountain is our village Ulseti.

The front view of the village when looked at from the opposite hill is as under.

Step 2: Understand the history.

I spoke at length with the Sarpanch who was hosting us in his home, and he told me an interesting story about how the villages around came to be.

“In the later part of the 17th century when Aurangzeb came to power, people from Rajasthan and Maharashtra who wanted to escape the Mughal lords fled to hide in the mountains. This is how most villages in the Lamgarah block of Uttarakhand were formed.”

A strong resemblance to these states, in features, language, fashion, clothes, customs and culture is observed in this area. Some cities in the planes have the same name, because when people moved, they kept the same names of the villages. Most of these people settled close to water sources like springs and rivers, some of which have since dried. The following shows the major happenings in the village that the older people in the village could recollect.

Observations — This village got electricity before many others in India, because of the Uttarakhand dam. Over the last 100 years the need for money has increased because things like TV, cell phone radio, electricity etc. have come to the village. At the same time, income generating opportunities have not come to the village and they still depend on government or private service. Life is tough here as its very affected by weather conditions. There have been famine, floods and landslides in the past which have made life tougher.

Step 3: Understand the Gram Panchayat and Van Panchayat

This is data from 2012 but it will give you a sense of the depth of knowledge you should have.

The Gram Panchayat seat for this gram sabha is reserved for woman candidate since the last election which was held in 2008. The Gram Pradhan for this sabha is from Bhainsoda by the name of Mrs. Tara Devi. The village was a part of Almora constituency and the MLA was Mr. Manoj Tewari and the MP was Pradeep Tamta. In the elections of 2012, there was an alteration in constituency and Ulseti now comes under Jageshwar constituency. The elections for the 40 member Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly were held on 29 February, 2012 and the results are expected on 6 March, 2012.

The Van Panchayat of Ulseti has 9 members. The election for the current VP was held in 2011 and the last one was held in 2004. The current sarpanch of the Van Panchayat is Narayan Singh who is 64 years old. During our stay, we witnessed the campaigning of various candidates and parties in Nainital, Almora and surrounding places. At times, our movement was restricted because of electioneering.

What is a Van Panchayat(Village Forest)? Well its a forest area attached to a village. There is a symbiotic relationship between humans, the forest and the cattle that the villagers own. The three rely on each other.

Today in Uttrakhand we have 3 types of forests. Protected Forests, Reserved Forests and Van Panchayat (the ones that villagers are responsible for, rest are protected by the Forest Depatment)

In the mountains, the villages are usually located on the top or mid way of the mountain. Water sources are usually in the valley. Fodder and Fuel is fetched from the Van Panchayat of a village. Hence people, specially women, practically walk the whole day! I found this little girl walking with wood and my heart went out, hence she is the depiction of a human in my report.

Step 4: Ask the village members to draw their perception of the village map with things around.

Shown below is the map of the village as constructed by the people. They highlighted the prominent buildings in the village.

Then recreate the map with your knowledge, observations and satellite images. This is what I made:

There are 26 families in the village with a total population of 128 people — 60 Male and 68 Female. Ulseti has a Literacy Level of 85% with the male literacy level at 100% and the female literacy level at 65%. We stayed with the sarpanch of the village Narayan Singh. He has a wife, 3 daughters and 1 son. One daughter is married, while the other daughter’s marriage is fixed. The son is studying in Almora.

The people are very simple and hospitable. They are extremely warm towards guests and treated us with a lot of respect and affection. They said they believe in and live by the principle of “Atithi Devo Bhava”. This was clearly evident in their attitude towards us.

Step 5: Create a Detailed Population Map of the Village

Please excuse my italic font heading and sexism in colors for men and women — I was much younger and not woke enough. But man look at that detailed chart, even the future me is impressed :)

Observations — The number of girls is lesser than boys. The adult females are more in number than adult males because the men have left for the cities for work for of lack of employment and tough conditions. A lot of houses are vacant because people have migrated in search of better opportunities.

The population map shows us that of the 46 houses in the village, only 26 are occupied. 20 houses are lying vacant as many families have migrated to nearby towns and cities (mainly in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh) for seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families. There are only 20 families living in the village. The number of females is more as the male members are working outside the village for sustaining the family. There are a number of children in the village who stay with their mothers while the father works outside the village.

