Adjusting a sprinkler, India. Photo: Alexis Liu, IWMI
Irrigation for the nation
How one Indian state is leading the way on farm water supply
India’s farmers have often struggled to secure reliable water supplies. For much of the country, rainfall is concentrated during the monsoon, leaving the rest of the year dry. If the monsoon fails, destitution can threaten many millions. The country’s media regularly highlights the tragic numbers of farmer suicides as a graphic illustration of just how precarious agriculture can be.
So the Indian Prime Minister’s recent promise of “har khet ko pani” (water to every farm) must have been welcomed by many. But just how realistic is this? Can publicly funded irrigation policy really give every smallholder a guaranteed supply of water?
“Spending billions of rupees on grand irrigation projects is risky,” says IWMI’s Tushaar Shah, one of the report’s authors. “But some states have managed to invest effectively in irrigation improvements, and it is important that those lessons are shared.”
Power to the farmers
Firstly a distinction needs to be made between large public canal irrigation, and smaller on-farm investments such as tube wells and pump sets. Farmers want as much control over their water supply as possible, which generally makes wells and ponds preferable to big canal schemes, which have often been poorly managed. The downside is that on-farm irrigation usually requires power to run water pumps – a commodity that can be in short supply in India’s chaotic electricity supply network.
According to experts, Indian agriculture employs 60 per cent of the population but its contribution to GDP is a mere 14 per cent. In coming years, only an estimated 40 per cent people will remain in agriculture owing to crises in the field and diminishing income, said Kulwant Singh Ahluwalia, a member of the PAU board of management, himself an agriculture expert and progressive farmer, at a Kisan Mela held recently. Around 61 per cent of farmers who participated in a survey said they would readily quit farming should they get alternative jobs in urban areas. Farming, according to them, has become a problem of high production cost and low income — with very little promise of change.
In this scenario, the role of progressive farmers such as Harinder becomes crucial. Their success not only defies the prevalent beliefs but also proves that supplementing traditional agricultural practices with auxiliary or subsidiary occupations is sustainable and yields higher returns.
The Punjab government and PAU are stressing this and have made “subsidiary occupations” the theme of Kisan Melas. Subsidiary occupations involve dairy farming, fishery, beekeeping, custom hiring on farm implements and piggery among others, and training programmes for these are conducted through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) throughout the state.
Rajasthan government plans organic farming, aims to tackle malnutrition
The ambitious plan, starting this year, will bring 50 hectares of agricultural land in each block of the state under organic pulses farming.
The state government has decided to tackle malnutrition with the help of vegetarian sources of protein using good old traditional organic farming.
The government plans to divert several thousand hectares of land for farming of organic varieties of pulses in order to tackle the twin issues of protein malnutrition and unsustainable chemical fertilizer-based farming.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly emphasized promoting traditional and organic farming. The issue found mention in the Union as well as the state budget,” agriculture minister Prabhu Lal Saini told The Indian Express.
“The whole world is realizing the importance of sustainable agriculture that is in tune with nature. It is time we put in place mechanisms and infrastructure for promoting sustainable organic agriculture,” Saini said.
The ambitious plan, starting this year, will bring 50 hectares of agricultural land in each block of the state under organic pulses farming. The government will provide a subsidy of Rs 20,000 per hectare to promote organic farming. The produce will be certified organic and in five years, all agricultural markets (krishi mandis) would be required to sell at least one organic product.
Women farmers group from Rampuravas village of Jaipur district at the planning meeting. Photo: ICRISAT
Women encouraged to take up pigeonpea cultivation
In a region where pigeonpea had completely disappeared, farmers, especially women, are being encouraged to again grow pigeonpea for enhanced incomes and improving soil fertility.
In Jagmalpura and Rampuravas villages of Rajasthan, India, farmers have been convinced to grow early-duration pigeonpea varieties on 200 ha. At a training-cum-planning workshop, Dr Anupama Hingane, Special Project Scientist, Pigeonpea Breeding, ICRISAT, gave detailed information about benefits of pigeonpea crop, and requested men to support their wives and daughters to actively participate not only in farm activities but also in post-harvest processing and marketing of pigeonpea. She also encouraged women groups to participate in initiatives like mini dal mills, making baskets from pigeonpea stalks, post-harvest processing and making products like pakodas(fritters) from pigeonpea flour.
A group of 50 young women from Rampuravas led by village head Ms Ghyani Devi, expressed their willingness to take up pigeonpea cultivation and seed production on their farms. Dr Hingane shared the success story of Padasoli village where women farmers participate in activities like dalprocessing and other post-harvest processing activities.
