Solution Exchange discussion - Solutions for Water Augmentation in Hilly Terrains to Maximize Food Production - Experiences

Compiled by TN Anuradha and Nitya Jacob, Resource Persons and Deepika Anand and Sunetra Lala, Research Associates

From Rama Narayanan, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai

Posted 24 November 2011

The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation is working on an action research project on strengthening agriculture for alleviating poverty and malnutrition in the agro biodiversity hotspot of Koraput district in Odisha State. 

The district is struck with severe malnutrition and water shortages. We would like to learn from members about experiences in developing and implementing cost effective solutions for water augmentation in hilly terrains for maximizing food production with specific reference to food crops in both fields and in home gardens to address malnutrition.

The tribal communities living in this region are subsistence farmers whose principal crops are paddy, millets, and vegetables, grown in the field and near the homes as home garden crops.  Water is available for hardly 3-4 months in a year.  Though the average annual rainfall is 1400 mm, this is received in a span of 70–80 days.  During the other 9 months the water table goes down so deep that no water is available for irrigation.  Since this is a hilly area, it is difficult to construct water augmentation structures (such as check dams) at affordable rates. The tube wells in the villages providing drinking water are situated in one corner of the village. There is very little grey water available for kitchen gardens and whatever little is available, percolates into the soil.  Hence, we are looking for cost-effective methods of water conservation at both home and community levels, such that cultivation can be taken up throughout the year. 

In the above context, I request members to please share the following:

  •         What cost-effective and simple technologies for water conservation are available for hilly areas such that agricultural activities can be taken up throughout the year?
  •         Besides paddy, millets and vegetables what other food crops can be grown that require minimum amount of water and help in improving the nutritional intake?
  •         What kind of water conservation and agricultural practices can be adopted for home gardens to ensure food security? 
  • The information shared would help in effectively implementing the action project. 

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1.     Satya Priya, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, New Delhi

2.     Parimal Chandra, Aga Khan Foundation, Patna

3.     Kalyan Paul, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, Ranikhet

4.     Depinder Kapur, India Wash Forum, New Delhi

5.     Achyut Das, Agragamee, Rayagada, Odisha (Response 1) (Response 2)

6.     Ardhendu S Chatterjee, Development Research Communication and Service Centre (DRCSC), Kolkata

7.     Suresh Kumar, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Trivandrum

8.     Netra Prasad Osti, National Animal Science Research Institute (NASRI), Nepal

9.     Bhaskar Barua, Independent Consultant, Guwahati

10. B B Singh, Tata Chemicals Ltd, Noida

11. K V Peter, World Noni Research Foundation, Chennai

12. Abhinandan Das, Deepak Foundation, Gujarat

13. Salomeyesudas, Southern Action on Genetic Engineering (SAGE), Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad

14. Sonali Bisht, INHERE, Masi, Uttaranchal

15. Yugandhar Mandavkar, GRASP, Aurangabad

16. Bharat R Sharma, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), New Delhi

17. Anupam Paul, Agricultural Training Centre, Fulai, West Bengal

18. Ashok Sharma, Himalayan Institute for Environment, Ecology and Development, Tehri Garhwal

19. Chandra Sekhar Bahinipati, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

20. Terry Thomas, Wilbur Smith Associates, Bangalore

21. Divesh Kumar Bhadani, Driptech, Inc., Pune

22. Ajay Kumar, ChildFund India , New Delhi

23. Radha Gopalan, Rishi Valley School , Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh*

*Offline Contribution

Summary of Responses 

The discussion on water augmentation to hilly terrains brought out very interesting contributions apprising the community on water conservation measures to improve food production and ensure nutrition security of local communities. Members dealt with indigenous technical knowledge, modern technologies and suggested food crops to suit the geographic and climatic conditions.

 

Rainfall patterns in semi-arid areas are variable. People who rely completely on rainwater for their survival have developed indigenous knowledge/techniques to harvest rainwater. These traditional water-harvesting systems have been sustainable for centuries as they are compatible with local lifestyles, institutional patterns and social systems. In order to develop sustainable strategies, it is important to take into account and learn from what local people already know and do and build on this.

 

Members shared various examples of using indigenous technical knowledge for water conservation in Hilly Terrains. Earthen check dams made from the locally available resources such as stones, wooden logs and clay to capture and store the runoff water. In the hilly terrain of Tehri Garwhal in Uttarakhand people used to divert the river water into the guls(traditional name for channels/ structures) through which the river water is diverted or made to flow along the contours of the hill in order to irrigate the land. The plugging of the deep ravine formed by the flowing water can make water to flow in a desired direction and used for storage and percolation tank to recharge underground water. These two methods ravine and gully plugging has been successfully practiced in southern part of Udaipur in Rajasthan by the tribal’s residing there in the hilly terrain.  

Agragamee aptly used indigenous knowledge for water harvesting and cropping pattern in Orissa. Tribals of Dasmantpur Block in Koraput District are able to get water to their Orchard from 2-3 km on their own and without any qualified civil engineer. The interventions on Diversion Based Irrigation promotion work by Foundation for Ecological Security is showing good results in terms of providing spring water irrigation and creating sustainable options. 

In the Kechla village cluster, Koraput district, Orissa, tribal farmers are using Driptech micro-irrigation systems to cultivate kitchen gardens. Tata Chemicals is working on hydrogel as a product for conservation of water, effective in saving on irrigation for wheat, potato and sugarcane. 

The Nilambur Experiment to harvest rainfall by taking pits along the terraces where rubber is grown is a success story in Kerala. Rubber being a leaf-shedding tree and during course of time leaf composts were formed and soil, fertility went up. During summer, pitcher irrigation using earthen pots with a hole below and a cotton twig attached filled with water is used. 

In addition, members suggested following effective water harvesting solutions for hilly areas:

  •         Earthen dam at low runoff area and average catchment
  •         Low cost earthen rainwater harvesting tanks lined with Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) Sheet
  •         Bunding of the terraced fields on the outside and trenching on the inside to trap rainwater and allow for slow percolation, increasing soil moisture
  •         Roof rainwater harvesting tanks to collect and store rainwater for minor irrigation
  •         Farm ponds, long trenches along fields are other useful measures
  •         In suitable places land leveling is a good option 

More technically, water audits at the lowest possible hydrological unit level to avoid misdiagnosing the local water balances and specifying infrastructure solutions is necessary. Geographic Information System (GIS) could be an important tool to collect and upscale the utility of diverse indigenous knowledge (IK) in the decision-making process. RHADESS is GIS-based rainwater harvesting decision support system developed for South Africa and uses ArcView 3.3 as a platform to assess the RWH suitability of any given area of South Africa .