Step 6: Understand Time Calendars

We used time calendars to explore daily routine and seasonal changes for the villagers across a number of parameters. These tools helped us understand the routine of villagers, their daily and seasonal needs and how they cope with their problems.

Daily Routine

The women in Ulseti wake up at 5 AM and spend two hours taking care of their cattle, feeding them, cleaning them, milking them. They then fill water for their daily use. Then cook, then either bring fodder or take their cattle for grazing. Then they come back and cook, do their household chores, again arrange for fodder, bring dry wood for fuel and then at about 7 AM fill water again, then take care of cattle, then cook and sleep. It’s a tough day for each woman. At the time of harvesting they go the fields return to cook lunch, which they then take back for the men. Shown below is the daily routine diagram of women in the village.

With the sweetest most hardworking lady in the village.
Spot me.

The men also take care of cattle in the morning, then the working males leave for the place where they have found work only to return in the evening or the next day if they cannot find a taxi. If they don’t have a job then they take the cattle for grazing, in the harvesting season they stay in the field the whole day. Shown below is the daily routine diagram of men in the village.

Showing us their Village Forest Panchayat

Seasonal Calendars

We wanted to learn about changes in livelihoods, seasonality of agricultural, food availability, human diseases, income and expenditure, water availability, holidays, diseases and other issues about our village. Our exercise helped us know more about our village, its needs, its problems and how people adapt to them. The seasonal calendar shown below focuses on these issues.

As the seasonal calendar suggests Ulseti’s happening months are from June to Oct, most probably because it’s not too cold. They receive maximum rain at this time, the harvesting season is there, the fruits are available in high quantity, there are marriages, the days are the longest, the water availability is minimum in the beginning but after the rains it’s plenty. At this time the work load and expenditure is also high.

Observations — Earnings are concentrated in the winter and there is a need to have consistent income all through the year. Also, summer time is a tough time in the village because of shortage of water, spreading of diseases and lesser income.

Seasonal Food Calendar

People in Ulseti are only able to be self-sufficient from Nov to Feb. These 4 months they eat “Gohat” a home grown pulse which gives heat to the body and is hence great for the winters. Another home grown vegetable is “Gadheri” and they eat this in the winter as well. Rest of the year they need to purchase pulses & vegetables from outside. This is really bad because money is not something they are able to easily make. Shown below is the seasonal food calendar of Ulseti which highlights other issues too.

The people of Ulseti don’t ever purchase fruits, the only time they eat fruits is when their trees give fruits in July, Aug. Animal menace is again huge, and so the only fruit the get from the tree is what the moneys don’t finish. They also get some wild fruit from the village forest. Milk is not an issue where people have cattle. In the winter people have a lot of goat meat but it is lesser in the summer.

All in all it’s evident from the map that they need to become more self-sufficient when it comes to pulses and vegetables.

Observations — There is insufficiency of food in the village. The nutritive value of food consumed by the people is also low. Hence there is a need to for vegetable cultivation for increasing income and also for self-consumption.

Step 7: Understand their sources of Income and Expenses

//Income Generation

The people of Ulseti village have limited avenue of income and most of the income is irregular in nature, which is true for most villages in Uttarakhand. In this Gram Sabha, unemployment is high which has led to the migration of numerous families from the village towards nearby towns or the plains. Most of the youth too has left the village for seeking education and employment elsewhere for lack of opportunities in their own village. Mentioned below are the sources of income for a family in our village.

Milk sold to Dairy — Some of the villagers earn some money by selling milk to the dairy cooperative. This is true only for families that own cattle, are able to provide sufficient care and resources (like fodder and medicine) to them and have milk surplus to their requirements. There are those who have cows and buffaloes but the milk given to them is not sufficient for their own use. Those that do have surplus milk sell it to the cooperative but this income is not steady as only on days that there is surplus milk production they are able to sell it.

Government Service — There are families in the village whose members are employed in state and central government services. However, there are only 10 out of 25 families in the village that have a member in such service. The average salary that people in the village earn from service with the government is approximately Rs.5000/- per month (note 2012). For families whose members are serving outside the district or state, they send money back to their families.

Pension — Pension is another source of income for some people in the village. Some people have retired from a pensionable service, but the pension is meagre and not sufficient for themselves and their families. The Uttarakhand government also gives an old age pension of Rs.400/- per month (2012) to senior citizens who are financially weak, but this not enough.