Earlier this region used to produce pigeonpea, but local varieties were susceptible to diseases and took 160 days to mature. As a result farmers could not prepare the land in time for rabi (post-rainy) sowing. Another problem was availability of quality seed. Over time pigeonpea cultivation vanished from these regions.
Drought is a serious issue in the western Indian state of Gujarat, particularly for underprivileged female farmers. Limited and unpredictable rainfall, exacerbated by climate change, leads to water logging during peak cropping season. For the rest of the year, farmers experience severe water scarcity. But thanks to a life-changing technology, poor farmers are now converting crises into opportunities.
Bhungroo is a water management system helps farmers adapt to this increasingly limited and unpredictable rainfall. Bhungaroo injects and stores excess rainfall underground and lifts it out for use in dry spells. Adoption of this technology has decreased salt deposits on soil and increased fresh water supply, saving farmers from drought.
Bhungaroo was a Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity winner in 2014.
New community seedbank to empower indigenous farmers in southern foothills of Himalayas
The southern foothills of the Himalayas are rich in agricultural biodiversity and home to the Tharu community.The Tharu are indigenous farmers who for hundreds of years have been selecting, using and safeguarding the genetic diversity of many important crops, such as rice, legumes and maize.
A new community seedbank is set to help them continue to safeguard their traditional varieties and associated knowledge for future generations in the face of threats, such as climate change, which are placing them at risk.
450 years ago, the Tharu established a community of 54 villages at Imlia Koder, close to the border of Nepal, when they first moved from Rajasthan. They live their life according to the doctrine of the historic ruler Maharana Pratap, from whom many of the community members believe they are directly descended. Part of this doctrine is to have a great respect for the soil to which they do not add any artificial inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.
The Tharu largely depend on what they grow for food, selling only a small quantity of crops at the local market. This means their food basket is diverse, covering different seasons and nutritional needs. Typical food crops on which they depend, include rice, mustard, lentils, chick peas, pigeon peas, wheat, maize, oilseed crops, garlic, onions and traditional vegetables, including a very small potato called aloo. This starchy potato is an important ingredient in many traditional dishes, such as aloo-Gobhi, a curry made with cauliflower.
Greening Mumbai: Bringing Agriculture to the Rooftops of India’s Largest City
Mumbai, India ranks among the largest cities in the world, with a total metropolitan population of 21 million people. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Mumbai does not have much room to spare for agriculture. Undeterred by this challenge, Mumbai-based organization Fresh & Local is growing food on the flat rooftops of city buildings to provide fresh produce to the city’s residents.
Fresh & Local was established in 2010 by Adrienne Thadani, an organic food advocate and activist. The vision that drives the project is “an urban India where city residents have the resources and knowledge to use urban farming to transform the spaces around them.” According to Fresh & Local, urban gardens address many aspects of wellbeing in the city by “empowering city residents with the ability to grow their own food and medicine, creating active outdoor urban places, greening the city, improving air and water quality, increasing urban biodiversity and building community.”
With this vision in mind, in 2010, Thadani and her partners created their first rooftop garden atop a middle-income apartment building which produces food for residents while creating a green space where they socialize and work together. Since then, Fresh & Local has expanded to work with more than 2,000 individuals in Mumbai, Alibaug, Jaipur, and North Goa.
Women from the Gunduribadi tribal village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha patrol their forests with sticks to prevent illegal logging. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS
Watch What Happens When Tribal Women Manage India’s Forests
“No one can cheat us of even one metre of our mother, the forest. She has given us life and we have given our lives for her.” — Kama Pradhan, a tribal woman from the Gunduribadi village
Unfolding out of sight and out of mind of India’s policy-making nucleus in the capital, New Delhi, this quiet drama – involving the 275 million people who reside in or on the fringes of the country’s bountiful forests – could be the defining struggle of the century.
At the forefront of the movement are tribal communities in states like Odisha who are determined to make full use of a2012 amendment to India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA) to claim titles to their land, on which they can carve out a simple life, and a sustainable future for their children.
One of the most empowering provisions of the amended FRA gave forest dwellers and tribal communities the right to own, manage and sell non-timber forest products (NTFP), which some 100 million landless people in India depend on for income, medicine and housing.
Women have emerged as the natural leaders of efforts to implement these legal amendments, as they have traditionally managed forestlands, sustainably sourcing food, fuel and fodder for the landless poor, as well as gathering farm-fencing materials, medicinal plants and wood to build their thatched-roof homes.