The objective of getting water is very clear to the tribals is to raise multiple crops. The challenge is of marketing the surplus. In Koarput the tribals produced longer self-life vegetables onion, garlic, chillies, beans. Discussants advised reviving the uncultivated foods, underutilized foodswild edible greens, fruits in consultation with the tribals. Other options could be but to be adapted based on the physical characteristics of soil and environment:

Trees and Shrubs: Custard Apple, Ber, Karaunda, Phalsa, Bael fruit, Hog Apple, Wild mango (local), Papaya, Drumstick

Leafy Vegetable: Amaranths, Roselle leaves, Drumstick leaves, Lambs quarter (considered weed), Vitamin bush (Sauropus)

Beans: Cowpeas, Cluster beans, Dolichos beans, Jack bean

Fruit Vegetable: Sponge and Ivy gourds, Bitter eggplant (S.torvum), Sweet potato, Conch potato Cabbage and tomato have shown good result in zero tillage and minimum furrow practices

Root vegetable: Cassava, Dioscorea yams, Yam-beans

Spices: Chillies, Basil

Grasses: Blue green grass, Stylo, Leaucena and many fast growing nitrogen fixing trees (NFT)

Field cropsMost Millets, Bajra (pearl millet) and Sorghum, Black gram and Horse gram, Pigeon Peas, Sesame , Niger and Saffola, Groundnut 

Land use planning by having a certain proportion of land under rainfed/dryland farming, certain other proportion under irrigated rabi field crops, and if the geo-hydrology permits, a small proportion of land under high value summer crops (like vegetables) recommended as a agriculture practice.   

Tribals taking up second crop after monsoon crop could be a possibility. The approach of community fencing or some kind of permanent fencing to build up family farms has been initiated in Koraput districtOrissa to show that within 1 hectare, a planned agronomical practice can ensure food and livelihood security. Livestock holding is another priority area of engagement, besides agriculture. Contour farming and terrace farming will help to conserve soil and water as well as provide better yield. Other water conservation measures include:

  •         Use of mulching to increase absorption capacity of top soil
  •         Measures to increase microorganisms including earthworms in soil so that porosity of soil and media for absorption of rainwater increases
  •         Increase in vegetation, permanent soil cover, no till agriculture practices are beneficial.
  •         Dew collection through a tin plate
  •         Ensuring forest cover
  •         Poly cover to avoid evaporation and percolation loses

A system based approach needs to be followed to establish the linkages between agriculture and allied sectors not only to achieve consistency but also to understand the dependencies on one or other natural systems. It is rare to find a single technology on a farm but rather multiple technologies simultaneously. There is therefore a need to identify integrated soil and water management systems suits the micro-situation the best. 

Comparative Experiences

Kerala

 

Pits for rain water harvesting in rubber plantation, Nilambur (from K V Peter, World Noni Research Foundation, Chennai)

The Nilambur Experiment to harvest rainfall by digging pits along the terraces on rubber plantations is a success story. The pits are dug along the terraces and perform two functions - storing rain water and preventing soil erosion. The local water tables have gone up recharging the wells. Seeing this success, many farmers from the hilly terrains made trenches. As rubber is deciduous, its leaves accumulate in the trenches and turn into compost, increasing soil fertility. 

Orissa 

Tribal engineers make marvelous water systems, Koraput District (from  Achyut Das, Agragamee, Rayagada, Odisha; response 1)

The tribals have taken the lead in water harvesting and have had tried to channel water through a combination of earthen check-dams and canals. Some of these are made in very difficult terrain. They are made by ‘tribal engineers’ who would conduct a survey, bring their own team and work with the locals who would contribute their labour. The tribals use the water for crops suitable for the amount of water and season such as vegetables and maize.

Uttarakhand

Guls and check dams for irrigation and water recharge, Tehri Garwhal (from Parimal Chandra, Aga Khan Foundation, Patna )

People in the region divert the river water into the “GULS”; these are channels/structures through which river water is diverted to irrigate land. Guls also act as percolation channel’s and recharge the underground water table. Earthen check dams store the runoff water and this can be used for irrigation and also to recharge the water table. Such structures have increased the underground water table thereby helping tube wells work properly even in summer. 

International 

GIS used to successfully develop rainwater harvesting initiatives, South Africa (from Suresh Kumar, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Trivandrum)

RHADESS is a GIS-based rainwater harvesting decision support system and uses ArcView 3.3 as a platform to assess the rain harvesting suitability. The results are exported to an Excel spreadsheet that contains the hydrological impact, as runoff reduction, of different levels of adoption of RWH assessed by using the Pitman model. RHADESS was successfully tested in two selected quaternary catchments in tribal like mountainous contexts. 

Related Resources 

Recommended Documentation 

From Depinder Kapur, India Wash Forum, New Delhi

Vulnerable Tribal Livelihood and Shifting Cultivation: The Situation in Orissa with a Case Study in the Bhuyan-Juang Pirh of Keonjhar District

Report; by Bikash Rath; Vasundhara; Orissa; November 2005;

Available at http://www.vasundharaorissa.org/Research%20Reports/VulnerableTribalLivelihoodandShiftingCultivation.pdf (PDF; Size: 606KB)

A study on the relationship between livelihood insecurity and environmental degradation, also analyses the factors responsible for shifting cultivation

Soil and Water Conservation Measures

Sourcebook; by Foundation for Ecological Security; Location; June 2008;

Available at http://fes.org.in/source-book/SWC_Source_Book_final.pdf?file=ZG93bmxvYWQvd3AxOS5wZGY=Measures (PDF; Size: 27.2MB)

Describes various measures relating to soil and water conservation and watershed management, which can help augment water in hilly terrains 

Influence of rainfall, irrigation and age on the growth periodicity and wood structure in teak (Tectona Grandls)  (from K V Peter, World Noni Research Foundation, Chennai)

Article; by P.B. Priya and K.M. Bhat; Kerala Forest Research Institute; IAWA Journal; Location; 1999;

Available at http://bio.kuleuven.be/sys/iawa/IAWA%20J%20pdf's/20.no.1-4.1999/20.2.181_192.pdf (PDF; Size: 4.65MB)