Labour Work — Like most other villages in this block, the male member of the family earns some money by doing labour work. The daily wage earned is very less and most of them earn about Rs.3000/- per month. While most of the men go and look for work outside the village to other villages, MNREGA work sites or nearby towns, work is occasional and so is the income from this. It is not steady income, like a salaried job. Some of the work is got when a need arises — construction of road, school, panchayat ghar or nahar (canal). This work lasts only for 3–4 months (November to February).

Livestock Rearing — Most of the villagers in Ulseti village rear goats which they can sell later. A goat can fetch as much as Rs.8000/- during Eid, but they mostly sell for around Rs. 3000/- per goat. The goats are taken into the van panchayat for grazing where there is a threat of leopard attacks. There have been cases in the past where leopard have attacked and lifted goats away.

Agricultural Produce — In the 1960s and 1970s, the produce from agricultural activities was enough to last a family for the entire year. The situation is much different now, where it now suffices for just 2 months of a year. In the past, the surplus produce was sold in the market and this used to provide income to the families. Since there is no surplus produce now, there is no income earned from agriculture. People are moving away from farming because in a lot of cases, the yield is less than the sown quantity of grains. The main reason for this is water insufficiency, total dependence on rainfall which is unreliable, menace due to pigs and monkeys which uproot the fields and lower yield.

//Major Expenses

On an average, a family of four in the village requires about Rs. 5000–60000 per month for survival. This includes basic necessities like food, clothes, fodder and other household expenses. This does not include other occasional expenses like marriage, sickness, festivals, new births, deaths or agricultural expenses which every family has from time to time. The major expenses for the families in the village are during the following times

· Marriage in the family

· New child birth in the family

· Major festivals like Holi and Diwali

· Renovation of house

· Purchase of cattle or livestock

· Agricultural expense on seeds, ploughing and sowing

When such an expense arises, the family depends on friends and relatives from whom they take loans. It was heartening to learn that loan is not taken from a moneylender, thus eliminating the risk of being charged unreasonable interest rates and that no mortgage of land or house or ornaments has taken place till now for raising money in dire needs. This way the community is very helpful and supportive of each other.

Step 8: Understand the Resources of the Village by making a resource map with them.

Observations — Very basic needs are available in and around the village. But the village is very dependent on nearby villages and bigger towns.

Step 9: Conduct a Transect Walk through

We carried out a transect walk through our village that gave us an idea about the general pattern of houses, farms and other resources in our village. The map below shows the transect walk that we conducted through our village.

Observations — There are 3 taps in the village which ensure water for everyone in the village is available at a short walk. Farms are near the houses and also far away which is cumbersome for people as they have to take their cattle and tools from one farm to another. The Van Panchayat is near houses. There are a number of empty houses in the village.

// Cross-Sectional Transect

We traversed the village from top to bottom and observed that the activities and problems of these areas where different from each other. We also thought of opportunities along the same lines. We drew a cross-sectional map of the mountain on which our village is there which is shown below. The map indicates that there are several opportunities in the forest area.

Observations — There are opportunities for Fodder Plantation, Fruit Plantation, Flower Plantation etc. in VP. Also there are water sources available below the VP. Trenches can be dug in the VP, to increase moisture. Mangers can be built to reduce fodder wastage. Cattle can be reared to increase milk production. There is a need to reduce women drudgery. Farming can be done with proper irrigation, poly houses, and of products that the animals don’t destroy.

Step 10: Understand the Land Use

The village of Ulseti is spread over about 160 acres of land. This includes about 40 acres under the Van Panchayat which is adjoining the village, about 100 acres of farmland not all of which is cultivated and about 20 acres of common land which is used for grazing purposes. A map was also drawn for the same as per our discussion with the sarpanch Narayan Singh, Chandan Singh and Durga Singh Bisht.

Observations — There has been a reduction in farming from before. This is because of irrigation problems, animal menace and scattered land holding.

Van Panchayat of Ulseti

The van panchayat of the villages of Ulseti and … are essentially the same forest but are divided by a pathway. The Van Panchayat of Ulseti covers a space of 40 acres and is thick and green. This is mainly due to the awareness of the importance of and concern for the forests among the villagers of Ulseti. No village is allowed to lop trees, cut branches or even pickup dead branches and wood from the van panchayat. This has helped the forest retain its greenery. The forest is so thick that there are wild boars, leopards and wolves in it. While this poses some threat to the livestock which are taken for grazing near the van panchayat and often wander off into the forest, the people still revere the forest. All the people we met told us that if they were to use the forest for their purposes then there would be no forest left in some time. It was very humbling to note that people are so concerned about their forest, despite their difficult lives and knowing fully well that a lot of their problems could be solved if they used forest produce.