Under the leadership of women like Pradhan, 850 villages in the Nayagarh district of Odisha state are collectively managing 100,000 hectares of forest land, with the result that 53 percent of the district’s land mass now has forest cover.
[NEW DELHI] India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan along with China account for nearly half of the world’s total groundwater use and these regions are expected to experience serious deficits, says the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR 2015), Water for a Sustainable World 2015 released ahead of World Water Day on 22 March.
WWDR 2015 explains the complex relationship between access to water and economic development using India as an example. Between 1960 and 2000 India’s mechanised tube wells increased from one million to 19 million.
India has 26 million groundwater structures; Bangladesh and Pakistan each have around 5 million.
Ooranie pond restoration in India, Puliyamarathuarasadi
Fish culture in baby ponds
SCAD’s Newsletter – Vol. 2 – March 2015
Ooranie (Tamil word) = traditional drinking water pond in Tamil Nadu (India)
Fish culture is a profitable venture and in order to uplift the economic status of the rural people of Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts, SCAD advised the villagers to engage themselves in fish culture, especially in their ooranies.
During the rainy season, SCAD had stocked fish fingerlings in ooranies (which are highly expected to attain one kilogram after 7 to 8 months since the date of stock in the ooranie). In 2014, the number of fingerlings that had been stocked in 15 baby ponds was 55,000. The baby ponds have been dug out with a width and length of 50 feet and depth of 5 feet. SCAD supplied fingerlings to the water committee after which the committee initiated to bring the same to the baby ponds. These villages have efficient water committees who actively engage in deepening work and who are capable of maintaining the baby ponds for the future benefits of the community.
Long-term impact & Sustainability:
The ooranies in which the baby ponds are dug out can store water for 10 months of the year. The income generated from fish cultivation, is deposited in the committee’s name and is used for ongoing maintenance of the baby ponds and ooranies. Due to the increased water capacity the villagers will be able to cultivate fish for longer periods and get a better price.
Kitchen gardens or home gardens have the potential to improve household food security besides serving effectively to alleviate the micro nutrient deficiencies, quite a common phenomenon in rural areas. Raising different vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants on available land in and around the house premises is the easiest way to ensure access to healthy, fresh and poison-free food. This is especially important in rural areas where people have limited income-earning opportunities and the economically poor have less or no access to healthy food markets.
Mal nourishment and nutrition deficiency disorders are common among rural women and children. In order to improve nutrition and enhance household food security, SCAD initiated kitchen garden promotion in a striking manner. This programme encouraged home gardening to provide both food and income besides nutrition education for the families of malnourished children. The kitchen gardens were established with a simple and low-cost approach of providing 8-10 different types of vegetable seed packets. The seeds are carefully selected to yield greens, tubers, fruits and vegetables. It was observed that when the households understood the nutritional and economic benefits of home gardening, the impact of establishing and utilizing productive home gardens was larger. These efforts gave the household members a sense of being involved in the programme and an incentive to improve child feeding practices.
A well-developed home garden has the potential to supply most of the non-staple food that a family needs every day of the year. Keeping this in mind, comprehensive training packages, especially to suit the requirement of the women, have been prepared for people living in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli regions and are widely disseminated. SCAD’s Rural Development Division in conjunction with the SCAD Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) actively collaborate with the agricultural departments to procure quality seeds and train the field level extension staff, farmers, women ́s groups and school teachers in gardening techniques.
Poor women and vulnerable groups will “bear the brunt” of climate change in parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to a new report published by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
The Ganges River Basin is already experiencing increases in unpredictable weather patterns, droughts, floods, cyclones and other natural disasters. However, scientists predict that average temperatures in the region will increase by around 0.4 °C over the next two decades, which could cause even greater environmental and social disruption.
This poses serious challenges to a region where the majority of its 655 million inhabitants rely directly on agriculture and access to natural resources for their livelihoods.
The report focuses on three key countries that depend on the Ganges River Basin: India, Nepal and Bangladesh. By reviewing extensive studies from the region, it argues that vulnerability to climate change is “intricately linked” to social structures such as gender, class, caste and ethnicity. It makes the case that those at the bottom of the social ladder have less power and fewer resources to adapt to the possible effects of climate change.
“This is the first time that such a broad range of studies has been brought together and analyzed as a whole,” said Fraser Sugden, Researcher – Social Science, IWMI, and lead author of the report. “The research results clearly show that women face considerable vulnerability to climate change and that this is also a complex process, with vulnerability being economic, social and psychological and shaped by intersecting divisions of class and caste. There is a need to rethink policies and methods of engagement with marginalized groups, so as to address the social structures which cause vulnerability in the first place.”
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