Discusses the influence of rainfall and irrigation on the growth and wood structure of the teak plant 

From Salomeyesudas, Southern Action on Genetic Engineering (SAGE), Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad 

Traditional food system of Dalit in Zaheerabad Region, Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, India

Chapter; by Salomeyesudas and Periyapatnav Satheesh; Deccan Development Society; Hyderabad; Publication date;

Available at ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/food/resource/res23111101.pdf (PDF; Size: 548KB)

Describes how the dalit traditional food system in the Zaheerabad region has survived, as a result of conservation and the continuation of rich agro-biodiversity by women 

The Bhil food system: links to food security, nutrition and health

Chapter; by Lalita Bhattacharjee and Gopa Kothari; Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Location; Publication date;

Available at ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/food/resource/res23111102.pdf (PDF; Size: 566KB)

Documents case studies addressing areas of nutrition and health, with an emphasis on the impact of food environments on health of indigenous people 

From Bharat R Sharma, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), New Delhi 

Multiple-use Water Schemes

Case study; by Bharat Sharma; International Water Management Institute (IWMI); New Delhi; 2011;

Available at ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/wes/cr/res-24111101.pdf (PDF; Size: 170KB)

Describes how Multiple-Use water Schemes are providing controlled and reliable water supplies for household needs in the north eastern hilly regions of India and Nepal 

Water poverty in the northeaster hill region (india): potential allevation through multiple-use water systems

Report; by Bharat Sharma, Etc; International Water Management Institute (IWMI); New Delhi; 2010;

Available at ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/wes/cr/res-24111102.pdf (PDF; Size: 3.16MB)

It maps the household water poverty in a typical remote village of the northeast, understands the causes for such a scenario and reflects on the past 

Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project (from Terry Thomas, Wilbur Smith Associates, Bangalore)

Report; by Attappady Hills Area Development Society; Kerala; 2009;

Available at http://www.ahads.org/sr10/Part1_14.pdf (PDF; Size: 496KB)

Describes the Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project taken up to halt ecological degradation and improve the livelihood base of communities 

Recommended Organizations and Programmes 

From Depinder Kapur, India Wash Forum, New Delhi 

Foundation for Ecological Security, Gujarat

A-1 Madhuram Park , Near Srinathji Society, Ganesh Crossing, Anand 388001, Gujarat ; Tel: 91-2692-261303; Fax: 91-2692-262087; ed@fes.org.in;

http://fes.org.in/includeAll.php?pId=Mi0zMS00

Initiated interventions on Diversion Based Irrigation, which is showing good results in terms of providing spring water irrigation and creating sustainable options 

Concern India Foundation, Tamil Nadu

No. 1B, 1st Floor, Varadarajapuram, Poes Road , Teynampet, Chennai 600018, Tamil Nadu; Tel: 91-44-24359790; chennai@concerninida.org;

http://concernindiafoundation.org/commdevelop.asp

Provides communities with sustainability options through improved livelihood opportunities such as resource management, micro credit enterprises, etc 

Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Maharashtra

Bombay House, Homi Mody Street , Mumbai 400001, Maharashtra ; Tel: 91-22-66658282; Fax: 91-22-66658013; srtt@tata.com;

http://www.srtt.org/institutional_grants/rural_livelihoods_communities/water_sector_research.htm

Has worked with the Foundation for Ecological Security in Gujarat to provide livelihood opportunities to communities by providing alternative irrigation methods 

Agragamee, Orissa(from Achyut Das; response 1)

At/P.O-Kashipur, Rayagada 765015, Orissa; Tel: 91-6865-285174; Fax: 91-6865-285174; info@agragamee.org;http://www.agragamee.org/sectionwatershed.htm

Has been involved in water harvesting projects in the districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangapur and Malkangiri for the past 30 years 

From Ardhendu S Chatterjee, Development Research Communication and Service Centre, West Bengal 

Development Research Communication and Service Centre, West Bengal

58A, Dharmotola Road , Bosepukur, Kasba, Kolkata 700042, West Bengal ; Tel: 91-33-24427311; Fax: 91-33-24427563; csc.ind@gmail.comhttp://www.drcsc.org/projects.html

Has promoted dry farming in West Bengal by applying many techniques of soil and water conservation in the area 

Watershed Support Services and Activities Network, Andhra Pradesh

12-13-452, Street No: 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500017, Andhra Pradesh; Tel: 91-40-27015295; wassanmail@gmail.com;http://www.wassan.org/

Provides capacity building and support services for development initiatives in natural resources management, including sustainable farming practices 

Harsha Trust, Orissa(from Yugandhar Mandavkar, GRASP, Aurangabad)

Plot no. 217/B, Bayababamatha Lane , Unit-IX Flats, Bhubaneswar 751002, Orissa; Tel: 91-674-2540683; harshaho@harashatrust.org;http://harshatrust.org/Program.html

Promotes land and water resources management by promoting field bunding, construction of farm ponds and ring wells 

From Terry Thomas, Wilbur Smith Associates, Bangalore 

Japan International Cooperation Agency, New Delhi

2nd Floor, Dr. Gopal Das Bhawan, 28 Barakhamba Road , New Delhi 110001; Tel: 91-11-47685500; Fax: 91-11-47685555; http://www.jica.go.jp/india/english/activities/index.html

Assisted the Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project, aimed at halting ecological degradation and improving the livelihood base of communities   

Attapady Hills Area Development Society, Kerala

Agali, Palakkad 678581, Kerala; Tel: 91-4924-254202; Fax: 91-4924-254202; ahads@sancharnet.inhttp://www.ahads.org/sub_ahads_howitworks.html

Is the the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) for the implementation of the Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project 

From Ajay Kumar, ChildFund India , New Delhi 

ChildFund India, Karnataka

Post Box No. 5054, 22, Museum Road , Bangalore 560001, Karnataka; Tel: 91-80-25587157; Fax: 91-80-25594271; office@childfundindia.org;

http://www.childfundindia.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=62

In association with the Lok Jagrit Kendra, in Orissa has revived traditional water harvesting structures in several districts 

Pradan, New Delhi

E-1/A, Kailash Colony, Ground Floor and Basement, Kailash Colony, New Delhi 110048; Tel: 91-11-40407700; headoffice@pradan.net;

http://www.pradan.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=26

Has done some excellent work in flow irrigation in some part of Orissa too, which can be adopted for optimum utilization of water resource in a cost effective manner 

