My dear farming friends: In my last week’s interaction, I had talked about a pond to store rainwater in a village in Pudukottai. After sharing the article in my network, I had gone to attend a farmers meeting in Kancheepuram district. Some farmers who had read the article asked me to help me guide them on whether something similar has been or is happening in the district that they can see for themselves and learn.
The recent flood in Cauvery and the release of nearly 100 tmc water into the sea has created a feeling among them that if water can be stored even minimally in the region, their village might not face water scarcity. They wanted me to guide them to some place or person who has embarked on a similar venture closer to their region.
For those who know Kancheepuram district and for those who do not know much about the district, let me give you a bird’s eye view of it. Famous for silk sarees and temples, Kancheepuram’s agriculture is poorly developed.
So, after scanning my memory back and forth, I advised them to visit the National Agro Foundation (NAF) at Illedu in Tindivanam. The NGO has done watershed projects in the district benefitting five villages covering an area of 1,300 hectares.
Named as Arasur watershed program, the first work that they undertook with farmers participation was to repair an old temple pond in a village called Kumili. Initially, as is always the case, not much headway could be made as farmers lacked the awareness and did not know that this activity could help them complete their two-season crop growing calendar. Often, the lakes, their main source of water, used to become dry during summer.
About 3,000 lakh litres of water have so far been saved from being wasted and farmers were able to harvest not only a second crop but also go for a third short-term cultivation which added to their income.
With help from NABARD, the NGO expanded to take up 100 hectares more as a pilot project wherein low-cost water harvesting measures like farm ponds, sunken ponds, strengthening of field bunds, cleaning supply channels and percolation ponds were carried out.
About 3,000 lakh litres of water have so far been saved from being wasted and farmers were able to harvest not only a second crop but also go for a third short-term cultivation which added to their income. Today they have covered an additional area of about 1,200 hectares comprising Chitur, Andarkuppam, Mampattu, Mampakkam and Agaram villages involving about 750 families with a population of 3,000 people. The state government provides some financial support.
The watershed design does not stop with only water storing and saving but also includes afforestation, governance, livelihood promotion, training and demonstration. It involves both landless workers and land-holding farmers. It is a blend of the native wisdom of the community coupled with scientific expertise, which makes the program unique.
The special feature of the program is the active involvement of the village community, from project planning to implementation and maintenance. It means farmers were involved right from planning to execution. In short, it is a community participatory programme which is the key to its long-term sustainability.
NAF provides technological support in the form of soil fertility management, good practices, agro enterprises like dairying, vermicompost etc. This helps farmers improve the productivity of crops like paddy, groundnut etc by about 25 – 30% on an average.
For those who are not aware of the National Agro Foundation, I am giving you a brief summary. It was founded in 2000 by Bharat Ratna C Subramaniam, former Union minister and architect of India’s first Green Revolution for implementing grassroots projects to improve the life of rural people .
Their office is at Anna University, Taramani campus, CSIR road, Taramani, Chennai: 600113, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.nationalagro.org.in, mobiles: 09445504853 and 09444036400. The foundation is equipped with a modern laboratory for soil, food, water and compost/manure testing where quality testing services are available at subsidised rates.
So for those farmers who had asked me, I am giving the answer through this column and for those who read it I suggest they visit NAF once to know about their programmes.
Till we meet again, its bye for now.