Water Harvesting Technology brings Farmers out of Poverty

Water is most crucial resource for sustainable agricultural production in the dry land/rain fed areas. However the major part of the rain water coming over the farmers field in these areas goes away unused as runoff. The runoff does not only cause loss of water but it also washes away precious top soil. Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad has standardized location specific water harvesting technologies in the form of Farm Ponds to address this problem and the institute is actively up-scaling this technology countrywide. The farm ponds are constructed at the lower side of the fields. The runoff from the contributing fields is chanalized into the pond. In light soil, the dugout ponds are lined to improve the storage efficiency by containing the seepage.

CRIDA has been promoting Farm Pond Technology in the rainfed areas in the country as a drought proofing measure. This technology was taken to the farmers’ field by CRIDA team in Sithagonthi village of Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh under NAIP project on Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Security in the year 2008.  This area receives an average of 1050 mm rainfall annually and has good potential for run-off harvesting. Considering the slopes of the fields, an appropriate location was identified for a dug out pond (17m x 17 m x 4.5 m) involving a group of farmers as stakeholders. Initially there was very strong opposition from the farmers (Mr. Namdev and his brothers) for loosing a part of their land for digging the pond. By highlighting the benefits of the proposed intervention, the farmers were persuaded and agreed to get the Farm Pond dug in their land.

Soon after the farm pond was dug (July, 2008), there were good rains leading to complete filling.  The rainwater filled to the brim of the pond got the farmers enthused.  They hired diesel engine to irrigate half acre area where they grew tomatoes.  Looking at the water level the staff of KVK, Adilabad facilitated the release of 2000 fingerlings in the pond.  By the time tomatoes came to harvest, the prices in the market had touched close to Rs.25/kg.  Mr.Namdev hired local vehicle and went to the market himself to sell tomatoes. He made a good profit of over Rs.20,000/- through four good harvests of tomato.  By mid November 2008, there was water still to a depth of two meters.  This encouraged the farmers to sow chickpea on one acre land.  Half of the well grown fishlings were sold for Rs.30,000/-. As a result the amount spent in digging the pond was recovered within the first year with chickpea crop still to be harvested. Earlier Mr.Namdeo was hiding from the money-lenders and not concentrating on farming. Through enhanced farm income Namdev could clear all his debts and that restored his self confidence and dignity. He has also started sending his children to the school. Now he is considered as a successful farmer in the area and many farmers from the neighbouring villages are coming to see his farm module. This has raised enthusiasm of the farmers of this area and the generally reluctant tribal farmers have come forward to get farm ponds dug on their lands in convergence with the ongoing NREGS.  Overwhelmed by this response, the NAIP project has facilitated inclusion of digging work in the NREGS shelf of works. Consequently the district authorities of Adilabad had visited this successful farm module and have allocated an amount of Rs.20.00 lakhs for up scaling this intervention. In the current year (2009) also the Farm Pond of Mr. Namdeo is filled and is being used for providing life saving irrigation to kharif crops. This successful case has demonstrated the value and usefulness of Farm Pond technology for sustainability of rainfed farming systems and importance of convergence of R & D institutions. The above success story of use of technological intervention may be well replicated with CRIDA’s technical support in other rainfed areas of the country.

(Source: Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture Santoshnagar, Hyderabad)