Recommended Portals and Information Bases 

National Conference on Water, Food Security and Climate Change (CC) in Nepal , Climate Himalaya, Uttaranchal(from Netra Prasad Osti, National Animal Science Research Institute (NASRI), Nepal)

http://chimalaya.org/2011/06/16/national-conference-on-water-food-security-and-climate-change-cc-in-nepal/; Contact Kashinath Vajpai; Convenor; knvajpai@gmail.com

Details of a conference aimed at increasing water productivity in agriculture, making targeted investments and putting in place the right institutional measures 

Helpful Hydrogels, Steve Spangler Science, Location (from B B Singh, Tata Chemicals Ltd, Noida)

http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/helpful-hydrogels; Contact Steve Spangler; Tel: 1-800-2239080; orders@stevespanglerscience.com

Describes hydrogel, which is a superabsorbent polymer and can hold up to 500 times its own weight in water, it can be used to address issues of water conservation   

From Divesh Kumar Bhadani, Driptech, Inc., Pune 

Kopernik, USA

http://kopernik.info/en-us/theblog/all/1850; Contact Tel: 1-347-5878687

Kopernik is an on-line marketplace of innovative, life-changing technologies, introduced the Driptech irrigation system in Orissa under the Kechla drip irrigation project 

Driptech, Driptech Inc., USA

http://blog.driptech.com/2011/11/gravity-drip-systems-for-small-plot.html; Contact info@driptech.com

Part of the Kechla drip irrigation project, being rolled out in collaboration with Kopernik, an international technology marketplace, and Auro-Mira Service Society   

Responses in Full 

Satya Priya, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, New Delhi

In my personal view, I would like to suggest that firstly, we should try to examine the problem (not just because this is a hotspot of Koraput district) and underlying causes leading to the current state of affairs. There is a clear need to differentiate between the malnutrition/livelihoods support/alternatives linked to deforestation and land degradation together with provision of upland rural water supply. 

I do not think there are any straightforward conservation agriculture and/or production agriculture measures to address issues like this and suggest options that perhaps would fit the bill. 

This problem is similar to what is being currently faced by north-eastern regions say Mizoram and others. A decade ago, organic farming was an option for hills which is now being re-visited by a new land use policy primarily because Jhooming is no more an option (though it is still being practiced in some pockets) rather this has aggravated the cause while we are in search of some new options and measures for sustainable subsistence agriculture for hilly terrains. 

To me, it reveal a more systemic issue; and for any sustainable intervention - a system based approach needs to be followed to establish the linkages between agriculture and allied sectors (e.g.: water resources, animal husbandry, agro-industry) not only to achieve consistency but also to understand the dependencies on one or other natural systems such as:

The deforestation and land degradation primarily led by Jhoom, and, now, to restore the forestry and land management support, the work would need to be underpinned by careful sub-basin water audits at district/block/village levels. More technically, water audits should take place at the lowest possible hydrological units’ level which can then be overlaid by the districts/blocks/villages. The water supply component really needs to be addressed by undertaking local water audits to avoid misdiagnosing the local water balances and specifying infrastructure solutions. This perhaps is the way forward.  

While there can still be some stopgap arrangements, though it may deteriorate further over time due to sheer anthropogenic pressure. The time has come when we shall start questioning the business as usual scenarios and it’s the time that we should be thinking outside the box to find solutions for problem like these. 

Parimal Chandra, Aga Khan Foundation, Patna

Based on my experiences I would like make following suggestions:

1.                Runoff water: Capture and store the runoff water after the rainfall that flows down the hilly terrain. A simple structure called “earthen check dam” made from the local available resources such as stones, wooden logs and clay can be used. If sand is easily available then this sand can be used in cement bags for constructing the wall of the check dam. I am suggesting earthen check dam because it is very cost effective and can be made through people’s participation. The structure is not permanent as it would be more cost intensive and would require skill labour. During heavy rainfall if the runoff water is more a spill way can be made after estimating the water holding capacity. If it gets damaged it can be repaired again with little local material and people’s contribution. 

2.                I had experienced this kind of temporary earthen structure in the hilly terrain of Tehri Garwhal in Uttranchal. People in the region use to divert the river water into the “ GULS” (Guls are channels/ structures through which river water is diverted or made to flow along the contours of the hill in order to irrigate the land. Gul is the traditional name to these channels/structures) for irrigating their lands. Guls also act as percolation channel’s and recharges the underground water table. Here in this case the earthen check dam will store the runoff water and this stored water will be used for irrigation and also recharge the underground water table. Several such structures created would ultimately increase the underground water table there by making the tube wells to work properly even in summer. 

3.                Ravine plugging: This is another way to capture and tame the aimlessly flowing runoff water. The plugging of the deep ravine formed by the flowing water can make water to flow in a desired direction and can be used for storage and percolation tank to recharge underground water. 

4.                Gully plugging: It captures the runoff water and makes proper use for storage and percolation tank to recharge underground water. These two methods ravine and gully plugging are being practiced in southern part of Udaipur in Rajasthan by the tribal’s residing there in the hilly terrain.  

Through  these practices in different parts of India people have gained and have tried to maximize the production such as tomatoes as cash crop in Tehri Garwhal and production of maize in the south Udaipur. The information shared would help in effective implementation of the project activity. 

Kalyan Paul, Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation, Ranikhet

The note states that the region is blessed with 1400 mm of annual precipitation. This is more than sufficient to grow all kinds of crops, even without irrigation, especially in the uplands. The only way to sustain such farming systems is to ensure that the forest cover is adequate - native species of trees and shrubs would be necessary as well as sufficient for enabling the annual recharge of local ecosystem hydrology.

Instead of looking for ways and means to 'hunt' for irrigation water, the sustainable solution to farming systems require sustained action to protect and conserve forest resources. Alongside, it may well be possible to renew traditional systems of soil and water conservation; which are best known to communities who inhabit the ecosystem.

All of the above suggestions are based on our field experiences of the past two decades. 

Depinder Kapur, India Wash Forum, New Delhi

I had been to Koraput recently and saw the work that Foundation for Ecological Security is doing with CONCERN and Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) support. The interventions on Diversion Based Irrigation promotion work is showing good results in terms of providing spring water irrigation and creating sustainable options for those doing podu cultivation on upper hills to come down with alternative allocation of land with spring water based irrigation source.  The rich Bauxite mineral hills are under threat of mining and thereby completely undermining the eco system of the area. 

