This issue of SEEDS describes an innovative approach to rehabilitation of wastelands developed by Social Action for Rural and Tribal Inhabitants of India (SARTHI), a nongovernmental organization based in the Panchmahals District of Gujarat State in Western India. By assisting rural women to organize themselves around the rehabilitation of patches of degraded common land, SARTHI has been able to help them not only meet their needs for biomass in a more efficient and ecologically sound manner, but also to empower them to start asserting themselves in dealing with a broader range of problems. As primary gatherers and users of biomass, women are in the best position to implement wasteland development activities, since they possess both the knowledge and motivation to successfully carry out such programs. However, as women in a male-dominated society, they require assistance in overcoming a range of obstacles that have traditionally hindered them from working together, taking action, and asserting their influence within the community. This report highlights SARTHI's experience of organizing women around the development of wastelands and outlines important lessons learned in terms of both the management of natural resources and the empowerment of women.
Sarin, Madhu. 1993. "Wasteland development and the empowerment of women: The SARTHI experience," SEEDS no. 16. New York: Population Council.