Dry Land Development Programme

What is the DLDP?

ADATS implements a DLDP from the 3rd or 4th year of Coolie Sangha building. Labour capital is made available for each CSU to collectively work on their patches of dry land for 100 days every year. These person-days are divided according to land holding and the condition of each patch of land. The entire CSU then descends on each holding to do various labour intensive works from March to June every year.

They split themselves into work gangs and descended on each person's holding to do labour intensive works. One person from each Member family go to work. Each land owner decide on the actual S&WC work needed on her or his land. ADATS Staff give technical advice and monitor the actual works. After that, Accounts Staff pay DLDP wages to the actual persons who work on the lands - i.e. the land owner does not receive any direct monetary benefit.

Soil & Water Conservation Works

For the first 3-4 years, land is cleared of pebbles and boulders, and Soil & Water Conservation Works like stone contour bunding, ravine and gully check, diversion channels, etc. are taken up. Trees are planted on the bunds, and shrubs and grasses are allowed to grow on them.

These S&WC Works are once again implemented, after a gap of 2-3 years, in order to tackle the new contours of erosion that would, in the meantime, have chequered the terrain.

In this manner, over a period of about 8 years, all the Coolie lands are cleared, levelled and bunded. Rain water is retained for a moment, moisture in the soil is increased, and soil erosion prevented. This makes the holdings cultivable, and yields as well as holdings dramatically increase.


The DLDP was started in 1986. Over the past 22 years (not every village implemented DLDP works every single year), Rs 7,75,45,485 worth of Soil & Water Conservation Works have been carried out on a total of 60,148 acres of Coolie owned lands.

Work Done
13,659 acres23%1 Year Work DoneRs 61,46,582
16,360 acres27%2 Years Work DoneRs 1,47,23,960
1,27,46 acres21%3 Years Work DoneRs 1,72,07,451
7,683 acres13%4 Years Work DoneRs 1,38,29,706
4,790 acres8%5 Years Work DoneRs 1,07,77,208
2,651 acres4%6 Years Work DoneRs 71,57,754
1,355 acres2%7 Years Work DoneRs 42,68,313
598 acres1%8 Years Work DoneRs 21,52,404
216 acres-9 Years Work DoneRs 8,73,990
80 acres-10 Years Work DoneRs 3,61,935
9 acres-11 Years Work DoneRs 46,184
60,148 acres 100% Rs 7,75,45,485

Land Surveys

The established practice in Coolie Sangha building is that as soon as a Coolie family joins the village CSU, all their landholdings are immediately surveyed and entered into the database. This data includes the extent in acres, title in whose name the land stands, source of irrigation, gradient, quality of contour bunds, number of years of S&WC works already carried out on the holding, and an estimate of the number of years of further work needed.

As and when DLDP works are implemented on particular holdings, the number of years of work done is increased by 1, and the number of years needed correspondingly reduced. Once every few years, when the crops are on the fields, the reworked data is taken to the village where all the Members together visit each field to verify that the information is correct.

ADATS and the Coolie Sangha need to implement an additional Rs 2,26,48,135 worth of S&WC works on 34,407 acres of Coolie owned lands over the next 5 years.

16,935 acres (i.e. 49% of Coolie owned lands) are completely cleared of shrubs and boulders, contour bunded and levelled, and another 4,316 acres (13%) need just 1 more year of labour investment. Therefore, 62% of Coolie holdings have come on par with those owned by middle peasant farmers in terms of yield as well as value.

