Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Photovoice speaking up on water issues in India

Water is a key issue in Rajasthan and Gujarat states in India. As part of ACIAR research on groundwater management in these states, we have explored villagers’ relationships with groundwater, agriculture and livelihood through photography.
Children drinking water at school  (Photo: M. Chew)
Michael Chew, a postgraduate student from the University of Western Sydney, used an approach called 'Photovoice'. This involved teaching local villagers to take photos around their villages and farms, so they could capture images that demonstrated their current views and future hopes for water access.

The photos were then analysed in subsequent workshops, with villagers selecting their favourites and providing captions to explain them. Michael ran photography workshops in three villages and two schools in the Dharta Watershed in Udaipur district, Rajasthan, during September this year.
Villagers from Hinta in Udaipur district with their photos (Photo: M. Chew)
Most villagers had never touched a camera before, but with training they all ended up taking some very interesting photos. About 25 villagers and 40 students participated in the study, creating images with captions that helped them promote the vital issue of water to the wider community and policy makers. Michael also helped build capacity in the local ACIAR project team, enabling them to use the photography technique for their future research associated with water and sustainability challenges.
A final photo from the Photovoice study (provided by M. Chew)

The plan is to now develop a ‘Photovoice book’ depicting how local people see their water issues, how those issues are impacting on their agriculture and livelihoods, and what they see are the options for improving the situation to secure future water supplies. We are planning to produce two versions of this book – one for villagers and the other one for policy makers.

 The book will help provide a common understanding of the groundwater situation in this part of India, and options for improvement. It should be a useful tool for effective dialogue with policy makers.

By Prof. Basant Maheshwari
University of Western Sydney

More information:
Michael Chew's blog and photos

ACIAR project LWR/2010/015 Improved village scale groundwater recharge and management for agriculture and livelihood development in India is being led by the University of Western Sydney. Collaborating institutions include:

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