Masurdi, a village around 40km away from parched Latur, which has the dubious distinction of registering the largest migration in the drought-hit district, is all set to become self-sufficient in the near future.
It has decided to do away with the water-guzzling sugarcane and shift to cultivate tur or arhur (pigeon pea) to avoid further
loss to the ground water table level.
Masurdi gram panchayat (village council) on Monday passed the resolution unanimously, deciding not to grow sugarcane this season.
Around 200 farmers decided they will shift to crops like tur and soyabean because sugarcane requires a lot of water
and is not suitable to their region.
The village, with a population of 2,700, has 1,030 hectares of land under cultivation, of which more than 80% or 800 hectares was used to grow sugarcane last season.
As water sources in the village have dried up following a deficient monsoon and most farmers lost their crop, at least 400 villagers — mostly the young population — has shifted to cities like Pune, Mumbai and Nashik in search of employment. A majority of those who have stayed back are elders and children.
After realising the ill effects of the water-guzzling crop, the villagers have agreed to change the crop pattern.
The decision is important because the scarcity of water in Latur, Beed and Osmanabad is attributed to sugarcane and sugar factories, which need lots of water compared to other crops.
Experts have been criticising the state government as well as politicians in the region for promoting sugarcane. Marathwada or Central Maharashtra has more than 60 sugar factories.
During the monthly meeting, farmer leader and former legislator Pasha Patel and village sarpanch Nana Barde made a presentation convincing farmers that even other crops like tur and soyabean could prove equally sustainable and also save a lot of water.
To convince the villagers, they also cited an example of Suresh Garad, a farmer from their own village, who earned Rs2.60 lakh by cultivating tur on just an acre of land. The income was much more than that of the sugarcane growers from the village.
“The village now has realised that the sorry state it is going through is because of their insistence to grow a crop that does not suit the water-deficient region. At least 60% of the villagers will now shift to tur and soyabean crop this season. We have convinced them that the two crops will prove equally cash intensive,” said Barde.
He said the resolution was passed unanimously by the 200 farmers who attended the meeting.
Patel said, “I have held meetings in more than 150 villages to convince farmers about the importance of a change in the crop pattern. Villages in Ausa Taluka are all set to witness a sea change in terms of water sustainability in the near future.”