Agricultural Land

There is 100 acres of agricultural land in this village but only 60 acres is used for farming. The remaining land is lying vacant and this is mainly due to migration of families from the village and disinclination of people in agriculture because of the various problems listed above. The 40 acres of agricultural land on which no farming is done also includes land under houses. Every house is surrounded by farms which are usually owned by the owner of the house, though it may not be always true.

A family has farms that are spread over the hillside. There are very few families who have consolidated farm holdings. Most of them have farms that are scattered –near the house, a little further away and some on the other hill. This is problematic because cultivating this scattered land holding takes a lot of time as equipment, cattle and farm inputs need to be taken to each of these farms which could be very far away. There is also the problem of animal menace and with farms spread out it is not possible to ensure protection of crop.

Farming is totally dependent on rainfall which should be timely and sufficient. The changing climate has affected farming as rainfall does not happen when it is required. When it does, sometimes it is either not sufficient or too much, thus damaging the crops. In absence of irrigation, the people are totally dependent on the rains. In the absence of irrigation, dependence on unreliable rainfall is turning people away from farming. In the 1970s and 1980s, the rainfall was more predictable and dependable. The farm produce was surplus of what a family required and farming also used to earn some income for the family. This is not the case anymore and the produce from the farms lasts a family for a mere 2–3 months in a year. The farm profile of a typical farm in our village is shown below.

There has been little change in the cropping cycle, pattern and crops grown over the years. The crops that are grown now are very similar to what was grown by their forefathers. Half of the total land of 60 acres is tilled for the kharif crop while the other half is tilled in the rabi season. Most of the time, farming for kharif and rabi season is done on different farms. A number of people do farming only in the kharif season, when there is rainfall.

Observations — There is heavy dependence on rainfall for irrigation. Our village is also dependent on labor from neighboring villages for working on farms. The agricultural produce is only used for self-consumption. There is also dependence on subsidized seed distribution for seeds.

The general cropping pattern of the village is mentioned under. (We had made a complete excel of their cropping patterns, Ill try to locate it)

Observations — The cropping pattern has not adapted to the changing agriculture needs. Because of lack of awareness of how maximum benefit can be obtained from farming, modern practices and cash crop cultivation has not come into our village.

Grazing Land

There is 20 acres of grazing land that is common community land. This land, which is near the van panchayat, is used by the villagers for taking their cows and goats for grazing.

Step 11: Understand Other Resources

These are the other resources available to the people in our village.

Temples — There are 5 temples in the village which people frequent for worship. One of the temples is also a natural source of water which people frequent in the summers when the water supply in the taps falls down. During important festivals like Holi and Diwali, the village goes to the nearby Devi ka Mandir where people from a number of villages congregate.

Market Place — The most important market place is Almora, which is at a distance of 6 kilometres by walk and takes 2.5 hours to travel on foot. The other way is by road which is about 28 kilometres and takes 1–1.5 hours to travel. People depend on Almora for a lot of resources. It is the nearest biggest town to our village and a source of employment, resources, healthcare and education. Most people go to Almora at least once a fortnight for getting the necessary resources for their homes and cattle.

Healthcare — The nearest hospital to our village is in Almora. There was healthcare facility available in Lamgarah too but people do not go there now as the polyclinic is not functional there. In case of emergencies, there is the Dial 108 facility which is much appreciated by everyone in the village.

Workplace — The people of the village look for employment in and around their village. A number of people go to Almora for working. Those that have government jobs go there or to Lamgarah (Ulseti falls under Lamgarah Block). Those that seek labour work also go to Almora sometimes. They also go to Jalna which is near the village too.

Grocery Shop — The nearest grocery shop is at Rathkhan at a distance of 2 kilometres from the village. It is a ration shop from where people buy their daily supplies. The families which fall in the Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) categories get their quota of wheat, rice, sugar and other commodities from the ration shop at a discounted rate. The monthly quota per family is 15 kgs of wheat and 20 kgs of rice. Earlier, the nearest ration shop was very far away from the village and most of the time it was out of stock. People had to make 2–3 trips for getting ration from this shop. Ever since this ration shop has opened in Rathkhan, people have been happy with it. It has saved them the travel time, the shop keeps stock of products and the behavior of the shopkeeper with the villagers is good too.

