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Spot of green in parched Bundelkhand

Deepak is among 281 marginal farmers who are scripting a better live in Sagar district of Bundelkhand area of Madhya Pradesh, which is notorious for water scarcity and where migration is a norm among the marginal farmers

bhopal Updated: Feb 09, 2018 21:20 IST
Punya Priya Mitra, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
(Representative photo)

Every year Deepak Tiwari (25) and his father Rajkumar (51) used to leave their village Surajpura in Rehli block of Sagar district and migrate to NCR region looking for work. They had no other choice. With no irrigation, their small farm of around 8 acres could not sustain their family of five with one Kharif crop. Sowing the Rabi crop in winter was a gamble, which often did not pay off due to vagrant winter rain.

But for the past two years things have changed. Deepak and his father do not migrate thanks to the field pond they have dug under a pilot watershed plan.

“We have sufficient water for the Rabi season also, something we were never sure of in previous years. We have planted Channa, Masoor and Gehu this year and the crop is coming up very well thanks to the water that we have. My income has increased by at least 40 per cent,” said Deepak.

He is among 281 marginal farmers who scripting a better live in Sagar district of Bundelkhand area of Madhya Pradesh, which is notorious for water scarcity and where migration is a norm among the marginal farmers.

In 2017 too, rainfall has been deficient – around 24 per cent less when compared to previous year and agriculture productivity and rabi crop area has gone down by 10 per cent from 2016 to 2017, in the Bundelkhand region, according to official figures. But people like Deepak are not feeling the pinch and are better off than earlier years, and planting two crops a year.

Farmer Bablu Yadav (40) of Malkhuwan village in Shahgarh block got his field pond in 2017 summer and this year he has a standing Rabi crop, has a similar story to tell. “Rainfall has been less this year in our area, but three other farmers and I of the village who dug field ponds are happy, as we have sufficient water. I am growing wheat something I could never dream of last year,” says Yadav who has a 5 acre plot of land.

Says project technical expert Jay Gupta, “The success of the project has been using GIS tools like geo tagging and taking satellite images of drainage etc for proper site selection and calculating the catchment area and other hydrological parameters. Most of the ponds are 100 m by 100 m by 3 m, which is sufficient to provide three waters for a five acre farm which is sufficient for the rabi crop.”

But the project was not a success for the beginning. Says Vivek Dave, joint-commissioner, watershed. “Initially, there was resistance from the farmers who were not convinced that it would benefit them because giving away 10,000 square meter of land is a big thing for a marginal farmer. But looking at the success of the farmers who went for the farm ponds, now everyone wants one in the field. The liberal terms of the project under which the farmers get 90 per cent subsidy is also attractive.”

Dave says that the project has been such a success that this year there is plan to construct 1450 farm ponds up to May 2018 and then replicate this project in other area of Bundelkhand as well.

There have been other spin offs as well. In some villages like Surajpur where more than 10 such field ponds have been dug, the water level has increased. Concurs Deepak, “The wells in our village which usually got dry by December, still have drinking water. The entire village has benefitted.”

Dave sums it up. “In parched Bundelkhand where fights and killings over water is not unheard of, the project has created little oases in the desert.”

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 21:20 IST