Livestock holding of this region is another priority area of engagement, besides agriculture. In the FES study on Common landsin 2010, Koraput region was the only one where cattle and bullock populations were going up.

 FES publication on Soil and Water Conservation might be useful http://fes.org.in/source-book/SWC_Source_Book_final.pdf?file=ZG93bmxvYWQvd3AxOS5wZGY=Measures

Achyut Das, Agragamee, Rayagada, Odisha (response 1)

Thanks to Rama Narayanan for raising an important issue on Water Harvesting and Utilisation in the Tribal Context. I have read other responses from the members as well. 

My organisation AGRAGAMEE is involved in Water Harvesting in undivided Koraput District (now four districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangapur and Malkangiri) for last 30 years and we have a range of experiences. In the 1980s, we had discussed the issues of Food Security and Shifting Cultivation with the tribals as they were facing starvation during the lean period of June to September (Monsoon months) during which the mortality, morbidity and money lending have been maximum. 

The tribals themselves in many villages had suggested about Community Grain Banks and Water Harvesting. In fact, in many villages had tried to bring the water by constructing earthen check-dams (locally called MUNDA) and digging canals (locally called BATIA). They had shown us the remnants of these structures as the heavy rains had washed them away. The tribals did not have the means and enterprise to reconstruct them once again. It was simply incredible to find out the location of the Check-dam high in the hills and the Channel 3-4 km long dug in the most difficult terrain. It was unbelievable that they had done so without any engineer or technical person. 

We were interested to know who had advised them and they had told that in their area, there are persons who could give lay out of the dam and the contours of the channel. The practice is that these local technical persons/tribal engineers would make a deal with the villagers and then come with their own team. They would go to the location where the check-dam was to be constructed and determine the length, size, depth and path of the channel. 

I had personally met such engineers. The one whom I had met in 1985 was deaf and almost blind and we had hired him and his team for a number of Water Harvesting Structures we had constructed. You won’t believe that those structures are still intact after all these years. After the initial layout was given by the tribal engineer, we had mobilised the communities to give voluntary labour in collecting stone, sand, etc. Agragamee was giving only cement, rods (if required) and masons which the tribals were not able to pay for. 

The objective of getting water was very clear to the tribals – to raise multiple crops (vegetables in winter and maize in summer). Thus, the tribals were assured of three crops and food and nutritional securities. There was question of marketing the surplus like vegetables which were perishable. So crops which had longer self-life (onion, garlic, chillies, beans, etc) were cultivated. The water sharing was highly democratic. Even the landless families were given some land to share-crop. 

Of course, the government departments (DRDAs, ITDAs, Soil Conservation Department) have been constructing large number of check-dams which are usually washed away with the first rains. We bump into check-dams constructed in remote villages without proper foundation and technical designs that become useless within one year. The net impact is sheer frustration. 

But everything is not lost. Last month I had been to three villages – Banasil, Uppargodla and Jholaguda in Dasmantpur Block of Koraput District and was overjoyed to see that the entire community was involved in getting water to their Orchard from 2-3 km on their own and without any qualified civil engineer. 

If one has to look at Water Harvesting and Cropping Pattern (after the irrigation has been assured), one can visit villages in undivided Koraput District where examples have been already demonstrated of indigenous knowledge and management. And this is not a theoretical discussion. We the NGOs and Experts often join the forces to destroy that ITK System. 

Ardhendu S Chatterjee, Development Research Communication and Service Centre (DRCSC), Kolkata

It would help to know the temperature and soil pH range. From our experience, I am sharing some information.

Plants that tolerate drought /long dry periods:

Trees and Shrubs: Custard Apple, Ber, Karaunda, Phalsa, Bael fruit, Hog Apple, Wild mango (local)

Leafy Vegetable: Amaranths, Roselle leaves, Drumstick leaves, Lambs quarter (considered weed), Vitamin bush (Sauropus)

Beans: Cowpeas, Cluster beans, Dolichos beans, Jack bean

Fruit Vegetable: Sponge and Ivy gourds, Bitter eggplant (S.torvum)

Root vegetable: Cassava, Dioscorea yams, Yam-beans

Spices: Chillies, Basil

Grasses: Blue green grass, Stylo, Leaucena and many fast growing nitrogen fixing trees (NFT)

Field cropsMost Millets, Bajra (pearl millet) and Sorghum, Black gram and Horse gram, Pigeon Peas, Sesame , Niger and Saffola, Groundnut 

If we are interested in Dry Farming, there are many techniques of soil and water conservation. Details may be available at the Development Research Communication and Service Centre (DRCSC) and the Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN) website, among others.

For food, medicine, fodder, etc, a wide range of weeds can be utilized. Crops need to be fitted into a system of farming, a whole farm design - Trees+Crops+animals including birds, insects and micro-organisms. 

Difficulties arise because our scientists mostly want to promote irrigated agriculture and not enough support is available for dryland crops and vegetables. 

Suresh Kumar, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Trivandrum

Rainfall patterns in semi-arid areas are typically highly variable, both spatially and temporally. As a result, people who rely completely on rainwater for their survival have over the centuries developed indigenous knowledge/techniques to harvest rainwater. These traditional water-harvesting systems have been sustainable for centuries. The reason for this is that they are compatible with local lifestyles, local institutional patterns and local social systems. In order to develop sustainable strategies, it is therefore important to take into account of, and learn from, what local people already know and do, and to build on this. As there are spatially typical aspects to indigenous knowledge, it could be extrapolated over a wider geographic extent. From the preliminary findings, it is being recommended that geographic information system (GIS) could be an important tool to collect and upscale the utility of diverse indigenous knowledge in the decision-making process. 

Farmers do hold a substantial amount of knowledge on RWH systems and identification of potential sites for different RWH systems. This locally generated knowledge could be used to improve agricultural production in semi-arid areas. It is rare to find a single technology on a farm but rather multiple technologies are being used simultaneously. There is therefore a need to identify integrated RWH systems. Most of the integrated RWH technologies are also soil and water management systems. They can therefore be referred as integrated soil and water management systems. 

Although there could be variations of IK from one geographic area to another, most is based on biophysical factors, including topography, soil type and distance from water sources. These factors could be extrapolated over a wider geographic extent using GIS technique. 