Road — The construction of the road to the village was announced 22 years back. There was protest from the villagers and the road construction was delayed. While the road to this village was inaugurated about 20 years back it has only reached the village now in late 2011. There have been a number of modifications to the road blueprint and it is significantly different from the original plan of 1990. Now, the road is at some distance from our village and other nearby villages of Bhainsoda and Rathkhan have benefitted from this. The people of our village rue their mistake of objecting to the initial plan of the road construction.

There are taxis which ply on the road. One taxi is booked by the teachers of schools in Satyon, Ralakot and Ulseti for their travel from Almora. It reaches the village at around 10 AM and leaves the village at around 3 PM. The villagers prefer travelling by road since most of them cannot afford the Rs.35/- fare of the taxi. They do however use the teacher’s vehicle for getting their supplies from Almora. When the supply comes down to the road, people call members of their family to help them carry it to their homes.

Schools and Colleges — The primary school that is nearest the village is at Chabatiya at a distance of 1 kilometre from the village. There is a secondary school (Classes 5 to 8) in the village. The teachers to this school come from Almora. The children of the village go to Satyon village as the nearest high school is there. This is at a distance of 1.5 kilometres from the village. There are no schools for intermediate education around the village and hence most people prefer going to Almora for higher education.

For graduation and post-graduation most people go to Almora or Dehra Dun for studying. The women of the village study privately and they do not have to go to attend classes. They study at home and go and give the exams every semester.

Nearby Villages — The villages that are near our village are the villages of Ralakot, Satyon, Bhainsoda and Rathkhan. The villagers celebrate important festivals together, but there is not a lot of affability between these villages. The people do sell meat and milk among themselves. The people of Ulseti have a lot of senior citizens who depend on people of the neighbouring villages for working on their farms, cutting wood or other work which requires manual effort.

Step 12: Understand Village Water Use

Water is of critical importance in the hills because whatever comes in streams springs and rain flows down to the plains. Due to the topography of the place, water does not gather anywhere and flows down. This is a major concern in all the hilly regions of this state as the women have to walk for hours for fetching water.

Water is required for various purposes like household purposes, for the cattle and for farming. There are 4 taps in the village from which the villagers get water. These taps have sufficient water in the winter months but there is little water in the summer. During summer, the families go down to the natural source (Nageshwar source) from where they get water.

There are two drinking water schemes implemented for Ulseti. The first one is the Rikhal drinking water scheme which has been constructed but is not operational. If this were to become operational, there would be no problem of water in the summer too. The other scheme is the Rikhna drinking water scheme which was started by the government in 1980. This has water throughout the year but the quantity of water diminished to a trickle in the summers. This scheme was constructed by the government and was later handed over to the people of the village. The villagers are responsible for any maintenance or repair work that may be required for this. In the past, all the villagers have contributed money for the upkeep and repair of this line.

In the Rikhna scheme, there is a water tank connected to the scheme which is near the top of the village. Connected to this tank are 3 other tanks spread over the village which have taps connected to them. The fourth tap is connected to one of the three tanks. The brother of the old sarpanch regulates the water supply to the village. He opens the supply from 7AM — 10AM in the morning and from 3PM — 6PM in the evening. There is sufficient water through this scheme for some part of the year. However, the water is limited during the summer months.

Step 13: Social Status, Health and Wellbeing in Ulseti

The people in our village are poor, have limited access to resources and opportunities. With their limited income, they are unable to afford healthcare for themselves and their family. A number of families in the village fall below the poverty line. The social, health and wellbeing study of our village helped us to understand the social, economic and wellness standard of our village.

Health in Ulseti

The people of Ulseti suffer with general health problems due to cold weather, poor drinking water and old age. Self-medication is their only resort because there is no doctor in the village to handle emergencies. In case of an emergency, the patient has to be taken to Almora. The 108 Emergency Ambulance Service is a great service and they have benefitted from it. They trust the service and expect the ambulance to reach in 30 minutes. However the patient will need to walk or be carried down to the road which is 500 meters away.

Cold & fever — Health issues like Cold and fever are widespread because of the cold and ever changing weather. This is prevalent in most homes and affects both children and adults. They rely on home remedies or self-medication to cure this.

