Lives of thousands of farmers in Dewas district have taken a turn for the better in the last 10 years, courtesy an idea of farm land introduced in 2006-07 by the then collector Umakant Umrao. This idea soon turned into the ‘Pani Bachao Dhan Kamao’ (save water, earn money) campaign under which farmers were urged to dig out one tenth area of their land and turn it into farm ponds.
As it was an expensive affair, initially the farmers with more than 100 acres of land were roped in to avail themselves of the scheme. Sixty-year-old Raghunath Singh of Harnawada was the first farmer in the area who converted two hectare area of his agricultural land into a pond. “When I decided to dig a pond, my brothers and family members opposed me strongly but this didn’t deter me. When I completed the digging process, the whole pond got filled with water with just 20-mm rain water. In rabi season (October – March), when we sowed gram and we received four times more produce owing to enough water.”
After knowing about the benefits of farm pond, farmers started digging ponds on their own land with the help of tractors. Today there are more than 1,000 irrigational ponds out of which 564 ones, which are known as Rewa Sagar, were made without any aid from the government.
Production increased from one quintal to 4-5 quintals per bigha
According to farmers, earlier the production was one quintal per bigha but now it had increased up to 4-5 quintals per bigha.
Ten years ago, 40-year-old farmer Surendra Singh of Harnawada village in Dewas district struggled to make both ends meet and had no money to educate his children. Today he is planning to buy an SUV. This campaign transformed his life drastically and turned his farming business into a profitable one in just one decade. He plans to get his elder son enrolled in an engineering college in the next academic session. He is not the only farmer but there are scores like him whose lives have changed after implementation of the campaign.
“Once I visited a village in Dewas in February after hailstorm to assess the crop loss. The villagers didn’t talk about crop loss. When I asked them why they were not talking about damage, they said they didn’t do any farming during rabi season. I was moved,” said Umrao and added, “After that I launched a campaign called ‘Pani Bachao, Laabh Kamao’ (Save water, earn profit) based on economics of water which resulted in rain water harvesting and conservation becoming a mission for villagers,” he added.
Explaining the success story of farm pond concept, Shiv Narayan Patel of village Nipaniya said, “I never thought of having a pucca house. We dug the farm in 2007 and that year was the turning point for our whole family. Today I have two pucca houses equipped with all amenities including an air conditioner. I also own an SUV. Every year from the profit, we increase the depth of our farm pond.”
‘POND’-ER OVER THIS
When the Malwa region is facing acute water shortage, Dewas won five national awards for rain water harvesting. The United Nations had selected Dewas district’s community water management works in the best three water management practices in the world under the category of ‘Best Water Management Practices’ for 2011-2012. More than 400 villages have benefited from ponds.