Options for improving access to irrigation by small farmers in Uttar Pradesh

Original Query: Sanjeev Kumar, Krishi Bharati, Lucknow
Posted: 7 September 2005

Eastern UP, home to a large number of poor, is characterized by high population density and fragmented agricultural holdings leading to low agricultural output, poor food availability and chronic hunger. In the districts of eastern UP, availability of food is often restricted for the poor farming families due to their inability to access irrigation water.

In this area, groundwater is easily available at 35-50 ft. The small and poor farmers often have small landholdings fragmented into two-three plots (typical plot sizes 1/8-1/10 ha). The usual mode of irrigation is bore-wells fitted with mobile pump sets run on diesel. The poor farmers generally have two options:
a) Install a bore well in their plot and rent a pump-set for two hours or more - which is unviable for small plots
b) Buy water from a neighbour with a bore-well through a flexible PVC pipe

Mostly the farmers opt for the second option- facing further the following problems:
a) Irrigation is delayed as the bore owner's own crop fields get priority for watering. It also, many times, depends on the convenience as well as the whims and fancies of the bore-well owner
b) The time and hassle involved in transporting the equipments and then fitting a pump-set to a bore-well, often makes it unviable for irrigating smaller plots
c) The pump-set/ bore-well owners also try to exploit the poor farmer by demanding some free unpaid work in lieu of the 'favour' of selling irrigation water to him ( at the usual market rates).

Members may kindly share their knowledge and experiences of different options that have been introduced for small farmers under such situations. I would also like to know what can be done more generally to increase the access to irrigation for the poor farmers, which is essential to increase their farm productivity and income - therefore contributing towards greater food security for their families.

Please see attachment below for the responses.