RHADESS is GIS-based rain water harvesting decision support system developed for South Africa and uses ArcView 3.3 as a platform to assess the RWH suitability of any given area of South Africa . Results are thereafter exported into an Excel spreadsheet that contains the hydrological impact, as runoff reduction, of different levels of adoption of RWH assessed by using the Pitman model. The decision support system guides the implementation of the following RWH categories: Infield RWH and ex-field RWH and domestic RWH. RHADESS was tested in two selected quaternary catchments in tribal like mountainous contexts. Similar studies and exercises for Indian context may also be shared. 

Achyut Das, Agragamee, Rayagada, Odisha (response 2)

I would like to thank, Ardhendu S Chatterjee for bringing in a range of options on dry land agro-horticulture in hilly areas. This is also an indication of rich bio-diversity which has a co-relationship with the rich culture of tribals/hill-tribes. Everything is possible and yet, everything has been made impossible. As a result the tribals are suffering from food and nutritional insecurities. Now many kinds of monocultures have come into these areas, the latest being high-yielding maize which has raised many questions. 

I think the greatest possibility for the tribals lies in taking a second crop after the monsoon crop in the upland/middle-land with residual moisture. Unfortunately, after the harvest, the tribals let loose their cattle for free grazing. Even if someone goes for a second crop of pulses and oilseeds, it is destroyed in no time. Against this kind of situation, we have been trying for community fencing or some kind of permanent fencing to build up family farms. The challenge for the tribals, or for us, is to show that within 1 hectare, a planned agronomical practice can ensure food and livelihood security. We are setting up such family farms across many tribal villages and such family farms, if developed, by small land holders will be the future for this country. 

Netra Prasad Osti, National Animal Science Research Institute (NASRI), Nepal

Recently the 'National Conference in Water, Food Security and Climate Change' was completed in Kathmandu , Nepal where little attention was given to this issue in discussion. You can find the proceedings or abstract of that event at the link above. Yes, these problems are common across the Himalayas and the lower hills, mostly affected with livestock production, crops and vegetable. The solution will be small-scale pipe irrigation, cover crops like forage, pasture, and other vegetables, which require less water (like sweet potato). Small pond and reservoir are also suitable for this type of water conservation and utilisation. This is a short suggestion, if needed I will be in touch. 

Bhaskar Barua, Independent Consultant, Guwahati

Earthen check dams work more effectively and may on occasions last longer when combined with vegetative contour planting which can be taken up just below the check dams. Local perennials, preferably with one or more crop(s) can be planted during the rainy season. Arahar has been tried in some places with a degree of success.

Contour channels can be more useful, if rudimentary terracing can be done above and below the check dams, and if the slopes are not too steep. These will be useful in checking the force of the run off water allowing for water recharge, at least in a limited way. 

B B Singh, Tata Chemicals Ltd, Noida

We at Tata Chemicals worked on hydrogel as a product for conservation of water. It’s a biodegradable organic polymer with 500 per cent water absorption capacity. The product is effective in saving irrigation. The application lasts for 4-5 years if applied properly in soil. Its performance is tested in wheat, potato and sugarcane. 2-4 irrigations are saved. Since it’s costly, approximately Rs 1400/ kg the adoption rate is low. The application dose recommended is 1 kg/acre, however, this need to be customized for crop and geography. If required we may share more details. 

K V Peter, World Noni Research Foundation, Chennai

The Nilambur Experiment to harvest rainfall by creating pits along the terraces where rubber is grown is a success story quoted in the class rooms of Kerala. The pits/trenches of 60 cm width, 160 cm length and 60 cm depth dug along the terraces in a sloppy rubber plantation did two functions - storing rain water and preventing soil erosion. The water table of the locality went up and the wells and mullahs below recharged. The enterprising farmer was a former agricultural engineer Late Mr Mathew belonging to the Kerala Department of Agriculture. Seeing this success, many farmers from the hilly terrains went for trenches. Rubber being a leaf shedding tree, there was accumulation of leaves in the trenches and during the course of time, leaf composts were formed and soil fertility went up. During summers, another system of irrigation - pitcher irrigation - was followed where earthen pots, with a hole below and a cotton twig attached, were filled with water. The pitcher was kept close to young seedlings for life irrigation. Many such innovations are made by rubber farmers in Kerala. 

Abhinandan Das, Deepak Foundation, Gujarat

I would like to share my experience at Kawant, which is a tribal block in Gujarat . The place is characterized by average hilly terrain with high runoff losses and low rainfall. We are working to increase the soil and water conservation (SWC) measures in this block to increase the income level of the farmers with sustainable agriculture interventions. I am facing the same situation as described by the Rama Narayanan from MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. Therefore, I would like to express my opinions as follows:

What cost effective and simple technologies for water conservation are available for hilly areas such that agricultural activities can be taken up throughout the year?

It is difficult to construct structures like check dams in hilly areas and they are also not very economic.  So the effective solutions could be:

  •         Individual or community managed artificial ponds (dugout);
  •         Earthen dam at low runoff area and average catchment;
  •         Rainwater harvesting with underground tank;
  •         Poly cover to avoid evaporation and percolation loses;
  •         Dug wells – in some places, even in hilly terrains the groundwater level is at a considerably good depth and this can be explored.

Besides paddy, millets and vegetables what other food crops can be grown that require minimum amount of water and help in improving the nutritional intake?

Although, food crop cultivation depends on the type of soil of the region but generally dry land horticulture can be a viable option for that region. It requires less water for sustenance.  Beside this, low-cost drip irrigation techniques can be used for hilly areas, which are cost effective as well as give good economic returns. Cabbage and tomato have shown good results in zero tillage with minimum furrow practices and also have good nutritional value. 

What kind of water conservation and agricultural practices can be adopted for home gardens to ensure food security? 

With water conservation, conservation of soil is equally important. Therefore:

  •         Avoid over-grazing;
  •         Farm bunds and stone bunds to increase water percolation and soil conservation;
  •         Judicious use of groundwater and daily water usage;
  •         Promoting minimum furrow and zero tillage;
  •         Contour farming and terrace farming will help to conserve soil and water, as well as provide better yield;
  •         In suitable places land leveling and bunds is a good option;
  •        To use the soil moisture mulching is a good practice.

Salomeyesudas, Southern Action on Genetic Engineering (SAGE), Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad

I agree with all the suggestions made by other members. I am looking at this query from a different angle. There is plenty of material available on uncultivated food, underutilized foodwild edible greens, fruits, and many other parts of plants.