Breathing Issues/Coughing (Duma) — Old people especially old women have breathing issues (Duma) which should actually not be the case because the air here is so pure. The reason behind this is the cooking they do 3 times a day on a fire. Their eyes water, slowly they go blind, their lungs give up before time. They cook like this 2 times a day, their entire life.

Dysentery — Because of poor drinking water in the summers they suffer with dysentery. For ages they have been having water out of a spring in the mountain, we understand that springs give clean water, but there is bound to be contamination because of increased pollution, improper solid waste disposal etc. They have no filters in their houses.

Tooth Ache — They mentioned that this is another prevalent problem. This is because they all chew gutka and this is bound to happen.

Eyesight — Most of the examples given to us were because of old age, the village has an aging population because the young people leave the village in search of jobs and money. The other examples were because of the smoke from chulha and the fire they light because of the cold weather.

Chicken Pox — This is common amongst children, but this is considered as a part of growing up, it’s common all over the country. It’s definitely low on priority but it would be great if someone in India could put an end to it.

Child Birth — There is no doctor in the village or anyone else who can help with childbirth or to even give an injection to the baby, they have to walk hours to go get the baby vaccinated.

Observations — The clean and pure environment that people of our village live in and their hard-working lifestyle has kept them unaffected by serious ailments. However, the Smoke from the chulha is causing the maximum damage hence its imp to install biogas plants.

Step 14: Wealth and Wellbeing of the Village

About 5 families are doing poorly at this moment and 5 are doing very well, the rest are doing average in terms of wealth and well-being. In this village where there is no real local economy the wellbeing is dependent on external income sources, hence a person with a good job is considered well off because they have inflow of money.

Observations — Very few people are well placed and these are the ones who are either in government service or get pension. Most of the others are living hand to mouth due to lack of income. Self-sufficiency in food has decreased and they now need more money to be able to buy food.

Social Map

The social map of the village helped us to know the population of village, sex-wise demographic pattern, persons in various occupations, information about caste and religion in the village and other human resource related information.

Social Map by Women

An Interesting observation was how women perceive the village because women stay at home, don’t leave the village much, they made the map as how you would view it from one the houses of the village on the top. The ladies involved in making this map also lived in one of the higher houses.

In a lot of cases, the markings about families that are doing poorly match with the wealth map. By combining the wealth, wellbeing, social map by men and women we are able to tell who is the most in need.

Shown below is the social map as made by the women of the village. We have traced the same over the map of the village that we had drawn to detail houses and families that are doing well and those that aren’t.

Social Map by Men

Shown below is the social map as made by the men of the village. Contrast this map made by the men of the village with that made by the women of the village. It shows us the difference in understanding of issues between the men and the women and how differently they view their villages, in terms of structure and problems.

Step 15: Understand Mobility

Mobility of the Men in Ulseti

Men travel out of Ulseti a lot more than women. They need to travel to find income sources. Shown below is the mobility map of men.

Almora — They need to go for Jobs like Labour work, shops in Almora, Government Jobs etc. They are able to walk to Almora every day which saves them the money needed for taking a taxi to Almora, which by road is 22 kilometers. Almora is also their hub for shopping activities. Most people transfer their children to schools in Almora for the senior classes; hence they go to Almora for education. People from Ulseti also go to Almora to visit their relatives and at times to go to the court for law related work.

Jungle — Men go to the Jungle almost every day if they are not working, they bring fodder and fuel from the jungle and they also take care of the jungle. The jungle is adjoining the village.

Control Shop — Men travel to the control shop which is 2 kilometers away, they do this on foot, they get 10 kgs of Ration which they then carry back home. This is done every month. They do not have a grocer in the village and were not keen on one because they want to minimize their need to having money cause its tuff for them to earn. They don’t mind travelling to this shop every month but are afraid of the expenditure increase by having a shop in the village.

Closest Road — The closest road is 500 meters downhill, they walk to this road to catch a cab to the city or to sell milk or take deliveries. It was sad that the people of Ulseti protested to having a road go through because their land was being used and now when the road got constructed it was constructed closer to the next village and the people of Ulseti were at loss.

Lamgarah Block — Ulseti comes under the Lamgarah block, hence people travel to Lamgarah to fill official application forms and sometimes just wander out for leisure.

Poddar — The closest Animal hospital is in Poddar which is a 2 kilometer walk, they take their animals here if there is a health issue and sometimes purchase some items from there.

