Jal Khets-irrigation through rainwater harvesting in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh Source: IWMI Tata
Depleting groundwater in a non descript village in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, caused tubewells to fail, pushing farmers deeper into a cycle of debt and poverty. Suffering from acute water scarcity, this is the story of a brave farmer, Raghunath Singh Tomar, who dug a pond in his agricultural land and paved the way to a ‘greener’ water rich village.
Convinced by his ‘ground breaking’ idea, the district administration swung into action. They approached the farmers linking water harvesting with profit based economics, persuading people to invest in this venture of digging ponds .
Fields were surveyed and construction of ponds planned; farmers not only got back their initial investment amount but cultivated 2 crops in a year. Today the village boasts of 150 ponds, self sufficient for the farmer’s agricultural needs.
Seeing this phenomenal success, loans and government subsidies started trickling in and these innovators were named Bhaghirath farmers, after the mythical sage Bhaghirath who is credited to have got the river Ganga onto the earth!
Though ponds have been around for years, utilising them for irrigation is a first. Today this district is green and bountiful having more than 700 ponds. In a novel ceremony farmers here celebrate the birthday of a pond and carry out the funeral procession of tube wells, signifying death of a redundant item and resurgence of a simple yet effective solution!
And the status today....
A talk by Ravinder Malik, IWMI, on the rainwater reservoirs in Dewas Source : Thinkbeyondthetap
How have the farmers fared after construction of these ponds? Did these individually raised decentralised rainwater harvesting structures lead to an more availability of water and subsequent revival in the agricultural economy of the region, or did the ponds end up stagnant & futile? A look at the benefits of the rainwater harvesting plan in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district.
A research paper examines how rewarding this initiative in rainwater harvesting turned out to be for the farmers in this region. Nearly 6000 farmers had invested on ponds since 2006, and it was determined that they were able to recover their initial investment in just 3 years.
The analysis carried out also shows the impact of these ponds on the agricultural produce of the region. With water available during the lean dry season, the farmers increased their produce output. Nearly 75% of irrigation land that stayed fallow during the lean dry season, reduced drastically to about 4 - 7 %.
As the harvested water is also used to irrigate crops in the wet season, changes in crop pattern are visible. With the assurance of regular availability of water, farmers have moved towards mechanised farming, with a decline in the livestock keep of oxen and bullocks, earlier utilised for farming. However even though the cattle number has gone down, the milk production capacity of these farmers has increased.
These decentralised water harvesting structures have paid great dividends to the farmer in this water scarce region. Today in Dewas, it has proved to be a boon for farmers as it not only has improved their financial state, increased their agricultural incomes, opened up other lielihood options like fish farming, but also helped them to move confidently on the path to water sufficient farming methods and self reliance.
To read the research paper 'Examining farm-level perceptions, costs, and benefits of small waterharvesting structures in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh' , please click here.
The success story of these enterprising farmers may also be viewed here.