I request you to go through these publications (below) and start identifying the plants, bushes, herbs, creepers etc., in your working area with your community and dig out information from them through focus group discussions and participatory rural appraisals. This will not only save your time but also resources. Please start looking at conserving the existing sources of food, which is relatively free, but with absolute responsibility to safeguard them for future use. 

I am providing links for references which might be useful:

Should you need any assistance I am available for any further assistance. I will get back to you with water use efficiency methods/technologies.

Sonali Bisht, INHERE, Masi, Uttaranchal

Working in the middle Himalayan region, we at INHERE have also encountered and worked on many water related problems. The interventions of INHERE have been:

  •         Low cost earthen rainwater harvesting tanks lined with Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) Sheet with or without shades as per the situation and requirement
  •         Bunding of the terraced fields on the outside and trenching on the inside to trap rainwater and allow for slow percolation and  increase of soil moisture
  •         Roof rain water harvesting tanks to collect and store rainwater for minor irrigation and for livestock needs
  •         Use of mulching to increase the absorption capacity of top soil
  •         Measures to increase micro-organisms, including earthworms in soil so that the porosity of soil and the media for absorption of rain water increases
  •         Increase in vegetation, permanent soil cover; and no-till agricultural practices are beneficial
  •         Farm ponds, long trenches along fields are other useful measures
  •        We have also tried out drip irrigation, using pots with wicks and bamboo, which enables water to be used effectively, and at low cost in areas with water shortage.

Yugandhar Mandavkar, GRASP, Aurangabad

It is nice to know that Rama Narayanan is planning an action research project in Koraput. Since it is action research, I would like to state something before I answer the questions:

  •         I would request you to not link malnutrition to water shortages. There is no relation beyond the fact that they co-exist in Koraput
  •         Water augmentation or irrigation is not a pre-requisite to agriculture. Hence, I would request you to not put too much emphasis on water harvesting in your action project. Remember, plants take water from soil moisture and not from reservoirs
  •         Home gardens (or kitchen gardens, as these have been known as for a long time) at best serve as the source of nutritional supplement. It is unreasonable to expect that the kitchen gardens would give you either food or nutrition security
  •         The goal of having agricultural activity round the year is misplaced, if you limit to field crops. Further, it is not necessary for ensuring food security.

In view of the above, I would like to know about your hypotheses on the research front. I hope you keep them as pragmatic as possible. I presume the action research project would have a limited locus (a few villages or a few cluster of villages)? Hence, generalised suggestions on water conservation, crops, practices, etc. would only guide you on what could be done. You have to choose what suits the micro-situation the best, and perhaps, adapt something to the specific context. Yet, I would like to submit the following:

  •         I would request you to not aim at cultivating land round the year. You should aim at having a certain proportion of land under rainfed/dryland farming, certain other proportion under irrigated rabi field crops, and if the geo-hydrology permits, a small 
    • proportion of land under high value summer crops (like vegetables). Land use planning is the key. Focus on in-situ moisture conservation through measures like farm bund. I don't see any mention of livestock - it must be an integral component. Also, I would like to advice you to not go for breed upgradation or promotion of new breeds
  •         One important thing to note is that the pilot area you select may have some tribal families still grappling to understand the science of settled agriculture. You may not be able to make them succeed in farming during your project period. Please consider that field-crop based agriculture is not the only path to food security
  •         Have a judicious mix of paddy (as it is a popular crop due to social status attached to its cultivation), pulses such as kandul (red gram) and biri (black gram) on somewhat sloping land after soil conservation and oilseeds like niger (or whatever the locals like) on marginal lands. I would like to know if fodder requirement not a part of your action research?
  •         On homestead land, papaya/drumstick would be useful, while leafy vegetables may not be advisable. Also avoid lucaena - it soon turns into a weed. Remember, this is for nutritional supplement and not food security
  •         Last, but not the least, in planning your action component, seek advice from experienced people who have worked in that area:

      Achyut Das has responded to your mail. But it would be a good idea to meet him and benefit from his rich experience. Joe Madiath, Badal Tah, Dilip Das are some of the best practitioners in the region.

      Harsha Trust had prepared a development plan for the district some 5-6 years ago. It could be useful.

      For selecting crops, hold a dialogue with the local farmers. Have a grounded agronomist (experienced practitioner) to facilitate these discussions.

      Get an experienced hydro-geologist to advise you on what to do about water augmentation and conservation. Your area may have a very high shallow groundwater potential (to be tapped through open wells), albeit limited to 8-9 months of the year. Accept this reality and plan accordingly

      I suggest you to visit Kadwanchi watershed (District Jalna), Kasare watershed (District Ahmednagar) and Bhimashankar Project (District Pune), all in Maharashtra , to understand how simple interventions can lead to sustainable livelihoods.

Bharat R Sharma, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), New Delhi

IWMI has conducted studies in the hilly areas of Nepal and the North-eastern hill states of India . The study includes mapping water poverty, needs for additional water resources and then designing local water resource (mainly hill springs) based multiple-use water systems which will meet both the productive and consumptive water needs of the hill farmers. It reduces drudgery and the workload of women and children, improves nutrition and health and sanitation, besides being a major impact on the livelihoods. The details are in the attached copy of the report and a Success-story leaflet. For more details please visit

ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/wes/cr/res-24111101.pdf  and

ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/wes/cr/res-24111102.pdf

Anupam Paul, Agricultural Training Centre, Fulai, West Bengal

I do agree with Ardhendu S Chatterjee that most of our efforts go into irrigated agriculture, which is associated with the problems of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Yet, people living in drought prone/hilly terrain are well aware of sustainable agricultural practices and it is important to consider their knowledge of traditional agricultural practices. We should not introduce new crops which are not suitable for these areas. We can try some new indigenous crop for them only on a trial basis. 

Sweet potato is a drought tolerant crop. Conch potato, a leguminous plant can be tried during winters. We also need to consider the physical characteristics of soil and the environment. Mixed crops also need to be considered. 

Land shaping and construction of water harvesting structure needs to be done for these areas. Dew collection through a tin plate can be tried, especially during winter months. Mulching is another good option. The leaves of the big trees should not be removed from the ground, as leaf mulch helps in conserving moisture. Pitcher irrigation and drip irrigation through bamboo are also very effective in hilly areas. 