Haldwani — Haldwani is a comparatively bigger town and men from Ulseti go there for work, in this case they do not do a daily up down. They come home on weekends. They also go to Haldwani to visit their relatives.

Observations — The lack of employment and income in the village is leading men to travel a lot. They are giving up traditional sources of livelihood like farming.

Mobility of the Women in Ulseti

Women travel out of Ulseti way lesser than men. They only travel for shopping, visiting, health and education the frequency is much lesser than men. Because they are the ones doing the household work and are in the village they travel to the Village Forest a lot more than the men.

Almora — Women Travel to Almora for Shopping & visiting their relatives but it is a rare occasion, they also travel for their kid’s education and in case of medical emergencies or treatments. The usual Practice is to walk to Ulseti.

Jungle — Women go to the Jungle every day to fetch fodder and fuel or to take their cattle and goats for grazing. The jungle is adjoining the village.

Control Shop — Women rarely travel to the control shop, but they do. This is usually for shopping for ration.

Closest Road — The closest road is 500 meters downhill, women walk to this road to sell milk or take deliveries.

Lamgarah Block — Women travel to Lamgarah to visit their relatives. Lamgarah is about 10 kilometers away.

Observations — Women don’t go out much and they go to the jungle or till the road down below. The go to nearby towns for visiting their relatives and friends. Any health issue is resolved in Almora and sometimes women rent a room in Almora to send their kids to school there.

Step 16: Understand the Local Economy

For analyzing the economy of our village Ulseti, we have used the economic base technique which is based on the assumption that the local economy can be divided into two very general sectors: a) basic (or non- local) sector and b) non-basic (or local) sector. Basic Sector is made up of local businesses that are entirely dependent upon external factors. For example, if a factory in our village was to build and sell cars to customers located outside the village, their business would be dependent almost entirely upon non-local firms. Since they would not be selling these cars to families or households locally, their business would be dependent upon exporting their goods.

The non-basic sector, in contrast, is composed of those businesses that depend largely upon local business conditions. For example, a local grocery store sells its goods to local households, businesses, and individuals. Its customers are locally based and, therefore, its products are consumed locally.

All local economic activities can be identified as basic or non-basic. The means of strengthening and growing the local economy is to develop and enhance the basic sector. The basic sector is therefore the “engine” of the local economy. The economic base technique is based on a simple causal model that assumes that the basic sector is the prime cause of local economic growth, that it is the economic base of the local economy. The local economy is strongest when it develops those economic sectors that are not closely tied to the local economy. By developing firms that rely primarily on external markets, the local economy can better insulate itself from economic downturns because, it is hoped, these external markets will remain strong even if the local economy experiences problems. In contrast, a local economy wholly dependent upon local factors will have great trouble responding to economic slumps.

The basic and non-basic sectors that currently exist in our village are mentioned below

Basic Sectors

Non-basic Sectors

Dairy (Partly sold in Almora)

Dairy (Partly sold inside the village)

Goat Rearing

Farming of traditional crops

Labour work

The economic exchange of the village with the outside world is very minimal now. There is a clear need for strengthening the basic sectors of economy in this village. Also for strengthening of the basic sector, we would have to find incubate new avenues in the village which can make the economy sustainable.

Step 17: Start building a recommendation bank

Impact of having a Stronger Van Panchayat

Ulseti’s life is largely dependent on its village forest or van panchayat. A stronger van panchayat means protected forest which will result in provision for fodder and fuel and hence time saving. The animals will also be well fed and will in turn give more food or milk which means income. Similarly if we plant fruit trees in the village the animal menace will be controlled, there will hence be more farming and hence more income.

Step 18: Study the Externalities

Trainings Conducted in Village

· Potential for Income Generation by taking trainings in nearby village or for other groups

Self Help Groups

· There will be reduction in exploitation by the money lender

· However, because of contribution to the group, lesser money is available for the family

· This also is leading to reduction in assets of the bank

Strengthening of VSPS

· This would lead to responsible ownership of forest amongst the people of the village

· There is also a recognition that comes with being a member of an organization. Those who are members of the VSPS would feel a sense of responsibility and also pride at being a member of this organisation

Interventions in the Van Panchayat

· Various interventions carried out in the Van Panchayat would lead to reduction in soil erosion

· However, if the forest is too dense then some of the efforts towards water and soil conservation could lead to some of the roots of trees getting affected

