The Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University Gadag are set to bestow honors upon two outstanding individuals at its upcoming third convocation on March 10, the first honoree is Shivaji Kagnikar, a renowned water conservationist from Belagavi. Kagnikar has dedicated his life to improving the lives of rural people by starting night schools and raising awareness about education and water conservation. He has also built numerous lakes to help conserve water in his community.
The second honoree is A.P. Chandrasekhar, an organic farmer from Mysore who will be awarded an honorary doctorate. Chandrasekhar is a well-known figure in the organic farming community and has made significant contributions to sustainable agriculture in Karnataka.
Shivaji Kagnikar, who hails from Kattanbhavi, is the founder of Jana Jagrana, an organization that has been instrumental in starting night schools in remote areas and raising awareness about education and water conservation among rural communities. Kagnikar has received numerous awards for his work, including the Rajotsava 2019 award, the D. Devaraj Urs Award for 2018, and the AAB’s Belgaumite of the Year Lifetime Achievement award in 2013.
The Karnataka State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University Gadag are proud to honor these two exceptional individuals for their outstanding contributions to their communities and to the state of Karnataka. Their dedication to education, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture serves as an inspiration to us all.
About Shivaji Kagnikar:
Meet Shivaji Kagnikar, a man who embodies the values of a shepherd, a Gandhian, a highly sensitive educator, and a justice seeker. His passion for spreading literacy and empowering the citizens of Kattanbhavi village in Belagavi to live sustainably has made him a true hero in his community.
During his school days, Kagnikar was inspired by Sane Guruji, a great thinker and promoter of literacy. He knew that he too would have to take this route at some point in his life. When he returned to his village, he saw that the well would go dry mid-summer, and people had to ration their water. With little agricultural activity and no employment, many were forced to rely on money lenders, and some even turned to alcohol.
Determined to make a difference, Shivaji took it upon himself to educate the villagers about the importance of sustainable living. He taught them how to conserve water, grow their own food, and live in harmony with nature. He also helped them set up small businesses, such as beekeeping and handicrafts, to generate income.
Despite his many accomplishments, Shivaji remains humble and dedicated to his cause. He can still be seen in his Khadi half pant and shirt, riding his bicycle through the village, spreading knowledge and hope wherever he goes.
From the very beginning of his life, he faced discrimination due to his lower caste. Despite this, he remained committed to the Gandhian principles of frugal living and simplicity. During his school days, he was inspired by Sane Guruji, a great thinker and promoter of literacy, and decided to follow in his footsteps.
For the past thirty years, he has shown unwavering commitment and tenacity in improving the lives of the villages around Kattanbhavi. Thanks to his efforts, these villages are now self-reliant in terms of water and other resources.
Before his intervention, the village well would go dry mid-summer, and people had to ration their water usage. They would even climb into the well using ladders and fill water by hand. With little agricultural activity and no employment opportunities, many were forced to rely on money lenders and became addicted to liquor. Some even worked as bonded laborers to clear their loans.
Shivaji Kagnikar, along with Ram Apte and Sadashivrao Bhosle, took the initiative to hold meetings and explain to the villagers how water shed management could help them overcome these challenges. They emphasized the importance of water management and how it could help the villagers achieve their dreams.
Through his dedication and hard work, Shivaji Kagnikar has transformed the lives of many in the villages around Kattanbhavi.
Jana Jagran, an NGO that supported Anna Hazare, took a group of villagers to Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmad Nagar. The village was facing similar challenges to Kattanbhavi, and the idea was that if a model worked in Ralegan Siddhi, it could work in Kattanbhavi too. The NGO provided financial support for a massive plantation on government land, and trenches were dug alongside the village using indigenous methods known as Continuous Contour Trenches. Over 100,000 trees were planted in the trenches, and a committee was formed to ensure their survival.
As the trees grew, the village’s only well began to recover water, and the groundwater level increased dramatically. A pond near the well now provides water for livestock year-round. The growth of trees also attracted many species of birds, wild boars, and peacocks, making it their home. With good grazing grounds and agricultural activity due to the availability of water, the village was able to break free from the grip of money lenders. Cooperative societies working in the milk sector have also started operations there, with each family owning cattle and their own Gobar gas plant. Milk collection has increased from 30 liters a day to over 1400 liters a day.
Kattanbhavi, which was once plagued by illiteracy, now has an Anganwadi and primary school up to 7th standard, as well as a night school. Inspired by this success, Shivaji Kagnikar began working on similar lines to upgrade the village of Ningenhatti. Three lakes were dug, and over 100,000 saplings were planted. Nigenhatti, which was once barren, is now full of trees bearing various fruits, and agricultural activity has grown tremendously.
Shivaji Kagnikar’s simple yet effective practices have changed the fate of these villages. He continues to spread his message to the younger generation, emphasizing the importance of environmental conservation
Shivaji Kagnikar is a true inspiration, a shining example of what one person can achieve when they have the courage and determination to make a difference in the world.