April 2017

Rainwater harvesting revives dry fields in Yavatmal

Farmer incomes in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra have doubled with the construction of rainwater harvesting structures that prevent soil and water run-off and provide protective irrigation during dry spells

Rainwater accumulated in Ramesh Damaji Gedam's check dam in Warud village in Yavatmal will now provide protective irrigation for his crops
Ramesh Damaji Gedam is a farmer in Warud village in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. Over 93% of the undulating farm land in Yavatmal is rain-fed and dependent on monsoon rains for kharif cultivation. Erratic rains, crop failure and severe soil erosion due to intense rainfall during short rainy days were recurrent problems that threatened the survival of marginal farmers such as Ramesh. Over the last three years, the unpredictable rainfall caused much loss to farmers.

Life changed for Ramesh and his family of four after his income doubled due to a rainwater harvesting programme initiated by a local NGO Chetana Samaj Seva Mandal (CSSM), with support from Tata Trusts. It was part of a soil and water conservation project in Warud village under the Trusts’ Sukhi Baliraja Initiative.

After the success of the initial phase of work done through the partner NGO, during direct implementation in 2016-17, Tata Trusts worked on stream widening and deepening, farm bunding, and construction of low-cost check dams and recharge pits. A 1.5km stretch of a stream was widened and deepened in Warud, covering 32 small and marginal farmer beneficiaries.

 The soil dug out from the pits and streams was used for bunding farm land to prevent soil and water run-off from the fields during the monsoons. The streams, check dams and recharge pits collected rainwater during the monsoon. The collected water recharged surrounding wells, so that they held water for a longer period of time. The water was used to provide protective irrigation during water-stress periods. Micro irrigation systems such as sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and solar water pumps minimised the excess usage of water.

The project covers 80 hectares of farming land in Warud, which includes the 4 acres of land owned by Ramesh. He cultivates cotton in kharif season with pigeon pea as an intercrop. His family of four is dependent on income from the farm. Ramesh harvested 12-13 quintal of cotton and 2-3 quintal of pigeon pea, which amounted to an income of Rs.62,000 from both crops.

With support from Tata Trusts, a stream near Ramesh’s farm was deepened and a low-cost check dam constructed. Ramesh contributed 20 percent of the cost for a sprinkler set, an engine oil pump and stream earth removal work as community contribution. During the monsoon, the dam helped to harvest rainwater. Ramesh was able to provide protective irrigation to his cotton and pigeon pea crop during the dry spells and critical growth stages with the sprinker. It resulted in an increase in cotton yield from 12-13 to 26 quintal, and an increase in pigeon pea yield from 2-3 to 5 quintal. Ramesh’s income more than doubled to Rs.152,000 from Rs.62,000.

The increase in income has prompted Ramesh to invest in his children’s education and their better future. He has developed a small piece of his land for vegetable cultivation and repaired his mud house. Sukhi Baliraja Initiative’s soil and water conservation project has brought back the smile onto Ramesh’s face and hope into his life, and the lives of many more farmers in Yavatmal district.