Shashwat an NGO based in Ambegaon in Pune district in the Indian State of Maharashtra, has been chosen for the ‘Equator Prize 2012,’ of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), for its work on local development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

The NGO will receive the US$ 5,000 award to be presented in the 2012 United Nations conference on sustainable development in Brazil, to be held on June 20 to 22. The Equator Prize is awarded to recognise outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through conservation of biodiversity.

Kusum Karnik and Anand Kapoor from Shashwat have been working with tribals in the catchment area of the Dimbhe dam, which submerged eleven villages and destroyed cropland in another 13 since 1981. The NGO was registered in 1996.

Kapoor told TOI that the organisation helps the local community to develop small-scale fishing activities in the dam reservoir and the locals are supported to obtain fishing leases, boats and nets. “The locals have banned dynamite fishing to ensure fish stocks are replenished. Dynamite fishing is a practice of using explosives to kill fish for easy collection. The banning of this practice has helped increase the fish size and number, thereby enhancing their income too,” he said.

The technical guidance is given by the Central Institute of Fisheries Education and state government’s fisheries department while the National Fisheries Development Board have supported the initiative.

The NGO has provided 165 farmers with light-weight pumps and pipelines for crop irrigation with partnership from the local government. This has led to improvement in agricultural production. The tribal farmers have been supported to cultivate small paddy terraces on steep slopes in the local catchment area.

Kapoor said, “Initially, when we started work here there was no approach road. There were just 25-30 people who were into fishing and caught fish in their small nets. We organised the fishing community and now there is a good stock of fish. Land development on steep slopes has also been taken up in 38 villages.”

The organisation also runs nine pre-primary centres, a residential primary school for school dropouts and runs a health programme that serves women and children.

2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.