S&WC Works Needed
16,935 acres 49%No Works Needed
4,316 acres13%1 Year Work NeededRs 21,58,125
5,004 acres15%2 Years Work NeededRs 56,46,300
3,764 acres11%3 Years Work NeededRs 56,46,300
2,255 acres7%4 Years Work NeededRs 45,10,660
2,132 acres6%5 Years Work NeededRs 45,10,660
34,407 acres Rs 2,26,48,135

Actual Works Done

The DLDP is a pluralistic programme comprising a whole range of indigenously conceived Soil & Water Conservation (S&WC) measures. Each individual land owner decides on the type of labour input needed on each separate field. One cannot visit just a couple of villages and claim to have seen it all. The variance and variety never fail to invite awe and surprise. They are invariably huger than what we normally visualise human labour as capable of. The collective output of the labour of 20-25 determined persons in a work gang is never a simple arithmetic of their individual muscle power. They literally move mountains, magically converting marginal lands into productive fields.

Under such circumstances it is difficult to describe DLDP works even under the 13 broad categories that we give below.

Description 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total unit
New Stone Contour Bunds196,853327,550235,969250,1431,010,515mtr
Strengthen Existing Bunds19,95226,85034,89438,478120,174mtr
Ravine & Gully Check2341,3234354102,402
Clear Shrubs & Boulders2,0322,9483,7432,05310,775ac
Field Bunds32,75068,77351,70327,538180,764mtr
Retention Walls (Kanji)17,23634,95838,80538,775129,774mtr
Diversion Channels24,78413,12210,87913,51262,297mtr
Cattle Walls1,2915,2689,2547,82223,635mtr
Deepen Open Wells13473129120
Farm Ponds1710361275
Pit for trees--48488ac
Paths & Roads5485202808492,197mtr
Wasted Works-2112437ac

Allied Activities

The DLDP also includes Silt Hauling onto Coolie lands from the beds of irrigation tanks, Compost Making, Seed Treatment, Planting Trees, promoting Kitchen Gardens, training women masons to build Smokeless Chullas (fuel efficient wood stoves), assisting sweeper women to set up Vermicompost Units to make manure from earthworms, and a host of other activities.


The initial objective of the DLDP is to enable agricultural labourers to cultivate their scattered patches and become Subsistence Farmers.

The further objective is to shift from subsistence to Sustainable Land Use Practices.

Besides developing agriculture, the DLDP has had an important socio-political impact as well. It has brought land based exploitation to the forefront and settled many disputes between the Coolies and Ryots, it has enhanced a functional unity and destroyed caste feelings within the CSUs, it has raised peasant wages in the region, and ensured equal wages for women and men.

Nature of the DLDP

Ajit Mani of Intervention (India) Pvt. Ltd. facilitated a Participatory Impact Assessment of the DLDP in September 2003. This is what he had to say on the link between the Dry Land Development Programme and other Coolie Sangha building efforts:

“The DLDP is a livelihood programme that offers fair odds to Coolies to acquire self-respect and dignity in terms of their own self-concept and worldview. The DLDP is an organ of the Coolie Sangha, which provides an identity and mantle of security to individual Coolies, particularly women.

“In a dramatic turn, the Coolies’ subsistence agriculture, which was a struggle against oppressive feudal control, has now become a struggle against unpredictable weather conditions. The analysis of rainfall in Chintamani has highlighted the uncertainty faced by Coolies, and suggested that DLDP is less about managing agriculture and more about managing risk. This is the reason why Food Security assumes such importance as the Goal of the DLDP.

“It is also an organization-building programme, which relies on “Functional Unity” and mutual support to provide sustainable mechanisms and institutions required for self-governance.

“The DLDP, of course was powered not only by the programme funding, but also the discipline and organizational support of the Coolie Sangha.

“The Coolie Sangha has been able to rally its members around the twin phenomena of individual benefits (creation of income generating assets, self-respect, and freedom from the clutches of feudal overlords) and collective benefits (provision of labour to work on each others’ plots, group identity and pride; and economic and political power.)”

ADATS involved in Withdrawn CSUs

ADATS paid Agriculturists and DLDP Field Workers work full time in this programme. Since the DLDP is taken up only towards the end of the Coolie Sangha Formalisation phase (i.e. 4-5 years after starting Coolie Sangha building operations in a village), many of these activities are implemented in the independent CSUs, after the formal withdrawal of ADATS.