Dairy Initiatives

· Providing income generating opportunities to the people would lead to reduction in migration amongst the people of the village

· However, this would also lead to increased dependence on the forest for fodder and water

Initiatives for Drudgery Reduction

· Reduction in drudgery would lead to better health of the people, especially the women of the village who look 5–10 years older than their actual age

· There would also be an opportunity for the people to generation some income in the time saved. They could also use this time for spending time with their family

Income generating Initiatives

· Income generating methods would help in reduction in migration in the village

· There would be increased self-respect amongst the people of the village

· They would be able to spend more time with their families which they now spend on travelling and looking for work

· However, this would also wean them away from agriculture and would increase their dependence for wheat and rice on the local grocer

Step 19: Prioritization of Needs

There is a clear need for improving the standard of living of people in Ulseti. The main reasons for people still staying in the village are as follows.

· Senior citizens who have retired and have returned to their village

· People whose entire families have migrated and one of the brothers has stayed behind to look after the ancestral home and land

· Wives and children of people who are serving outside — Army or other services

· People who do not have the means to go out as the expense of shifting and establishing themselves in a new place is more than they can afford

Despite the education level being very high in Uttarakhand, unemployment is high. The youth in the hills — both men and women — are educated. Primary and secondary education is available in or nearby the village. For higher education, some go to the bigger towns nearby. Those that can’t afford studying privately. But lack of opportunities and dearth of jobs is a setback for most of them and they move to the plains. Most of the youth have moved out of Ulseti village. The daughters too are married and they move out of the hills. The needs of our village are prioritized below.

1) Income generating initiatives

a. Initiatives to increase Dairy Production

b. Cash Crop cultivation

c. Bee Keeping

d. Bamboo cultivation in Van Panchayat

2) Reduction in women drudgery

a. Rain water harvesting techniques

b. Promotion of biogas

c. Fodder plantation in and around farms and in Van Panchayat

3) Improvement in agricultural produce

a. Promotion of cash crops

b. Vermicomposting techniques

c. Polyhouse construction

4) Employment in and around the village to reduce migration

Step 20: Interventions

Some of the key ongoing interventions that are relevant for addressing the problems of our village are:

· Creating and supporting Self Help Groups (SHGs) for undertaking micro enterprises

o Pine briquetting done as a group initiative

o Bee keeping

o Fruit plant cultivation

· Agriculture support

o Promotion of cash crops and vegetables

o Vermicomposting techniques for better quality manure

o Polyhouse construction for better yield

· Income generation for Van Panchayat

o Nursery for producing seedlings of forest tree species

o Developing fodder plots in VP forests for the cattle

· Income from Livestock

o Artificial insemination (AI) for breed improvement of local livestock

o Efficient and better utilisation of fodder by reducing waste through stall feeding

o Loan availability through SHG for buying cattle for increased milk production

· Reducing Women Drudgery

o Water saving mechanisms for rain water harvesting

o Installation of biogas plants

o Growth of fodder grass in farms

· Convergence of other ongoing developmental programmes of government, NGOs and other agencies

Step 21: Budget for Interventions

We had prepared a detailed year wise 5 year budget for the interventions required in the village.

Step 22:Social Cost Benefit Analysis

We also did a social cost benefit analysis for the project, the analysis of which can be seen from the excel file for SCBA for Ulseti. The interventions and their results will result in NPV of Rs. x and IRR of y% over 5 years.


Our stay in Ulseti was a huge life learning experience for us. We gained a lot of knowledge and empathy for the life of the people in villages of Uttarakhand, their customs and hardships. We believe that this is a village which has a potential to become prosperous. People have smiles on their faces despite all the adversities that they face every day of their lives.

The most important thing we learnt is that the people of our village are willing to work towards their betterment. They are only waiting for guidance and direction to come from someone. If we can provide this to them by facilitating their development, it would take very little time for the people to better their conditions.

Grateful for your support: We are grateful to Sarpanch. Narain Singh and his family who welcomed us into their home and treated us like their children. We are also grateful to the field staff of CHEA(Central Himalayan Environment Association), especially Vijay Adhikarii and Kanhaiya Upadhyay for their cooperation throughout our village study.

Some memories from my time there

Morning Meetings



Kirti Poonia

I lead a sustainable fashion brand and feel the need to support the industry and it’s entrepreneurs with powerful insights and information.