Ashok Sharma, Himalayan Institute for Environment, Ecology and Development, Tehri Garhwal

Certain critical Reforms in the land ownership laws in the hills, if initiated, would have a direct and positive impact on water related matters as well as on the general agricultural output/yield.

Chandra Sekhar Bahinipati, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai

I think Achyut Das has given a good example of ITK in the context of water harvesting that helps to tackle water shortages especially in tribal areas. Hope, it will motivate the researchers to involve ITK in their decision making process. I have some queries on your case study:

        Were such initiatives taken up by the community themselves or any external player played a major role?

        What are the impacts of such initiatives on their livelihood, especially in the context of poverty, nutrition and agriculture?

Terry Thomas, Wilbur Smith Associates, Bangalore

In the referenced area, please check for swamps which may even be seasonal. These swamps can be developed/dug out into larger water bodies after studying the local hydrologic features, and applying community knowledge. Swamp reclamation through manual means holds good as appropriate water resource development. Enhancing water storage capture/retention in swamps located on gradual slopes, cause increase in sub-soil moisture levels downstream over a period of time, thereby adding extra biomass/productivity. Moreover, water is made available for multiple uses.

 

The Attappady Block in Kerala is almost similar to your description in terms of tribal presence, rainfall (including a rain shadow region) and other features. The recently concluded Attappady Wasteland Comprehensive Environmental Conservation Project (AWCECOP) assisted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA -http://www.jica.go.jp/india/english/activities/activity18.html) is a commendable model to explore and learn from.  The AWCECOP model utilizes collective wisdom and the ability of tribal communities in planning and implementation, yet remaining conscious of the fact that constant social capital building, along with appropriate technical support to the communities, is essential for the success of these models. This model demonstrates opportunities for integrated area development in a community-centric, strongly social, yet scientifically credible watershed based land management approach, linking poverty alleviation with environmental health. You can find more information from the website of the implementing agency, the Attapady Hills Area Development Society (AHADS) at www.ahads.org and at

http://www.ahads.org/sr10/Part1_14.pdf (PDF; Size: 496KB)

 

Divesh Kumar Bhadani, Driptech, Inc., Pune

Many people have contributed ideas for capturing runoff, increasing infiltration, and cultivating drought tolerant crops. I would like to introduce an affordable and practical drip irrigation system, which has been successfully piloted in Koraput district, Orissa.  Drip irrigation is arguably the most important and simple method for getting the most “crop per drop” but only recently have drip systems become sufficiently tailored to the needs of small plot farmers. 

In the Kechla village cluster, Koraput district, Orissa, tribal farmers are using Driptech micro-irrigation systems to cultivate kitchen gardens to enhance food security and provide an alternative dry season income.  Even in this hilly terrain, tribal farmers do have plots of land with lower slopes, often near villages. By damming small streams, they create small reservoirs to draw water and irrigate crops in the most water-efficient way possible. In some cases drip irrigation allows farmers to use diverted stream water more efficiently and in other cases it allows farmers to cultivate when they previously could not.  

The Driptech systems are 250 square meters in size, and use gravity pressure from a tank positioned on a homemade platform to supply water pressure. Key to the success of drip irrigation in Kechla, Koraput is the fact that Driptech’s systems are high-quality yet affordable and very simple to set up and maintain. Nearly 70 tribal farmers in the target area are using Driptech’s low-pressure system to grow tomatoes, chilies, and other row crops in kitchen gardens.  More information on the use of Driptech systems in Koraput can be found here and here. Besides, Driptech micro-irrigation systems are also very useful for farmers practicing terrace cultivation. 

Ajay Kumar, ChildFund India , New Delhi

The approach taken up by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (http://www.mssrf.org/fs.html) is very encouraging in addressing the issue of malnutrition by optimally utilizing resources. This is the general phenomenon of hilly terrains across the country.  I am not very much familiar with the terrain of Koraput district in Odisha, therefore, I am putting some of the suggestion based on my experiences in other part of the country. But I hope this will also help to design the programme in an effective way.   

In hilly terrains natural water resources are found that can be revived for irrigation purposes. In Jharkhand such recourses are known as Darhi (in the Santhal region) and Chua (in the south Chotanagpur region). You may see the impact of such interventions in Bhalua village situated in Javaguri Panchayat, Madhupur Block of Deoghar district. The Lok Jagrit Kendra with the support of ChildFund India

(http://www.childfundindia.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=62) is implemented such revival activities. 

Apart from this, Pradan (http://www.pradan.net) has done some excellent work in flow irrigation in some part of Orissa too, this can be also adopted for optimum utilization of water resource in a cost effective manner. 

Malnutrition is a very complex issue, therefore, to address this issue we have to find holistic solution by also considering social aspect, particularly in the context of gender. 

Radha Gopalan, Rishi Valley School , Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh*

I would like to echo Yugandhar's sentiments and really emphasize the need to "choose what suits the micro-situation the best". Our own experience in the drought prone area of Chittoor where we work has shown very clearly that a portfolio of approaches has to be adopted to enable nutritional security. This is something that needs to be discussed more extensively and urgently in the context of public policy and planning. As a country we need to turn our livelihood enhancement programme around on their head if we mean to actually make a difference on the ground. 

Flexibility in the agroecosystem is critical particularly where groundwater is the sole source of water and one is faced with a rapidly depleting water table - for e.g. in our work on agriculture we promote and facilitate rain-fed crops (millets and dryland paddy primarily) seasonal vegetable cultivation through community managed farms where borewells are available. We are also working on slowly trying to reduce area under wetland paddy cultivation by discussing introduction of SRI methods and increasing acreage under millets, promoting market linkages for indigenous fruits such as sitaphal, jamun etc. This is going to take a while given market pressures but unless cropping patterns are changed merely enhancing water harvesting structures is not going to help. 

In our area we work with 32 hamlets, all of which are in the same watershed, have similar soils and water availability. While the overall process / approach may be common in improving livelihoods, solutions are almost hamlet specific. E.g. the kind of resource required in one hamlet may be financial while in another hamlet it maybe technical or requiring information on specific practices that will improve productivity. Again, in one hamlet cattle, sheep and goats are all indigenous varieties and so more hardy and available for agriculture. In another hamlet there is a predominance of exotic, cross-breeds which are resource intensive. So the support and solutions for each hamlet are distinctly different. 

This approach takes time but we believe this is the only sustainable way to address the issue of nutritional security and livelihood. 

*Offline Contribution

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