In Gujarat, where dairy farming is one of the major enterprises, the demand for fodder is increasing day by day. This has put pressure on marginal lands and warrants putting these waste lands into productive use for sustained and regular supply of fodder. These non-arable lands in general, and ravine wastelands in particular, have potential to supply the much needed fuel and fodder. Therefore, degraded ravine land must be put to productive use to obtain economic returns while protecting the environment.
An indigenous technology for enhancing productivity of ravines has been evolved at Dehradun based Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute (CSWCR&TI) Research Centre located at Vasad in Anand district, Gujarat, which has been adopted by various developmental organizations.
The centre has successfully developed a Bamboo and Anjan Grass based silvipasture system for enhancing productivity of ravines. Ravine lands, under unproductive use can be successfully reclaimed by planting Bamboo, a fast growing plant species, on the gully beds and Anjan grass on the side slopes and the interspaces of gully bed for economic utilization of gullied land. This technology gives high returns and also checks water erosion, thereby preventing soil loss from ravines. Further, reclamation of ravine lands not only provides livelihood support but also helps natural resource conservation and carbon sequestration in the long run.
Organizations including Anand-based Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Gujarat State Watershed Management Agency (GSWMA), Gujarat State Land Development Corporation (GSLDC), Forest, and Agricultural departments and other users agencies have taken up this technology for stabilizing the degraded ravine lands and improving livelihood of primary stake holders through reclamation and productive utilization of ravine lands. All the agencies put together, have utilized this technology for reclamation of nearly 1000 hectare of community and waste lands in Mahi river stretch in Gujarat.
The cost of planting bamboo and sowing grass slips in ravine works out to be about Ra. 22000/- per hectare. During the initial years, green fodder of anjan grass can be harvested from the degraded ravines every year. Planting of grass also protects the ravine slopes and reduces soil loss and about 7.1 t/ha/year of green fodder can be obtained from the stabilized slopes. The grass yield from inter spaces of bamboo planted on bed portion is about 10 t/ha/year during initial 5 years. The grasses fetched an income of Rs. 3000 to 6000/- per ha over the period of 5 years at Vasad.
About 300 clumps of bamboo with 3000-4000 old and 1000 to 1500 new culms are available in one hectare bamboo plantation of over seven years old. About 30 per cent of old culms can be harvested easily per year. The bamboo planted on the ravine bed can fetch Rs. 6000 to Rs. 27000/ha/year (2008 prices).
The watershed with this silvipasture system absorbs more than 80% of rainfall that is either utilized by the plant or percolated deep, to recharge the ground water. Due to less runoff, soil loss is reduced to less than one tonne per hectare per year only from about 20 tonne per hectare per year from degraded ravines prior to plantation.
A ravine is a landform narrower than a canyon and is often the product of stream cutting erosion. About 3.67 million hectare constituting 1.12% of total geographical area in the country is under ravine lands. In Gujarat, ravines occupy an area of 0.4 million hectare and extends from the south bank of the Tapti, Narmada, Watrak, Sabarmati and Mahi river basins. The productive utilization of these ravine lands for fodder production and commercial cultivation of bamboo will not only meet the fodder needs but also provide a supplementary source of regular income to the farmers.
(Source: NAIP- Mass Media Project, DKMA with inputs from RC, CS&WCR&T, Vasad and DMAPR, Anand)